Matthew Flinders: the Man Behind the Map of Australia
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In 1925, W.H. Langham wrote of Matthew Flinders that he possessed ‘a personality of singular strength and charm.’ In this lecture, Gillian Dooley will look to the primary sources to build up a portrait of this man who was the first to circumnavigate Australia and who charted a large portion of the country’s coastline. Flinders was born in Lincolnshire, the son of a ‘man-midwife’ and surgeon apothecary in the small town of Donington. His father intended him to follow in the same profession but Matthew had other ideas. He was determined to join the Navy and by perseverance and good luck he was able to do so. He was ambitious, and put himself forward whenever he saw an opportunity of doing so, most famously in writing to Sir Joseph Banks to offer to complete the charting of the Australian coasts begun by Captain James Cook. Determination, perseverance and ambition meant Flinders took risks, and luck was not always on his side. When things went badly for him, he responded with indignation but eventually recovered his equanimity and made the best of his situation, at the same time displaying a gift for warm friendship and a wry sense of humour. He was a devoted husband, a meticulous cartographer, and an expert navigator and leader, with a scientific mind and a romantic soul.
The Royal Society Matthew Flinders Memorial Lecture, delivered at the Royal Society of Victoria in August 2014.