“Grigore Antipa” National Museum of Natural History is one of the oldest research institutions in the field of biodiversity and public education. It is in the same time one of the well known and highly appreciated “databases” due to the Museum’s collections, some of them valuable assets of the worldwide thesaurus.
Although its beginnings are related to the “Museum of Natural History and Antiquities” established in 1834 by Mihalache Ghica, the peak of its purpose and brightness was reached in the past century, under the patronage of Grigore Antipa.
Grigore Antipa was born in Botoşani on December 7th , 1867. In 1885 he enrolled into the Faculty of Sciences and Medicine from Iaşi, Natural Sciences department. He interrupted his studies at the Iaşi University and left with his brother to Jena, where he became the student of the famous professor Ernst Haeckel, an arduous supporter of the evolutionary theory and founder of the Phyletic Museum. Returning to Jena in the autumn of 1889, Grigore Antipa enthusiastically accepted the offer to leave on a scientific expedition to Helgoland Island.
On the 9th of March 1891, Grigore Antipa presented his PhD thesis, Ernst Haeckel giving him a summa cum laude honorary mention, which he gave only three times during his career.
In August 1892, returning home, Grigore Antipa was awarded a meeting with king Charles I during which he presented to the king a memoir dedicated to the “rationalized fishery in Romanian waters”. Impressed, the king recommended Antipa to Petre Carp (Minister of Agriculture) as general director of National Fisheries, to Take Ionescu (Minister of Religions) as director of the zoological collections of the Univesrity Museum and to General Ion Lahovary (Minister of War) to allow him to board the military ships travelling on the Black Sea.
Grigore Antipa explains to Dimitrie Sturdza the necessity of a Natural History Museum.
As a result, at the age of almost 25, Antipa became the director of the National Fisheries until 1914 and the director of the Zoology department of the University Museum. In 1903, Grigore Antipa presented to Sturdza a memoir in which he demonstrated the necessity to have a building especially built for a “National History Museum of a national capital”.
The first halls of the Kiseleff Museum were officially opened on 24 May 1908 in the presence of King Charles I, Princess Mary and other important personalities of the scientific, cultural and political elite of the time. Thus, for the first time in history, the Museum exhibited the dioramas – three-dimensional showcases in which the species were presented according to their habitats, in natural positions and projected onto a painted background. The success of this presentation strategy made of dioramas an example to follow for other museums around the world.
Grigore Antipa enriched the scientific collections of the Museum through donations and by the acquisition of exhibits, being supported in his endeavour by numerous personalities and institutions all over the country and abroad due to its renowned research reputation throughout his life. The Museum he organized and administered for 51 years was to the great Grigore Antipa his home, laboratory, resting place and multi-professional work field.