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James Cook and George Forster in Vienna


The Natural History Museum in Vienna was built by Emperor Franz Josef of Austria.  The architect was Gottfried Semper.  The building work began in 1871, with the outside work almost completed by 1881, and the interior work taking another eight years.  The building was ceremoniously opened by Emperor Franz Josef on 10 August, 1889. 


Semper’s design included having figures on the exterior façade on three levels.  At the lowest level were men responsible for inventions that extended human horizons.  At the middle level were discoverers, and around the top scientists who contributed to world knowledge.


One of the discoverers included is James Cook.  The statue was sculpted by Paul Wagner, and stands in a niche on the front right, near the Ringstrasse.


One of the scientists is George Forster.  His head was sculpted by Alois Dorn, and appears on the façade at the front of the building facing Maria Theresien-Platz.  It lies high up between the central entrance to the building and Museumstrasse.


The figures are not easy  to photograph from the ground, so please forgive my poor attempts..


My thanks to Andrea Siegling-Blohm for alerting me to these figures, which I was able to see in October 2015, during a holiday to the fine city.


Ian Boreham


The front of the Natural History Museum, Vienna,

facing Maria Theresien-Platz.

Bust of Georg Forster, with name below.

Statue of James Cook, with name above.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 5, volume 39, number 1 (2016).

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