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Science

Introduction

Cartoon of Joseph Banks

The pursuit of scientific knowledge brought European voyagers to Australia and shaped how they viewed the people, places, plants and animals they encountered.

In the 1700s Europeans believed they were living in the Age of Enlightenment. Where religion had once explained the world, now reason and order were seen as the key to understanding nature and human society. Scientific endeavour in the 1700s focused on the close observation of things, and finding ways to organise them into systems.

Right: This 1772 cartoon mocks the English botanist Joseph Banks, following his return from the Pacific with thousands of new plant specimens. 'Macaroni' was a term given to well-travelled dandies in the 1700s. Courtesy: National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an9283266.

1768 painting showing a family observing a scientific experiment on a bird in an air pump

This 1768 painting shows a family observing a scientific experiment on a bird in an air pump by Joseph Wright of Derby. Courtesy: National Gallery, London, UK/The Bridgeman Art Library.

Painting showing an orrery: a mechanical representation of the solar system.

This 1766 painting shows an orrery: a mechanical representation of the solar system by Joseph Wright of Derby. Courtesy: National Gallery, London, UK/The Bridgeman Art Library.

Copperplate engravings of Australian plants

These copperplate engravings from William Dampier's account of his 1699 voyage were based on the first European drawings of Australian plants.
Courtesy: CSIRO Publishing.