Johannes Menge (1788–1852) was born in Steinau, Germany, received little formal education but acquired much mineralogical expertise travelling throughout Europe.

Arriving at Kingscote on Kangaroo Island in January 1837 as the South Australian Company’s mine and quarry agent and geologist, Menge later encouraged George Fife Angas’s speculative land purchase and German settlement in the Barossa Valley.

A solitary eccentric, he experimented with various crops and discovered many rocks and minerals, including opal near Angaston. Leaving ‘Menge’s Island’ at the junction of Jacob’s Creek and the North Para River in 1842, he resumed his fossicking rambles and continued selling mineral specimens. 

Teaching languages, Menge edited the first bi-lingual newspaper in Australia, Die Deutsche Post für die Australischen Colonien (The German-Australian Post) in 1848. He died at Castlemaine, Victoria, while seeking sufficient gold to establish a Christian mission to China.  

By Bernie O'Neil

This entry was first published in The Wakefield companion to South Australian history edited by Wilfrid Prest, Kerrie Round and Carol Fort (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2001). Edited lightly. Uploaded 25 August 2015

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Image: Painting of the back of a man sitting on a chair at his desk. The man is balding. The painting is black and white.
Johannes Menge, by WA Cawthorne, c.1845, in 'his usual attitude when teaching'

Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 5112, Public Domain

Image: A panoramic view of a German town. There are many houses. A number of large, open fields surround the town

Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 4577, Public Domain

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