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Johann Reinhold Forster

Wedgwood medallion of Johann Reinhold Forster made in about 1776

German naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster (1729–98) gathered natural history specimens and ethnographic material on Cook's second voyage, between 1772 and 1775.

A Lutheran pastor of Scottish descent, Forster made his living in England as an author, translator and teacher. When Banks withdrew from Cook's second Pacific voyage, Forster and his son Georg were appointed naturalists in his place.

Left: The Wedgwood medallion of Johann Reinhold Forster was made in about 1776. Photo: George Serras.

Engraving by Daniel Beyel of Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George collecting specimens.

Forster was hot tempered. He didn't like his cabin on HMB Resolution and complained that Cook wasn't interested in the 'study of nature'. Still, he amassed large collections and made careful observations as the voyage passed through Tahiti, Easter Island, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and the Antarctic Circle.

Forster's Wedgwood portrait medallion appeared in 1776. Having quarrelled with the British Admiralty over who would write the voyage account, Forster was banned from publishing his own writings until the official books were produced. Ignoring the veto, he and Georg printed them under his son's name in 1777.

Left: This engraving by Daniel Beyel shows Johann Reinhold Forster and his son Georg collecting specimens during their Pacific voyage.
Courtesy: National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an9455835.

Fan from the Marquesas Islands

Left: Much of the material gathered by the Forsters, including this fan from the Marquesas Islands, ended up in the collections of the Georg-August University of Göttingen in Germany. Courtesy: Ethnographic Collection, Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, Georg-August University of Göttingen.

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