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 Stepan Krasheninnikov

Born:   31 October 1711

World famous traveler and geographer


Stepan Krasheninnikov, a famous Russian scientist and traveler, who became world famous for his studies of Kamchatka lands, was born in Moscow in 1711 to the family of a Life Guard of Preobrazhensky regiment. In 1724 Stepan started his studies in the philosophy class of the Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy, a part of Moscow Ecclesiastical Academy, which was the only higher general educational establishment at that times in the Russian Empire.

Stepan Krasheninnikov, who studied in the Academy till 1732, got brilliant education and perfectly learnt Latin and Greek languages. In December 1732 twelve best students of the upper forms, including Stepan Krasheninnikov, were sent to Saint Petersburg in order to prepare to participate in the expedition to Kamchatka. Full members of the Academy of Sciences have tested the students and have chosen five best from them – Stepan was again among the best. After that, best students have spent several months learning geography, botany, physics, zoology and other sciences. Then final examination followed, and Stepan Krasheninnikov became a member of the Academy group of Second expedition to Kamchatka, aimed at exploring poorly studied areas of Kamchatka and Siberia.

On August 8, 1733, Stepan Krasheninnikov left Saint Petersburg for Siberia, starting the trip, which made him world famous. While on the way through the Urals and Siberia, scientists performed historical and geographical research, they studied flora, fauna and way of living of local population. Stepan actively participated in herbarium collection, and soon he was allowed working independently. Diaries of the traveler contain botanical, ethnographical, zoological, historical, and geographical facts on Siberia, as well as dictionaries of Tungus and Buryat languages. Krasheninnikov has helped his colleagues to perform regular meteorological observations, to dissect previously unknown little musk deers, brought from the Sayan Mountains and to send their bones to Saint Petersburg. Krasheninnikov, a student at that times, received an important task – to study two caves and petroglyphic drawings of ancient people – thus becoming first Russian speleologist. Stepan Krasheninnikov has also described mica deposits on the lake Baikal coast; mineral springs of rivers Bargusin, Onon, and Goryachaya; saline springs of two tributaries of river Vilyui; followed steppes from lake Baikal to the head of river Lena and 2100 km along the river to the city of Yakutsk.


Map of KamchatkaYakutsk has become the place, where the expedition spent the winter. The hardest part of the trip – exploring Kamchatka – was till ahead. It was October 4, 1737, when a ship, called “Fortune”, which carried young scientist Stepan Krasheninnikov among the passengers, headed for Kamchatka and nearly sank during a powerful storm. Ion order to save people, almost all food and belongings were thrown away. The expedition hasn’t been a piece of cake either – severe weather and lack of comfort didn’t prevent the researcher from exploring Kamchatka, performing research and meteorological observations, studying life, customs and traditions of local population and mapping his trails. Stepan Krasheninnikov had to do the work of several expeditions alone.

Only three years later other expedition members arrived to Kamchatka in order to take part in Bering and Chirikov journey to North America. Krasheninnikov passed books and diaries to his boss Steller and went to the last trip around Kamchatka in winter of 1740. The researcher left Kamchatka in 1741 and arrived to Yakutsk two months later. There he got married and then moved to Irkutsk with his wife. The scientist and his wife traveled all around Siberia and returned to Saint Petersburg in 1943, about 10 years after he left the city for Kamchatka and covered about 27500 kilometers.

Stepan Krasheninnikov has spent about 4 years at Kamchatka Peninsula almost without any salary. Working alone, he collected unique materials about this unexplored region of the Russian Empire, its flora and fauna, natural environments, mineral deposits, and language and customs local population. The scientist described 4 eastern peninsulas of Kamchatka – Shipunsky, Kronotsky, Kamchatsky, and Ozernoy, as well as their bays and gulfs; he followed large rivers of the peninsula, characterized many lakes and almost all volcanoes of Kamchatka. Krasheninnikov was the first to discover and describe small spitting geysers in 1738. The researcher studied the history of Kamchatka’s exploration and wrote about nature of the Kuril and Aleut Islands.


Land of KamchatkaUpon return to Saint Petersburg, Stepan Krasheninnikov passed an examination in the Academy of sciences, after which was invited to stay with the Academy for further advancing in sciences, however, he was still ranked as a student. In 1745 Stepan Krasheninnikov finally made next step on his career ladder and got an academic title. The scientist started working in the Botanical Garden and later headed it. At the same time, Krasheninnikov started systematizing enormous material he brought from Kamchatka. In 1750 Stepan Krasheninnikov was appointed professor of Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences and then headed educational institutions of the Academy. The researcher made friends with Lomonosov. In 1752 the book “Description of Kamchatka Land” was sent to a printing plant, however, it came of the press only in 1756, after the scientist had died, because printing maps was a very hard work. This book, a jewel of Russian cultural and scientific heritage, was translated into German, English, French and Dutch languages. For a long time the book remained the only source of information about Kamchatka and became extremely popular all over the world.

Hard work and permanent lack of money made the researcher’s health very poor. In 1755 Stepan Krasheninnikov suddenly died and was buried on Vasilievsky Island, Saint Petersburg. His grave has been forgotten until 1955, when it was unexpectedly found during construction works at the site of the cemetery. In 1988 the scientist’s remain were moved to Alexandro-Nevskaya Lavra.

The researcher was commemorated in the name of an island near Kamchatka and several more geographical objects.

Source: Biography of Stepan Krasheninnikov

Tags: Russian science travel geography   

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