Johann Kaup was born at Darmstadt, Germany on 10 April 1803. He studied at Göttingen University in 1822, and a year later he moved to the University of Heidelberg and then to the Rijks Museum van Naturlijke Historie in Leiden (The Netherlands), where he studied amphibians and fishes. Later, he returned to Darmstadt as a temporary assistant in the grand ducal museum, but in 1837 he became a Royal Inspector and in 1858 a professor.
Entomological works were few, but four were devoted to the study of passalid beetles: three on Prodromus” species (1868a, 1868b, 1869) and the “Monographie der Passaliden” (1871). In these few publications, he described 76 species of Passalidae totaling 171 species that he recognized in the world fauna (Boucher 2004). In the Monographie, Kaup adopted the quinary taxonomic system of MacLeay (taxa with five members), as evidenced in his tables of genera where some look incomplete (taxa to add or to be discovered to constitute five members).
He studied several private collections including the Mniszech collection of Lucanidae (that included Passalidae), the most relevant at his time, and half of his types are included in that collection. The Mniszech collection was acquired by René Oberthür, and in 1952 it was transferred to the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris (Boucher 2004).
Kaup died at Darmstadt on 4 July 1873. Despite adhering to false quinary system, Kaup´s studies were seminal for the modern classification of Passalidae.
Boucher, S. 2004. The species of Passalidae (Insecta: Coleoptera) described by Johann Jakob Kaup: historical overview and critical catalogue, with the description of four new species. In: Gruber, G. and W. Schneider (Editors), Darmstädter Beiträge zur Naturgeschichte Zu Ehren von Johann Jakob Kaup 1803-1873. Kaupia 13: 99-121.
Kaup, J. J. 1868a. Prodromus zu einer Monographie der Passaliden. Coleopterologische Hefte (München) 3:4-32.
Kaup, J. J. 1868b. Prodromus zu einer Monographie der Passaliden. Coleopterologische Hefte (München) 4:1-31.
Kaup, J. J. 1869. Prodromus zu einer Monographie der Passaliden. Coleopterologische Hefte (München) 5:1-40.
Kaup, J. J. 1871. Monographie der Passaliden. Berliner Entomologische Zeitschrift 15:1-125.