Otto Finsch

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Otto Finsch

Friedrich Hermann Otto Finsch (born August 8, 1839 in Warmbrunn , † January 31, 1917 in Braunschweig ) was a German merchant, ethnologist , ornithologist and explorer who was best known for his preparation for the occupation of the German colony of German New Guinea . The Finschhafen area in Papua New Guinea and the Finsch coast are named after him.


Finsch was born in Silesia. His father owned a glass cutting shop and ran a drawing school. At the request of his father, he was to become a businessman. At the age of 19 he made his first trips through Bulgaria and Hungary to study the local bird life without leaving school . In 1861 he received a position as an assistant at the Dutch Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie (Reich Museum for Natural History, today: Naturalis ) in Leiden .

Bremen time

At the mediation of the Bremen doctor and ornithologist Hartmann, Finsch came to Bremen in 1864 . In 1864, at the age of 25, he became the curator of a natural history and ethnological collection of the Society Museum and from 1866 to 1878 he was director of the newly established Ethnological Museum in Bremen. In 1867 he was elected a member of the Leopoldina , in 1868 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bonn . In 1872 he traveled through North America and in 1873 through Lapland . Accompanied by the zoologist Alfred Brehm and the natural scientist Karl Graf von Waldburg-Zeil , Finsch undertook an expedition through western Siberia , Turkestan and north-western China on behalf of the Bremen Geographical Society . From 1885 he was also a private scholar in Bremen and Delmenhorst .

South seas

Steamer Samoa , built in 1883, drawn by Otto Finsch.

After his time at the Bremen Museum, Finsch turned to the South Seas with the support of the Humboldt Foundation , which he toured from 1879 to 1882. As an agent of Adolph von Hansemann's private Hamburg New Guinea Consortium (later renamed New Guinea Company ) , he traveled with Captain Eduard Dallmann on several voyages from Mioko to almost the entire north coast of New Guinea in 1884 and 1885 and discovered the Sepik (Kaiserin Augusta River ). Finsch also signed contracts for land acquisitions. In 1885 the northern half of the island was founded under the name Kaiser-Wilhelms-Land "Protected Area" of the New Guinea Company and Finschhafen, the first administrative seat of the German New Guinea colony . Finsch was an advisor to the New Guinea Company for two more years.

In Leiden and Braunschweig

In 1898 Finsch became conservator at the Rijksmuseum in Leiden and in 1904 head of the ethnological department of the city ​​museum in Braunschweig. During the First World War he represented the museum director Franz Fuhse . In 1910 he received the title of professor.


Works (selection)


  • Heinrich Abel:  Finsch, Otto. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 5, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1961, ISBN 3-428-00186-9 , p. 163 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Herbert Abel : Finsch, Otto Friedrich Hermann. In: Historical Society Bremen, State Archive Bremen (Ed.): Bremische Biographie 1912–1962. Hauschild, Bremen 1969, p. 150 (column 1) to p. 151 (column 1).
  • Hilary Susan Howes: The race question in Oceania. AB Meyer and Otto Finsch between metropolitan theory and field experience, 1865-1914 . Long. Frankfurt am Main 2013, ISBN 978-3-631-63874-3 .
  • Angelika Friederici : Otto Finsch - Living masks from the South Seas. In: Castan's Panopticum. One medium is viewed , issue D7, Berlin 2014. ISBN 978-3-928589-23-9 .

Web links

Wikisource: Otto Finsch  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Otto Finsch  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Samoa trips. Travels in Kaiser-Wilhelms-Land and English New Guinea in 1884 and 1885 on board the German steamer Samoa. Hirt, Leipzig 1888, p. 6 .