Xántus, János, 1825-1894

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Biographical History

János Xántus (1825-1894) was a Hungarian exile and zoologist who collected specimens in America and Asia. He was born in Csokonya, Hungary, on October 5, 1825.  He initially studied law, but joined the Hungarian Army after Hungary attempted to break from Austria.   Xántus was captured and imprisoned, managing to escape to Saxony a year later.  He came to the United States in 1851 and began traveling across the United States working in a variety of jobs to earn a living.   Xántus enlisted in the US Army in 1855.  During his time in the service he began collecting natural history specimens.  With the encouragement of Army Medical staff member, he began collecting for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.  He began a correspondence with Spencer F. Baird, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, in 1857. With Baird's encouragement, Xántus collected extensively in California during the mid-1850's for the US National Museum, while he was stationed at Fort Tejon, California, as a hospital steward.  Upon leaving Fort Tejon he was granted a discharge and explored Cape San Lucas, again collecting for the Baird. He eventually returned to Hungary in 1864.  Xantus served as the Director of the Zoological Garden of Budapest and as Curator of Ethnography at the Hungarian National Museum.  He passed away in Budapest in 1894


  • Library of Congress. NACO. Control Number: n 50013957
  • Madden, Henry Miller; Xántus, János. (1949). “California for Hungarian Readers: Letters of János Xántus, 1857 and 1859.” California Historical Society Quarterly. 28 (2) 125-142. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25156165

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