Sir Joseph Banks chose the scientists, naturalists and artists who accompanied Flinders: naturalist Robert Brown, gardener Peter Good, minerologist John Allen, astronomer John Crosley, natural history artist Ferdinand Bauer, and landscape artist William Westall.

The Investigator was fitted out for scientific observations and collecting, with a greenhouse for live plants that could be brought back to England, a microscope, and a library of books about South Sea voyages. The Admiralty instructed Flinders to allow enough time on land for the scientists and artists to undertake their work.

Robert Brown

Collection Items | Internet Sites | Further Sources

Born in December 1773, Robert Brown studied medicine at Edinburgh University, but never took his degree, instead concentrating on natural history. He served as a surgeon's mate with the British Army, including a posting to Ireland. While visiting England he met Sir Joseph Banks, and through him became a member of the Linnean Society. He was selected by Banks to be the naturalist for Flinders' voyage to Terra Australis.

Brown made extensive collections on this voyage. Together with artists Ferdinand Bauer and William Westall, Peter Good the gardener, John Allen the geologist and two servants, he climbed Mount Brown in the Flinders Ranges on a two day expedition, while Flinders himself surveyed the head of Spencer's Gulf.

Examples of plant species which were collected and named by Brown and Bauer in South Australia and illustrated by Bauer

  • Solanum hystrix Afghan thistle - collected from St Peters Island in Nuyts Archipelago T21707

  • Cynanchum floribundum Native pear - collected from Mt Brown T21703

  • Eremophila glabra Common emu bush - collected from Fowlers Bay, St Francis Island and Mt Brown T21713

  • Eremophila scoparia Silver emu bush - collected from Mt Brown T21712

  • Grevillea pauciflora - Port Lincoln grevillea - collected from Port Lincoln T21733

To view Bauer's illustrations of plants collected by Brown and Bauer, see: Flinders: Artists

When Flinders returned to England to obtain a replacement ship for the Investigator, Brown and Bauer decided to remain in New South Wales to continue collecting and illustrating. It was expected that Flinders would return within two years. They finally returned to England in 1805 with specimens of more than 3,000 plant species and 1500 plant drawings. In addition, Brown and Bauer brought back animal, bird and mineral specimens, and numerous natural history drawings and paintings. In the following five years, Brown described more than 2,000 of the species, many of which were previously unknown.

Brown's major work on his collection of Australian plants was Prodromus florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van Diemen, published in 1810. He also wrote an appendix to Flinders' A voyage to Terra Australis [1814] about the Australian flora.

In 1805 Brown became librarian to the Linnean Society and later to Sir Joseph Banks. After Banks' death, Brown inherited Banks' significant herbarium and library, which he transferred to the British Museum where he continued to manage them. He was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 1822, and was President from 1849-1853. Brown maintained his interest in Australian botany throughout his life, and died in June 1858, a highly respected and greatly honoured man.

Collection items




Monthly review, vol. 77, May - August 1815 - pages 44-45.

Extract from Article VI, 'Captain Flinders's Voyage to Terra Australis.' - reviewing the work of the naturalist Robert Brown who accompanied Flinders on the Investigator.


South Australian geographical journal, vol. 98, 1999 - pages 52-60.

Brown, Anthony. 'Friends of humanity: the scientific origins, objectives and outcomes of the voyages of Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders.'

Internet sites

Australian plant collectors and illustrators [Australian National Botanic Gardens] [Banks, Joseph; Brown, Robert]

Matthew Flinders Collection: Biographies: Robert Brown

Robert Brown, botanist

Further sources

Advertiser 5 March 2002 'Encounter 2002 - Discovery of the unknown coast' Part 3: 'Science of the voyages'.

Australian dictionary of biography. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press; London; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1966-. vol. I, 1788-1850, A-H.

Australian Geographic, Issue No. 60, Oct-Dec 2000, pp. 48-63. Mabberley, David. 'The Legacy of Flinders' Naturalist'

Brown, Robert. Prodromus florae Novae Hollandiae et Insulae Van Diemen, 1810. Supplementum primum, 1830 / by Robert Brown; with an introduction by William T. Stearn. Weinheim: Engelmann, 1960.

Brown, Robert. A fusion of science and art: Robert Brown & Ferdinand Bauer with Matthew Flinders & William Westall aboard the Investigator, 1801-1803. Lance McCarthy, Flinders University, in conjunction with the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide. Adelaide (Sth. Aust.): Flinders University of South Australia, 1996

Brown, Robert. Nature's investigator: the diary of Robert Brown in Australia, 1801-1805 / compiled by D.T. Moore, T.G. Vallance & E.W. Groves. Canberra: Australian Biological Resources Study, 2001.

Mabberley, D. J. Jupiter botanicus: Robert Brown of the British Museum. Braunschweig: J. Cramer; London: British Museum (Natural History), 1985.

Maiden, J. H. A century of botanical endeavour in South Australia. [Adelaide, 1907] Address by the president of the Biology Section of the Royal Society of South Australia. Reprinted from 'Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science', 11th meeting, Adel., 1907. [botanists Robert Brown: Flinders' expedition; Leschenault de la Tour: Baudin expedition]

Moyal, Ann. A bright & savage land: scientists in colonial Australia. Sydney: Collins, 1986.

Peter Good

Internet Site | Further Sources

Peter Good's duties on Flinders' expedition were to collect seed, select and care for living plants, and assist the botanist, Robert Brown. Good had been a foreman at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and had successfully transported living plants from Calcutta to Kew. To house Good's collection, a plant cabin was installed on the Investigator. Good sent seed to Sir Joseph Banks on various ships from New Holland, with details of plant habitat to aid their growing in England. The gardener introduced more than 100 Australian species to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Unfortunately, his living plants collection was lost when the Porpoise was shipwrecked. Good died on the voyage in 1803 after contracting dysentery at Timor.

Internet site

Australian plant collectors and illustrators [Australian National Botanic Gardens]

Further sources

Good, Peter. The journal of Peter Good: gardener on Matthew Flinders voyage to Terra Australis 1801-03. Edited with an introduction by Phyllis I. Edwards. Australian ed. [North Sydney]: [Library of Australian History], 1981.


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