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Biographical entry Lumholtz, Carl Sophus (1851 - 1922)

23 April 1851
Lillehammer, Norway
5 May 1922
Saranac Lake, New York, United States of America
Naturalist and Ethnologist


Carl Lumholtz was a Norwegian naturalist, ethnologist and explorer, who worked in South and north-eastern Australia from 1880 to 1884. He was sent to collect new mammal specimens for the zoological and zootomical museums of the University of Christiania, Norway. He was also interested in studying the customs and anthropology of the Aboriginal populations. Lumholtz enlisted the help of some Aboriginal hunters to collect specimens and in 1882 they told him of an unusual animal species that lived high up in the trees of the coastal mountains. These turned out to be what are now known as Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroos (Dendrolagus lumholtzi). Lumholtz went on to discover three other previously unknown species of mammals and the Lumholtz National Park in Queensland was named in his honour.


Having just graduated with a Natural Science Degree, Carl Lumholtz set off for Australia. He arrived in South Australia first then eventually made his way up to Queensland. There he spent time living with aboriginal people and collecting new mammal species. On first hearing of a creature the natives called boongary Lumholtz said "According to the statement of the blacks, it was a kangaroo which lived in the highest trees on the summit of the Coast Mountains. It had a very long tail, and was as large as a medium-sized dog, climbed the trees in the same manner as the natives themselves, and was called boongary. I was sure that it could be none other than a tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus). Tree-kangaroos were known to exist in New Guinea, but none had yet been found on the Australian continent". It took Lumholtz and local hunter Nilgora three months to find the first of these animals which were in fact tree kangaroos. The Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo is the smallest of the two species found in Australia and is now endangered. His book Among Cannibals, which was published in 1889, describes his Australian experiences.

After a successful exploration of Australia, Carl Lumholtz returned to Norway in 1884. By 1890 he was once again eager to study the culture and people of other primitive civilisations so set off on the first of six expeditions to northwest Mexico, including Sierra Madre. His last expedition took place in 1910 and he wrote several works relating to these Mexican travels. From 1913 to 1917 Lumholtz visited Borneo to explore the lands and people. His book Through Central Borneo....and 1917, which describes his travels is available on-line from Project Gutenberg.


Career position - Arrived in South Australia on the Einar Tambarskjelver
Career position - Carried out collections in Rockhampton, Queensland (seven months)
July 1881 - January 1882
Career position - Exploration and collections through western Queensland (seven months)
April 1884
Life event - Returned to Norway onboard the Dacca
Career position - Among Cannibals - a book which details his Australian adventures - was published, London
1890 - 1910
Career position - Six expeditions to northern Mexico
c. 1913 - c. 1917
Career position - Exploration of Borneo (multiple trips?)

Archival resources

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • Carl Sophus Lumholtz - Records; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

Published resources

Book Sections

Journal Articles

  • 'A Norwegian Naturalist in Australia', Argus, 14 (Jan) (1890). Details


McCarthy, G.J.