Adolf Schlagintweit

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Adolf von Schlagintweit

Adolf von Schlagintweit (9 January 1829 – 26 August 1857) was a German botanist and explorer of Central Asia. The standard author abbreviation A.Schlag. is used to indicate this individual as the author when citing a botanical name.[1]


Adolf Schlagintweit grave

The second of five brothers in Munich, Adolf, with his brother Hermann, published a scientific study of the Alps in 1846–1848. They established their reputation with the Untersuchungen über die physikalische Geographie der Alpen (1850), and were afterwards joined by their brother Robert; the three jointly published Neue Untersuchungen über die physikalische Geographie und Geologie der Alpen in 1854.[2]

In 1854, acting on the recommendation of Alexander von Humboldt, the East India Company commissioned Hermann, Adolf, and Robert to make scientific investigations in their territory and particularly to study the Earth's magnetic field. For the next three years, they travelled through the Deccan, then up into the Himalayas, Karakoram, and Kunlun mountains.[2]

While Hermann and Robert returned from their travels in early 1857, Adolf remained for further exploration. Suspected of being a Chinese spy without benefit of a trial, he was beheaded in Kashgar by Wali Khan, the amir of Kashgar in August.[3][4] The circumstances of his death were not known in Europe until 1859, when Chokan Valikhanov visited Kashgar disguised as a merchant, and successfully returned to the Russian Empire with the scientist's head.

The return of his head provided a plot element in Rudyard Kipling's famous story "The Man Who Would Be King" (1888).[5] In 2017 Lahore Museum Pakistan found 50 masks that Schlangintweits brothers made during their Indian research visit in 1854-58.[6] These ethnographic masks of various Indian communities shed light on Indian ethnic diversity.


  1. ^ "Author Query". International Plant Names Index.
  2. ^ a b Chisholm 1911.
  3. ^ Die Geschichte der Brüder Schlagintweit Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine (in German)
  4. ^ Strachey, H. nd Herbert B. Edwardes (1859). "On the death of M. Adolphe Schlaintweit". Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London. 3 (4): 172–174. doi:10.2307/1799030. JSTOR 1799030.
  5. ^ Finkelstein, Gabriel (June 2000). "'Conquerors of the Künlün'? The Schlagintweit Mission to High Asia, 1854–57". History of Science. 38, pt. 2, no. 120 (2): 179–218. doi:10.1177/007327530003800203.
  6. ^ Ahmed, Shoaib (May 15, 2017). "Museum finds 50 rare ethnographic masks". Dawn. Retrieved January 16, 2019.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Schlagintweit". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.