Iuliu Popper

Julius Popper (December 15, 1857 – June 5, 1893), Romanian with Jewish origins engineer, adventurer and explorer. As a "conquistador" of Tierra del Fuego in southern South America he was a controversial but influential figure.

Young Popper, after studies in his country, obtained a diploma in engineering from Polytechnic School of Paris. He traveled to China, Japan, Siberia, Alaska, and then he settled in New Orleans. During 1884-1885, he worked in Mexico City as editor of the "Diario de los Forasteros". At the beginning of 1886 he arrived in Buenos Aires where he undertakes to make prospecting and geological studies in order to exploit gold in the Tierra del Fuego. The area where Popper worked were un-mapped at that time so he gave names to the mountains, rivers he "discovered", so the geographical map of Tierra del Fuego has now Romanian inspired names as Rio Rosetti, Ureche Rio, Lahovary Peak, Punta Sinaia, Sierra Carmen Sylva, and Tierra Popper.

In September 7, 1886, together with eighteen people, he as captain, chief engineer, mineralogist, journalist and photographer, they started the "Popper Expedition" and found gold dust on the beach of El Páramo, a Patagonian peninsula. Expedition was rigorously and strictly enforced after military standards with heavily armed men with Popper in direct command of everything. He succeeded in unearthing great amounts of gold and his Compania de Lavaderos de Oro del Sud realized enormous capital gains at the Argentine stock exchange. In Patagonia, Popper gained dominance with a private army and he issued his own coins and stamps to symbolize his power. When the Argentine peso lost its value in the market crash of 1890, even there his gold coins were regarded as currency.

Popper vigorously fought against his enemies; gold diggers and thieves were castigated after arbitrary law. Opposing Argentine Governors were eliminated by intrigues and through the media. Therefore, he was granted more and more land by the government. Popper even prepared an expedition to enforce the Argentine claim for parts of Antarctica. After his sudden death at the age of 35 his empire collapsed. Popper died in Buenos Aires, the cause of death remains unclear, but sources reveal being assassinated in his hotel room by a stranger.


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