Von Mueller, Baron Ferdinand (1825-1896) was a German-born Australian botanist who made extensive contributions to the knowledge of native Australian plants. He was the first government botanist of Victoria, Australia, and began a botanical collection that grew to become Australia's national herbarium.
Ferdinand Jakob Heinrich von Mueller was born in Rostock, Mecklenburg-Schwerin (now in Germany). At 15, von Mueller began apprenticing as a pharmacist, completing his studies in 1846, the same year he received his Ph.D. degree in botany from the University of Kiel in Germany. By the following winter, however, his health was seriously deteriorating and fearing tuberculosis, which had killed both of his parents and a sister, he sailed for the warmer climate of Australia in 1847. He arrived in December with his two surviving sisters and settled in Adelaide, where there was already a large population of German immigrants.
At the time von Mueller arrived there, little was known about Australian plant life. He immediately proved himself a skilled botanist, and rose quickly in his career. He made numerous trips to the interior, collecting plants of all kinds, and wrote about his findings in a lifelong series of books and papers. In 1853, after moving to neighboring Victoria, he was appointed the first government botanist there, a position he held until the end of his life.
Von Mueller also served as director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens from 1857 through 1873 and as botanist on the North West Australian Expedition from 1855 through 1856. The honors he received in Victoria were numerous, including being named first president of the Royal Society of Victoria in 1860. Additionally, he was elected to the Royal Society of London in 1861, made a baron by the king of Württemberg in 1871, and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1879. The scientific designation of hundreds of Australian plants now reference von Mueller's name.