Otto Finsch

Otto Finsch (August 8, 1839 - January 31, 1917) was a Silesian ornithologist, ethnologist and pioneer of German colonialism; while traveling in his studies throughout the world, he turned his life to become an important German agent, on the foundation of the protectorate of German New Guinea in 1884.

Early and personal lifeEdit

Otto Finsch was born at Warmbrunn, Silesia; his parents were Mortiz Finsch and Mathilde née Leder. As his father was in the business of glass, Otto Finsch learned on its trading, yet this soon was too monotonous for him,[1] and so he abandoned such life for starting in ornithology, just being nineteen.

In 1886, Finsch got married to Elisabeth Hoffman.

Scientific careerEdit

Otto Finsch had already begun studying ornithology, when in 1859 he was offered by the Austrian consul for visiting Bulgaria. Thus, Finsch produced his first paper, published by the Journal fur Ornithologie, about the regional Bulgarian birds. For further studying ornithology,[1] Finsch then was appointed assistant in Leiden's Museum of Natural History in Holland, from 1861 to 1865. Then, in 1864 Finsch became a curator of the museum of Bremen, to eventually become its director (1876). In 1868, the University of Bonn also granted Finsch an honorary doctorate of ornithology; disregarding he also was already studying ethnology as well.

Particularly, Finsch studied parrots, although he reportedly has been criticized, about carelessly naming some of these just after himself; disregarding some taxonomic groups of parrots are still bearing his name, such as the Amazona finschi and the Parakeet Psittacula finschii.

In 1876, Finsch followed the zoologist Alfred Brehm, traveling from the Turkestan to northwestern China. Then, the Humboldt Foundation financed an ornithology expedition to the Pacific ocean (1879 - 1882), although Finsch already was more interested about studying the regional ethnology.[1]

Much later, after helping in the foundation of the German New Guinea, from 1897 to 1904 Otto Finsch was curator of Leiden's Rijksmuseum, back in Holland. Since 1904, he directed the ethnographic department in Brunswick's Municipal Museum. There, he worked in its ethnological collection, particularly studying the primitive forms of money of round the Pacific Ocean; Finsch also was appointed as a professor and honored with a silver medal for his seventieth birthday.[1]


Traveling in 1876 to the Turkestan and northwestern China, Finsch had also started advocating for the formation of German colonies for the Pacific, as a member of the South Sea Plotters, a group of influent German socialites; pursuing this, in 1878 Finsch quit the work at the museum. Since 1884 to 1885, he visited Polynesia, New Zealand, and Australia.

Otto Finsch particularly persuaded the Plotters for a colony, which may stretch northeastern New Guinea and the surrounding archipielago. The plan was officially postponed though, as Australia wished that area too, but such claim soon was withdrawn, and then the German Empire officially backed Finsch's plans.

Thus, Otto Finsch traveled there in 1884 as a German Imperial Commissioner. His expedition departed from Berlin in June, 1884. At Sydney they furnished a small steamer, the Samoa; then sailing northwards, he reached the Duke of York's Islands and the coasts of northern New Guinea (October), at the East Cape and the Humboldt Bay.[1] Finsch then got engaged[1] for establishing a German protectorate, scouting the coasts for appropriate harboring, for contacting the local population, and for acquiring land on behalf of the German Empire. He also negotiated politically with the colonies of New Britain and New Ireland, and indeed he was successful.

The so founded German New Guinea had a capital, which was renamed Finschhafen in Finsch's honor, and Finsch was awarded with the Prussian medal. He also was the first European finding the local Sepik river, claiming it for Germany.

Disregarding, Finsch was disappointed[1] though, as the New Guinea Kompagnie, which was funded by the Plotters, granted no privilege position for him, within the administration of the newly formed colony. Returning then to his motherland, Finsch worked for two years as an advisor for the Kompagnie, although this never satisfied him,[1] allegedly after doing so much for the German Empire. Nonetheless, once back at Leipzig's Museum, in 1888 Finsch published an account of his activities of aboard the Samoa.

Death & LegacyEdit

Otto Finsch died on January 31, 1917, while still working for the University of Brunswick.

The Finsch lunar crate has been named after Otto Finsch.

External linksEdit


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