NEUMAYER, George Balthasar von (1826-1909)


NEUMAYER, George Balthasar von (1826-1909)
hydrographer and meteorologist
was born at Kirchenbolanden, Bavaria, on 21 June 1826. He studied at Munich university, took his Ph.D. degree in 1849, and becoming much interested in polar exploration, continued his studies in terrestrial magnetism, oceanography, navigation, and nautical astronomy. To obtain practical experience he made a voyage to South America, and after his return gave a series of lectures at Hamburg on Maury's theories of the ocean, and recent improvements in navigation. He then decided to go to Australia, shipped as a sailor before the mast, and arrived at Sydney in 1852. After trying his fortune on the goldfields, he gave lectures on navigation to seamen, and spent some time in Tasmania at the observatory in Hobart. He returned to Germany in 1854 convinced that Australia offered a great field for scientific exploration, obtained the support of the King of Bavaria and encouragement from leading British scientists. He sailed again for Australia and arrived in Melbourne in January 1857. He asked the government of Victoria to provide him with a site for an observatory, about £700 for a building, and about £600 a year for expenses. He had brought with him a collection of magnetical, nautical and meteorological instruments valued at £2000, which had been provided by the King of Bavaria. Neumayer suggested as a suitable site a block of land not far from the present position of the observatory, but this was not granted. He was, however, allowed the use of the buildings of the signal station on Flagstaff Hill, where from 1 March 1858 he carried on the systematic registration of meteorological and nautical facts. A few weeks later he added regular observations on atmospheric electricity and changes in the magnetic elements. He published in 1860, Results of the Magnetical, Nautical and Meteorological Observations from March 1858 to February 1859, and did a large amount of travelling in Victoria in connexion with his magnetic survey of the colony. He published his Results of the Meteorological Observations 1859-1862 and Nautical Observations 1858-1862 in 1864, and in the same year returned to Germany. In 1867 he brought out his Discussion of the Meteorological and Magnetical Observations made at the Flagstaff Observatory, and in 1869 appeared his extremely valuable Results of the Magnetic Survey of the Colony of Victoria—1858-1864. He established a high reputation in Germany in geophysics, in 1872 became hydrographer to the German admiralty, and from 1876 to 1903 was director of the Oceanic observatory at Hamburg. All his life he retained his interest in polar exploration and in 1901 published Auf zum Südpol; 45 Jahre Wirkens zur Förderung der Erforschung der Südpolar-Region 1855-1900. He died on 24 May 1909 at Neustadt.
Neumayer was completely devoted to science. His interest in the exploration of the south polar regions led to very valuable work in Victoria, and in Germany his observatory at Hamburg established a remarkable reputation, both for its practical help to seafarers, and for its training of scientific men.
Rev. C. Stuart Ross, The Victorian Historical Magazine, March, 1918; Meyers Lexikon, vol. 8; H. R. Mill, The Siege of the South Pole, pp. 339-42; First Annual Report of the Astronomical and Magnetical Observatories; Victorian Parliamentary Papers, Vol. 3, 1860-1; Neumayer's works. References will also be found in R. Amundsen's The South Pole and Capt. R. F. Scott's The Voyage of the Discovery.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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