Nature’s Argonaut — Daniel Solander 1733-1782
by Dr Edward Duyker
The Minguyah Press, Melbourne University Press, 1998
This is the first full biography of an important eighteenth-century naturalist, a colleague of Banks on the Endeavour.
‘. . . the great voyage you undertook for the promotion of natural history . . . will be the most scientific and industrious event that has ever happened to that useful & enchanting study[.] It may justly be call’d the Argonautic Expedition for the study of nature. (Emanuel Mendes Da Costa, State Rowe King’s Bench Prison, to Daniel Solander, 23 September 1771)
‘Dr Duyker’s thoroughly-researched study of Solander’s life reveals a well-liked but many-faceted man who, among other things, enjoyed celebrity status in England while leading a double life as a Swedish spy.’ (Noel Shaw, The Examiner)
Nature’s Argonaut is the first full biography of this important eighteenth-century naturalist who not only circled the globe under sail but ranged as far north as the Arctic and as far south as Tierra del Fuego.
Edward Duyker pays particular attention to Solander’s role as a naturalist on the Endeavour during the ship’s voyage along the east coast of Australia and to his pioneering contribution to the scientific study of the new continent. The author has also provided a comprehensive account of Solander’s life and his contribution to the foundations of modern plant and animal taxonomy.
The life of Daniel Solander, stamped with the enquiring spirit of the Enlightenment, is one of the grand adventures of the eighteenth century. Aside from the historic Endeavour voyage, Solander’s Arctic travels, his involvement in industrial espionage in England on behalf of Sweden, his thwarted love for the daughter of his mentor Linnaeus and his friendships with such men as Joseph Banks, James Cook, Samuel Johnson, Matthew Boulton and Benjamin Franklin make Solander a fascinating biographical subject.
About the Author
Dr Edward Duyker is an independent historian based in Sydney and the author of eleven books. He was co-editor with Per Tingbrand of Daniel Solander: Collected Correspondence 1733-1782. Dr Duyker was awarded a Category A Fellowship by the Literature Board of the Australia Council to write this biography of Daniel Solander. In the course of his research, he followed Solander’s trail in North Queensland, Indonesia, New Zealand, Tahiti, the British Isles, Sweden, Lapland and Iceland. His work is characterised by direct encounter with flora, fauna, people and place.