Orchids have fascinated people over the generations. Robert Fitzgerald was one of them. He had a lasting influence upon Australian orchids. This extract from the Brisbane Courier Saturday 27 September 1930 Page 20 gives a brief biography of him. The author of the article is Estelle Thomson.
Great Australian Botanists
III. – R. D. FITZGERALD
In 1830 Robert Desmond Fitzgerald was born at Tralee, in Ireland. When he was a young man of about 26 he came to Sydney and entered the surveyor-General’s office as a draughtsman; he became Deputy Surveyor-General, and held that post till he retired in 1887 to devote the rest of his life to his great work, the study of Australian orchids. He travelled all over the Commonwealth and made innumerable drawings and paintings of orchids. He drew always from the living plant (rather an exception in his day when the dried specimen was often used, even when fresh plants were available), and his drawings have grace and charm and also an unmistakable individual style.
His work was published in several huge folio volumes, called “Australian Orchids,” and in these he figures and describes over 200 species. As well as making the original drawing in colour, he made the lithographic plates for a number of the reproductions.
He kept no dried specimens, and so left no herbarium on his death (at Hunter’s Hill, Sydney, in 1892), and this is to be regretted, as he described and named a number of new species, and the type (the original specimen) not being available it is sometimes difficult to determine whether other specimens are true to this type, or variations, or actually different species.