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Carl Wilhelm Ludwig Muecke (1815–1898)

by D. C. Muecke

This article was published:

Carl Wilhelm Ludwig Muecke (1815-1898), educationist, pastor and editor, was born on 16 July 1815 at Büden, near Magdeburg, Germany, son of a teacher. He studied classics and natural sciences in the Zerbst Gymnasium and the Freiberg School of Mining, and attended the Universities of Bonn and Berlin. In the 1840s an active educationist, he was provoking the wrath of the Prussian authorities by controversial articles, editing the Pädagogische Jahrbücher and a children's newspaper, directing the Norddeutscher Volksschriften-Verein, reorganizing schools, attending the National Education Commission in Frankfurt, and writing or editing some eight or more books for artisans, peasants and children in which up-to-date scientific and technological information was imparted in the form of simple stories. Several of these were reprinted up to 1879 and some translated into other languages. In 1847 the University of Jena, taking cognizance of these activities, awarded him a Ph.D. without examination or thesis. He took part in the 1848 revolution but its failure moved him to organize groups of like spirits interested in emigration. He sailed with his family from Hamburg and arrived at Port Adelaide on 7 August 1849.

After a brief spell of farming Muecke was invited to become pastor of the new Tabor Church in Tanunda; sectarianism or 'certain prevailing conditions', in the discreeter language of clergymen, 'made the organization of a third congregation in Tanunda, humanly speaking, unavoidable'. To Pastor Kavel's Old Lutherans, Muecke and his congregation were Weltkinder and even dangerous latitudinarians and blasphemers; more objectively, they were liberal. Besides the Tabor congregation Muecke served churches at Greenock, Schoenfeld, Daveyston and Wasleys. He resigned in 1869.

For forty years he was closely connected with the German press as newspaper proprietor, editor and journalist. His editorial policy, and that of M. P. F. Basedow, his son-in-law and partner in the Tanunda Deutsche (later Australische) Zeitung, differed from that of rival German papers in giving more space to colonial than to Fatherland affairs. A frequently expressed sentiment was that German immigrants were or should be Australian patriots but that this did not entail either pro-English or anti-German feeling. After 1870 pro-German sentiment was more strongly expressed along with a degree of republicanism.

Education was another preoccupation. In 1851 Muecke had applied in vain for the inspectorship of German schools in South Australia, but he was not discouraged. On his suggestion a German Teachers' Federation was established. He advocated the formation of an agricultural college and his well-informed pamphlet, National Schools for South Australia (Adelaide, 1866), in boldly rhetorical but not faultless English, on the desirability of a state school system, speaks of teachers' colleges and libraries, school inspections, the teaching of sciences and compulsory attendance after the centuries-old German model. Other writings reveal the scientist investigating the diseases of wheat. In 1878 the University of Adelaide awarded him an M.A. ad eund.

One of the best-known public figures of German birth in the colony, Muecke was reputed a good orator and lecturer as well as an indefatigable journalist. His views were those of a liberal and a patriot; an idealist in youth, he remained sanguine to his later years. He had married three times: first, to Emilie in Germany; second, to Caroline, sister of Richard Schomburgk; and third, on 10 November 1887 at Port Adelaide to Maria Gehrke who had arrived from Germany in 1882. He died at Hahndorf on 4 January 1898, survived by two of the three children of his first wife.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Lodewyckx, Die Deutschen in Australien (Stuttgart, 1932)
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1868-69 (20)
  • R. B. Walker, ‘German-language press and people in South Australia, 1848-1900’, JRAHS, 58 (1972)
  • private information.

Citation details

D. C. Muecke, 'Muecke, Carl Wilhelm Ludwig (1815–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 July, 1815
Baden, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany


4 January, 1898 (aged 82)
Hahndorf, South Australia, Australia

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