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Cook Museum Whitby

Acquisitions Archive 05

Portrait of George Forster, after Anton Graff, c. 1784

George (or Georg as he is often called) accompanied his father, Johann Reinhold Forster, on Cook's Second Voyage. He was an excellent naturalist, talented artist, and a perceptive observer. He also seems to have been much more popular both with the crew and with Cook than his father, the difficult but immensely learned scientist officially appointed to the Voyage.

George (1754-1794) was the oldest of Johann Reinhold's seven surviving children, and was born near Gdansk in modern Poland. From the age of eleven, he accompanied his father on his travels, and came to England in 1766. He was only nineteen when he sailed with Cook on the Second Voyage.

After the voyage, George wrote an account based on his father's journals. This was A Voyage Round the World in His Britannic Majesty's Sloop, Resolution, commanded by Capt. James Cook, during the years 1772, 3, 4, 5. He hoped the publication would help solve the family's perennial financial problems, which were caused mainly by Johann Reinhold's inability to manage his finances, a tendency which George seemed to have inherited.

The book was praised but did not sell well in comparison to the official account by Cook, and the Forsters returned to Germany in 1778. George eventually became university librarian in Mainz. Always a political radical and inspired by the French Revolution, he joined the Jacobins and went to Paris in 1793. Once there however he became disillusioned by the Terror, and died of illness in his fortieth year.

This portrait was painted after George's return to Germany, and belonged to descendents of his daughter, Clara, until its donation to the Museum in 2005.

George Forster

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