Amalie Dietrich Exhibition Home Page A Bright Sparcs Exhibition

European Recognition

Fern FrondGodeffroy kept the best of Amalie's collections for his museum, and then sold the duplicates to other museums and collectors. Many of Dietrich's samples are still the type specimens for those species. Australian specimens were still rare in Europe, and Amalie's shipments were eagerly awaited by European scientists. At last they were able to fully study and classify the entirely new flora and fauna of Australia. They were indebted to Dietrich, and praised her work and bravery. She won awards, and several species were named after her, such as the wasp Nortonia amaliae and the wattle Acacia dietrichiana. Her Australian timber collection won a gold medal in Hamburg.

Return to Germany

Dietrich was recalled to Germany in late 1872, and on 6 November 1872 she embarked on SS Boomerang for the journey from Queensland to Sydney. On her way home to Germany the ship stopped in Samoa, and possibly in Tonga as well, but many of these details are hard to verify.

Once back in Hamburg, Dietrich lived rent-free in rooms above the Museum Godeffroy for several years, until Godeffroy went bankrupt in 1879. During this time she was able to travel, visit friends, and work on her precious collections in the Museum. She was an unusual figure in German society, caring little for fancy dress and social conventions, unlike her daughter Charitas.

"A stranger pair than this mother and daughter together is hard to imagine: Charitas, the daughter, was a girl with a fine education, raised in the best manner of contemporary society; Amalie, on the other hand, peasant-like, rough, had something which made her seem like a foreign guest among civilised Europeans. The gleam of that distant world she had explored, with the greyness of the privations which she had suffered, remained about her. In her coarse grey loden costume, with her weatherbeaten but intrinsically distinguished face, she was an object of admiration and curiosity to the young people. Whenever she conversed with old Glaub about animals and plants, then she was wholly in her element." (1)

As a field collector, Dietrich published nothing in her own name, and there remain only a few footnotes in scientific papers referring to her work. However, the real triumph of her life - her collections - remain in museums around Europe, a fitting memorial to such an accomplished naturalist.

(1) Agnes Glaub, writing about Amalie Dietrich and her father, boat-builder and amateur naturalist, Friedrich Glaub, who was a great friend of Amalie's, cited in Ray Sumner, A Woman in the Wilderness, The Story of Amalie Dietrich in Australia, NSW University Press, Kensington, 1993, p.73

Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 23 May 1996
Comments or corrections to: Bright Sparcs (
Prepared by: Denise Sutherland
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date Modified: 27 February 1998

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