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 Nikolay Severtsov


Born:   October 24, 1827
Deceased:   January 26, 1885

eminent ecologist, zoologist, traveller

      

Nikolay Severtsov is a Russian zoologist and traveller, who was one of the pioneers of ecology and ecological science in Russia. Nikolay was born in 1827 to the noble family his father owned a village and a horse farm. Children of Severtsov family were educated at home.

In 1843 Nikolay Severtsov was admitted to Moscow State University. During his studies, Severtsov met the famous traveller Karelin and fell in love with Central Asia, which become the aim of his scientific interests for life. In 1856 Russian Academy of Sciences considered the expedition to lower reaches of the Syr-Darya river and finally decided that Severtsov was qualified enough to head it. At that time not much was known of Turkestan it was thought to be a mysterious country, inhabited with strange nations. The expedition left St. Petersburg on May 18, 1857.

Results of the expedition had enormous values, both from scientific and practical points of view. Researchers discovered oil shows and returned with a splendid collection of zoological, botanical and geological samples. The whole winter was dedicated to classification of collected samples and preparation of them for storage. Those territories were often attacked by nomads, who robbed people and stole horses. Russian soldiers and scientists decided to move to a safe place, but, while moving, nomads attacked them, wounded Nikolay Severtsov and took him as a hostage for exchanging him for money. They kept the traveller for one month, and released him, because Russian threatened to start a war. Severtsov, whose health was far from perfect, returned to Russian headquarters in Turkestan fort Perovsky and received appropriate treatment. The traveller soon felt better and began making short trips around the place and helping with the collection.

In September 1858 Severtsov finished working in Central Asia and returned to Orenburg, where prepared the report about the expedition, sent all materials to St. Petersburg and went to his fathers village to see his family.

The Syr-Darya expedition, which was expected to last for two years, finished in 16 months, and the results exceeded all expectations. Severtsov compiled a map of Aral-Caspian steppes and gave a profound description of relief, climate and flora of the territory. The researcher was the first one to notice that the Aral Sea tended to shrink and to find ancient borders between the Aral Sea and the Caspian Sea. In 1859 Nikolay Severtsov entered the Committee on Ural Cossack Troops Establishment in order to start exploring territories, about which people knew so little at that time. In 1860 Severtsov went to the town of Uralsk, where started general and economical geography investigations. The scientist performed many journeys to the mountains and was the first to suggest the vertical zones theory in mountains climate changes with height.

In 1865 an expedition to Tien Shan was organized. This mountain system was extremely poorly studied at that time and was called Sky Mountains for its height and inaccessibility. Nikolay Severtsov headed the physics part of the expedition. The scientist was the first European man, who entered the central part of Tien Shan, thus making dream of generations of researchers come true. Following two months the scientist spent in Tashkent, where met the painter V Vereschagin.

In 1869 the traveller returned to St. Petersburg, and received the Doctor of Zoology degree from Moscow State University without defence. In 1973 two books, written by Severtsov, came off the press. In 1874 the Geographic Society and Natural Science Society organized the expedition to lower reach of Amy-Darya River. That was the first European mission (after Khiva campaign) to cross the Kyzyl Kum desert during summertime. The expedition brought new knowledge about the region. Severtsov reported about his findings at Paris Congress, and was among most popular speakers for his presentation and map of mountain heights of Inner Asia, receiving the gold medal for travelling and studying Tien Shan and Turkestan. From that time, Severtsov became world famous traveller, zoologist, geologist and geographer.

In 1877 another expedition to Fergana and Pamir started under Severtsov guidance and resulted in a breakthrough. Scientists thought of the Pamir as of a direct continuation of Tien Shan, but it wasnt so Severtsov proved that the Pamir was an independent mountain system. The scientist wrote a book about this expedition. In 1978 Nikolay Severtsov was awarded the Litke medal and in 1883 the Gold Konstantinov Medal.

On January 26, 1885 the great traveller died in a tragic accident his horse slipped on a river bank, covered with ice, and his carriage sank in the river. Nikolay Severtsov was buried at the old cemetery near his home estate.


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