Free public talk by Dr John van Wyhe-- "The first female tourist - The amazing Ida Pfeiffer"

March 13, 2020

John van Wyhe Friday, 24 April 2020, 7 pm Ngee Ann Auditorium, Asian Civilisations Museum

In the 1840s it was considered utterly impossible for a woman to travel alone. Modern tourism had not yet emerged. This meant no transport accommodation, or restaurants for travellers. Despite all this, one woman decided to go her own way anyway. Ida Pfeiffer (1797-1858) was the first woman to travel and then circle the world alone.

She displayed incredible courage, endurance, and perseverance. Along the way she survived storms at sea, parched deserts, plague, malaria, a near-drowning, earthquakes, robbers, murderers, headhunters, and cannibals. Singapore and Southeast Asia were perhaps her favourite destinations. As a result of her incredible exploits and her best-selling travel books, Pfeiffer became one of the most famous women in the world in the 19th century. Her tale culminates in spies, intrigue, a botched revolution, and a remarkable career cut tragically short by one voyage too many. 

About the speaker: Dr John van Wyhe is a historian of science at the National University of Singapore who specialises in the explorers and naturalists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. He is also founder and director of the award-winning Darwin Online project and has published 14 books. Dr van Wyhe has lectured and broadcast on these topics worldwide.

This lecture is free. Seats are available on a first come first served basis. No registration is required.

The Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) is a large evergreen tree in the family Gentianaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia. Its trunk is dark brown, with deeply fissured bark, looking somewhat like a bittergourd. It grows in an irregular shape from 10 to 25m high. Its leaves are light green and oval in shape. Its yellowish flowers have a distinct fragrance and the fruits of the tree are bitter tasting red berries, which are eaten by birds and fruit bats.