Nickolai Maclay (visitor)

Nickolai Maclay (visitor)

Name: Nickolai Maclay (visitor)

Epoch: Late 19th Century (the \'Long Nineteenth Century\')

Grouping Field: Natural and Theoretical Sciences

Location Grouping: Individual\'s Work Location

Map Coordinates: 27°28\'08.9\"S 153°01\'55.9\"E

Years At Location: 1880

One Historical Setting: Mr. Nicholai Nicholaievich Mikluho-Maklai (Maclay), some visitor lodging in Brisbane [TBA] (1880)

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Nickolai Maclay (1846-1888) was a travelling ethnographer and anthropologist who had spent time in field work across Queensland.

Impact On Brisbane Society

Nickolai Maclay has only recently come to light with Yvonne Webb’s 2016 biography. Maclay is a complex figure. He entrenched himself in Malay, East Indies, Papua, and New Guinea local politics opposing slave practices and mistreatment, at the same time, he advocated for Russian and German colonial interests in the Asia-Pacific region. Maclay had written to Bismarck in 1884 seeking protection of Pacific islanders from white exploitation and yet later protested against the German annexation. Furthermore, recently, from the work of Paul Turnbull, with Cressida Forde and Jane Hubert, Maclay has been shown as a grave-robbing anthropologist. In 1886 he and his family returned to Russia with twenty-two boxes of ‘specimens’.

In 1880 Maclay went to Somerset, Queensland, and thence to Brisbane, where he resumed his studies on the comparative anatomy of the brains of Aboriginal, Malayan, Chinese and Polynesian origin. He inspected Aboriginals on the Darling Downs and palaeontological excavations of extinct mammals at Stanthorpe and Glen Innes. During this time he continued to send notes and specimens to his former teacher, Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902).


R. W. de M. Maclay, ‘Mikluho-Maklai, Nicholai Nicholaievich (1846–1888)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 2 January 2020.

Webb, Yvonne. The Scholar Explorer: the Life, the Times of the Baron Nikolai Nikolaevich Mikluho Maclay (1846-1888) Russian-Australian scientist, humanist, ethnographer, anthropologist, Boolarong Press, Salisbury Qld, 2016. .

Paul Turnbull. Science, Museums and Collecting the Indigenous Dead in Colonial Australia, Basingstoke, Hampshire : Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

Cressida Forde, Jane Hubert, Paul Turnbull. The Dead and Their Possessions: Repatriation in Principle, Policy and Practice.

Image Citation

Photograph of Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay. А. А. Пазетти.