N.N. Mikluho-Maklay

Biografie şi Bibliografie

Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay (Николай Николаевич Миклухо-Маклай  in Russian, Микола Миколайович Миклухо-Маклай in Ukrainian; sometimes referred to as Nicolai Nicolaevich de Miklouho-Maclay) (1846–1888) was a Russian ethnologist, anthropologist and biologist  of Ukrainian, German and Polish descent.

Ancestry and early years

Miklouho-Maclay was born in a temporary workers camp near Novgorod in Imperial Russia, a son of a civil engineer working on the construction of the Moscow-Saint Petersburg Railway. His Ukrainian father was descended from Stepan Myklukha, a Zaporozhian Cossack, who was awarded the title of noble of the Empire by Catherine II for his military exploits during the Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792),[3] which included the capture of the Ochakiv fortress. His mother, Ekaterina Semenovna, née Bekker, was of Polish-German descent (her three brothers took part in the January Uprising of 1863). Nicholas attended a grammar school in Saint Petersburg, then went on to study at St. Petersburg University. After 1873, the Miklouho-Maclay family owned a country estate in Malyn, 150 kilometres (90 miles) Nothwest of Kiev.

He travelled and studied widely in Europe, and became a close friend of the biologist Anton Dohrn, with whom he helped conceive the idea of research stations while staying with him at Messina, Italy.


Mikluho-Maclay, ca. 1880 in Queensland, Australia. A typically posed shot from the period to indicate the "explorer" persona — note the Eucalyptus leaves in the background.

Miklouho-Maclay left St Petersburg for Australia on the steam corvette Vityaz. He arrived in Sydney on 18 July, 1878. A few days after arriving, he approached the Linnean Society and offered to organise a zoological centre. In September 1878 his offer was approved. The centre, known as the Marine Biological Station, was constructed by prominent Sydney architect, John Kirkpatrick. This facility, located in Watsons Bay on the east side of the Greater Sydney, was the first marine biological research institute in Australia. He married Margaret-Emma Robertson, daughter of the Premier of New South Wales, John Robertson.

He visited north-eastern New Guinea, Philippines and Indonesia on a number of occasions, and lived amongst the native tribes, writing a comprehensive treatise on their way of life and customs.

Opposition to the slave trade

One of the earliest followers of Charles Darwin, Miklouho-Maclay is probably best remembered today as a humanist scholar who, on the basis of comparative anatomical research, was the first in Russian anthropology to refute the prevailing view that the different 'races' of mankind belonged to different species.

He was also opposed to the slave trade. In November 1878 the Dutch government informed him that on his recommendations it was checking the slave traffic at Ternate and Tidore. From 1879 onwards he wrote to Sir Arthur Gordon, high commissioner for the Western Pacific, on protecting the land rights of his friends on the Maclay Coast, and ending the traffic in arms and intoxicants in the South Pacific.[5]

Ill-health and death in Russia

In 1887 he left Australia and returned to St Petersburg to present his work to the Russian Geographical Society, taking his young family with him. Miklouho-Maclay was in poor health at this time and it was a trip from which he did not return. Despite treatment from Sergei Botkin, Miklouho-Maclay died of an undiagnosed brain tumour, aged 42, in St Petersburg. He was buried in the Volkovo cemetery, and left his skull to the St. Petersburg Military and Medical Academy.


Miklouho-Maclay's widow returned to Sydney with their children. Until 1917 the scientist's family received a Russian pension. The money was first allocated by Alexander III and then by Nicholas II. One of his sons, Alexander, married a daughter of R. E. O'Connor.

Miklouho-Maclay's name is commemorated in many parts of the world. In Australia, the building of the Marine Biological Station was commandeered by the Ministry of Defence in 1899 as a barracks for officers. However, the Miklouho-Maclay Society lobbied for the centre to be made into a historical landmark in memory of Miklouho-Maclay's scientific work, as well as for a park to be named in his honour.[6] A bust of Miklouho-Maclay was unveiled at Sydney University near the Macleay Museum to commemorate 100 years of his death. A de Miklouho-Maclay Prize for Excellence in Chemistry is awarded each year in the National Titration Competition in New South Wales, Australia.

The Maclay Coast, which Miklouho-Maclay named, is still used as the name for the North-east coast of Papua New Guinea. In Madang, Papua New Guinea — not far from where the explorer stayed in the 1870s — a street has been named after him. He is also commemorated in the plant species Pouteria maclayana.

In Russia there is a an Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology and a street in South-West Moscow (where the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia is situated) named in his honor.

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