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Kubary, John Stanislaw (1846 - 1896)

Published Sources
Naturalist and Ethnographer
Born: 13 November 1846  Warsaw, Poland.  Died: 9 October 1896  Manila, Philippines.
John Stanislaw Kubary was a self-trained naturalist and ethnographer who spent twenty-seven years working in the Pacific Islands. He developed a close relationship with the natives of Western Pacific and learnt many of their languages. Kubary made great contributions in the areas of natural history, ethnography, anthropology, cartography and linguistics; he discovered at least four sub-species of birds, compiled a dictionary of dialect for the Ebon Group of islands, studied the classifications of Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian languages, established numerous, varied collections, and produced over twenty-four publications. Mount Kubari (Kubary) in the Finisterre Ranges of New Guniea is named after him.

Career Highlights
Although born in Warsaw, Poland, John Stanislaw Kubary spent much of his early life in Germany where he fled to escape civil unrest and persecution. In May 1863, Kubary worked for the Chief Administratorís office in Cracow Province, Austria. He then later worked as a tax collector for the Commisioner for the underground National Government. Within a year Kubary had quit his job and moved to Dresden, then back to Warsaw where he was arrested for his part in the Polish uprising. He was eventually released and fled back to Germany.

While in Hamburg, John Kubary met the founder of the Godeffroy Museum (which specialised in natural history and ethnography of the South Seas) and was offered a five year contract to collect specimens for the museum. Kubaryís first trip was to Apia, Samoa in 1869 where he stayed for about six months. During this time he made trips to Fiji and Tonga, became interested in ornithology, learnt to speak Samoan and sent off his first collection of marine creatures and native mask casts to the Godeffroy Museum. In 1870 he sailed to the Ellice, Gilbert and Marshall Islands where he complied a dictionary of the vocabulary and grammar of the Ebon Islands dialect. He also produced his first publication which listed his exploration findings and included his hand-drawn maps and sketches. For the next four years Kubary went on collecting expeditions to many other islands including Yap, Palau, Ponape and Melanesia.

In 1875 Kubary arrived in Sydney, Australia on board the Mikado and immediately applied for naturalization, which he promptly received. Little is known about his work in Australia. Ten days after arriving, John Kubary sailed back to Germany and his contract with the Godeffroy Museum was extended for a further five years. He then returned to Mpomp, Ponape, where he built a permanent residence and established a plantation. From this island base he travelled to many more islands including Mortlock and Truk to continue his collections. But this soon stopped when the Godeffroy Museum ran out of money and had to terminate Kubaryís contract.

With little income and no employment, John Kubary moved to Japan in 1882. For four months he worked at the Museums of Yokohama and Tokyo. Kubary returned to Ponape and continued topographical, geographical and geological surveys of the islands. In 1885 he was employed as an interpreter in Oceanic languages by the visiting German warship Albatros and later took charge of the German consulís plantation on the island of Matupi in New Britain. Eighteen months later Kubary was working as the manager of a trading station and plantation in New Guinea. He remained in New Guinea for much of his remaining life. A monument was erected in Ponape in his honour by German scientists in c1901.

1863Assistant to the Chief Administrator in the Cracow Province of the Austrian Empire
1863Fled to Germany (February)
1863Joined the Polish insurgence against Russia (January)
1864Returned to Warsaw, via Dressden, and was arrested
1868Escaped to Berlin
c. 1869 - c. 1878Collector for the Godeffroy Museum in Berlin
1875Arrived in Australia (Sydney)


Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields.Prepared by: Annette Alafaci
Created: 20 October 1993
Modified: 29 January 2007

Published by The University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre on ASAPWeb, 1994 - 2007
Originally published 1994-1999 by Australian Science Archives Project, 1999-2006 by the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre
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Updated: 26 February 2007

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