Partner Bajazid Doda
Nopcsa Castle, DJ686, Săcel, Romania
Feuerhalle Simmering, Simmeringer Hauptstraße 337, 1110 Wien, Austria
Baron Franz Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás (also Baron Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás, Baron Nopcsa, Ferenc Nopcsa, báró felsőszilvási Nopcsa Ferenc, Baron Franz Nopcsa, and Franz Baron Nopcsa) (May 3, 1877 – April 25, 1933) was a Hungarian-born aristocrat, adventurer, scholar, and paleontologist. He is widely regarded as one of the founders of paleobiology and Albanian studies.
Nopcsa was born in 1877 in Transylvania, which at that time was part of Austria-Hungary, to the Nopcsa aristocratic family of magyarised Romanian origin. In 1895 Nopcsa's younger sister Ilona discovered dinosaur bones at the family estate at Szentpéterfalva in Săcel (Szacsal), Transylvania. This led to Nopcsa's enrollment at the University of Vienna to study the fossilized bones. He advanced quickly in his studies; he gave his first academic lecture at the age of twenty-two.
In addition to Mesozoic reptiles, Nopcsa's interests included nationhood for Albania, then a mere province of the Turkish-Balkan Ottoman Empire, but aspiring to independence. He was one of the few outsiders who ventured into the mountainous areas in the north of Albania. He soon learned the Albanian dialects and customs.
Eventually, he had good relations with the leaders of the nationalist Albanian resistance against the Turks who occupied the region. Nopcsa gave passionate speeches and smuggled in weapons. In 1912 the Balkan states joined forces to drive out the Turks. This was successful, but the newly liberated states were immediately plunged into internal conflicts. However, out of these conflicts, Albania arose as an independent state. At an international conference aiming to clarify the status of Albania, Nopcsa was at first a contender for the throne of that country.
Later, during the First World War, Nopcsa was a spy for Austria-Hungary. He also led a group of Albanian wartime volunteers. However, with the defeat of Austria-Hungary at the end of the war, Nopcsa's native Transylvania was ceded to Romania. As a consequence, the Baron of Felső-Szilvás lost his estates and other possessions. Compelled to find paid employment, he landed a job as the head of the Hungarian Geological Institute.
But Nopcsa's tenure in the Geological Institute was short-lived. He moved to Vienna with his long-standing Albanian secretary and lover Bajazid Elmaz Doda to study fossils. Yet there he ran into financial difficulties and was distracted in his work. To cover his debts, he sold his fossil collection to the Natural History Museum in London. Soon Nopcsa became depressed. Finally, in 1933, he fatally shot first his partner, Doda, and then himself. He was cremated at Feuerhalle Simmering in Vienna, and his ashes buried there (Section 3, Ring 3, Group 8, No. 44).
Nopcsa left behind a considerable quantity of scientific publications and private diaries. The diaries paint a picture of a complex man with great intuition, but without the ability to understand the motives of others. His devotion to the cause of the Albanians was in contrast to his sociopathic insensitivity. In his diaries he nonchalantly wrote about his bid to become king of Albania:
|“||Once a reigning European monarch, I would have no difficulty coming up with the further funds needed by marrying a wealthy American heiress aspiring to royalty, a step which under other circumstances I would have been loath to take.||”|