by Igor PAVLINOV, Dr. Sc. (Biol.), Leading Research Associate, Zoological Museum, M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University
Museums of natural history and zoology are like real living organisms that keep growing and evolving. Today they draw upon systematics (taxonomy) and phylogenetics, the disciplines involved with the structure and history of biological diversity. Originally only desiccated organic remains - or else those preserved in alcohol-were added to the stocks of zoology museums. Today their collections are also expanded by tissue samples good for molecular-genetic studies. In turn, the expanding museum collections spur taxonomic and philogenetic research. Thus, the collections of natural history museums touched off the transition from the typological to the populationist approach among biologist. This trend that surfaced in the latter half of the 19th century is now one of the mainstreams of the comprehensive, synthetic theory of evolution.
Russia boasts of two large and venerable zoological museums-in Moscow and St. Petersburg* - now more than two centuries old.
In Moscow the first natural collection began with the Mineralogy Cabinet donated to the University of Moscow in 1759 by two brothers, Nikita and Pavel Demidovs, the owners of mine and foundry enterprises who patronized the sciences and arts. Enlarged through private collections, its stock grew into a virtual museum and, in 1791, was elevated to a status of the Cabinet (Museum) of Natural History owing to Anton Prokopovich Antonsky, an eminent natural scientist of the day (elected honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1841). Its official status was confirmed in 1804 when the Department of Physics and Mathematics at Moscow University instituted a Demidov Chair (Department) of Natural History alongside the Cabinet of the same name-conferred in honor of the sponsor of the sciences and arts Pavel Demidov.
The first head of this duplex museum was Gregory Fischer von Waldheim, a Gottingen University graduate invited to Moscow in 1803 (and in 1819 elected to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences honoris causa). Well conversant with the museum business, he was personally acquainted with such outstanding natural scientists and zoologists as Georges Cuvier, Etienne Geoffroy Saint- Hilaire, Jean-Batiste Lamarck...
Fischer von Waldheim got down to his job with great abandon: in a mere ten years or so he upgraded the Moscow Cabinet into one of Europe's foremost museum collections. He began by dividing its stock into two parts, the mineralogical and the zoological; the former then developed into the Geological Museum named after Vladimir Vernadsky (set up under the auspices of the USSR Academy of Sciences), while the latter became the Zoological Museum at M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University. Fischer von Waldheim ordered all items after the European systematic fashion; this principle still holds in museum collections and expositions.
From 1805 on Moscow University students were let into the Cabinet once a week; and the following year the Council of Professors ruled to have it open to everybody on Saturdays. Thus the University's museum became a public one.
The great fire of 1812 that flared up with the entry of Napoleonic troops into Moscow destroyed nearly all the museum collections together with the old building of the University. Only a few samples of mollusks from the Demidov Cabinet have survived to our days; in 1980 they were brought together into a memorial collection of "Demidov shells".
With the retreat of the French troops Fischer turned to the job of restoring the Cabinet of Natural History. He had to begin from scratch. The Demidovs offered their help again: Nikolai Demidov donated his collection of nearly three thousand articles.
May we note at this point that Acad. Fischer was a bright representative of classical zoology that reigned supreme in the university and in the academic community by virtue of its excellent scientific school. His crowning achievement in this domain was the fundamental work ZOOGNOSIA ("Knowledge of Zoology") in three volumes, one of Russia's first systematic compendiums and a copybook guide for subsequent generations of zoologists. Next, Acad. Fischer produced the capital work ENTOMOGRAPHIA ROSSICA in many volumes which merited gifts from the kings of Prussia, France and Bavaria, and a special award from the Russian empress Alexandra Fyodorovna.
The high prestige of Fischer von Waldheim both as a scientist and manager made the Moscow Cabinet of Natural History into a major center of classical zoology in Russia.
He was succeeded by one of his pupils, Karl Rulie, who became a key figure in Russian zoology and contributed a great deal to the further growth of the university museum. A
* See: A. Alimov et al., "Alma Mater of National Zoology", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2003. - Ed.
graduate from the Moscow Academy of Medicine and Surgery, he stayed on among its faculty and doubled as head of the Academy's Museum. In 1840 Rulie became head of the Chair (Department) and Cabinet of Natural History at Moscow University. He added the large collections in the custody of his alma mater to the Cabinet's stocks.
Rulie gave much attention to replenishing the collections with specimens of Russia's fauna. He saw to it that new materials came regularly, which they did, often in large numbers. And he insisted that specimens should be tagged and labeled beforehand with data on their origins. Thus they became documental evidence on the erstwhile propagation of species.
Karl Rulie reared a brilliant following many of whom became eminent figures. Among them were Prof. Anatoly Bogdanov, a longtime head of the Zoological Cabinet; the father of Russian zoogeography Nikolai Severtsev; and Yakov Borzenko, an anatomist who headed yet another museum at Moscow University-that on comparative anatomy and physiology - and whose lectures on comparative anatomy became Russia's first manual on this discipline.
Late in 1861 Prof. Anatoly Bogdanov was put in charge of the zoological collections. Simultaneously heading the University's Department of Natural Sciences he was elected to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences as corresponding member (1890). Besides, he was honorary member of many international scientific societies. Professor Bogdanov set apart the Zoology Chair as an independent department and joined the Zoological Museum to it: it was then and there that the museum got its present name. In keeping with the venerable old tradition, he headed both the Zoology Department and the Museum.
The "Bogdanov" age in the museum's life took more than three decades, and it turned out to be quite fruitful-also thanks to a research laboratory that allowed to draw the museum collections more actively into scientific work. This laboratory produced a string of eminent zoologists, such as Nikolai Nasonov (who afterwards became director of the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg and member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences as of 1906); the anatomists Nikolai Zograf and Vladimir Shimkevich; and Grigory Kozhevnikov, one of the heads of the Moscow Zoological Museum in subsequent years.
The 1880s saw a major overhaul of the museum's exposition, the first in many decades. New showcases were acquired and the old ones renovated; the lay - out of the exhibits was reconfigured as well. Fyodor Lorenz, the taxidermist, became the chief provider of stuffed animals made in his shops together with their natural settings ("biogroups" so-called), the first undertaking of this kind in Russia.
Anatoly Bogdanov sponsored field parties sent out far and wide to replenish the museum's stocks. The most comprehensive of these expeditions was one to Turkestan in Central Asia under Alexei Fedchenko (1868 - 1871). Taking part in it was Nikolai Severtsev, who explored the animal kingdom in plains and mountains there. He did a thorough job - the data he collected proved more abundant and circumstantial than those available on central Russia's fauna.
Voyages of sea expeditions also contributed many precious items to the exposition. Perhaps the best ones were brought in by Vassily Isayev, the surgeon of the ship Admiral Nakhimov. Well-preserved, they take pride of place in the collection. In 1888 - 1890 Dr. Isayev called at Madagascar, Singapore, Ceylon, Saigon, Java, Japan, Malta, St. Helena and other parts.
Meanwhile the quarters became too cramped for the expanding stock already in the early 1890s. A perennial problem for all museums! Both the depositaries and the exhibition rooms were all too small.
It was put up in 1898 - 1901 to the design of Prof. Konstantin Bykovsky in Bolshaya Nikitskaya ulitsa (street), a stone's throw from Moscow University's compound. This Zoology House was also to accommodate the Museum of Comparative Anatomy set up at Moscow University's Department of Medicine back in 1844. The old collections moved in by mid-1902. It took a much longer time to get a
new exposition ready. The upper-story ("Upper") hall with stuffed birds and animals was opened to guests only as late as 1911; and one on the ground floor ("Lower Hall") exhibiting specimens of invertebrates, fish and reptiles had not been complete up until the early 1920s.
In 1904 the Zoology Department and Museum came to be headed by Prof. Grigory Kozhevnikov. He navigated the museum through the travails of that hectic age with only few casualties and, more than that, laid a groundwork for its further growth. Prof. Kozhevnikov was awake to the truth that the institution he was heading could keep on in good shape only as a museum and research center, all in one. It was to be organized in compliance with the Natural System (in classical zoology, a general law for biological diversity). Prof. Kozhevnikov saw to it that the showings of museum exhibits became part of the university curricula (lectures and practicals) for undergraduates and graduate students.
His efforts fructified soon enough. Prof. Kozhevnikov reared a galaxy of biologists and zoologists who made a signal contribution to their science in the first half of the 12th century. Here are some of the names: Prof. Sergei Ognev who authored the multivolume series Animals of the USSR and Adjacent Countries, and the manual Ecology of Animals; Lev Zenkevich (member of the USSR Academy of Sciences) head of the Department of the Zoology of Invertebrates at Moscow State University, a man who organized the P.P. Shirshov Institute for Oceanology under the USSR Academy of Sciences, and editor-in-chief of Life of Animals, a series in many volumes; Prof. Sergei Turov, the author of many popular science books about animals and birds, and one of the heads of the Zoological Museum... They were followed by professors Dr. Vladimir Heptner who wrote a manual on general zoogeography and the many-volume edition Mammals of the Soviet Union; Nikolai Gladkov, later head of the Zoomuseum and dean of the Department of Geography at Moscow State University...
Making a thorough study of the museum's collection, foremost zoologists drew up fundamental compendiums on Russia's animal kingdom. The most notable works in this list were Birds of Russia by Acad. Mikhail Menzbir, Fish of Russia by Acad. Lev Berg, and Mammalians of Moscow Gubernia by Sergei Ognev.
The 1920s ushered in an age of major reshuffles both for the Zoological Museum and for the entire nation. Nascent Soviet science gave birth to a queer idea of segregating museums from research. Museums were assigned an enlightening role by and large; the work of expanding their funds was looked upon as a sideline. Numerous scientific bodies set up at Moscow University moved into the Zoomuseum's building. These included the Research Institute for Zoology and the Floating Marine Biological Institute, which was subsequently reorganized into the P. P. Shirshov Institute for Oceanology of the USSR (now Russian) Academy of Sciences. Both were founded in the 1920s.
One came up with the idea of a merger (amalgamation) of three kindred museums of Moscow - those of Zoology, Comparative Anatomy and Darwinian Studies. Alexander Kotz, the founder and director of the Darwinian Institute, managed to keep its independence, but the other two were merged after all, housed that they were in one and the same building. What facilitated this merger was that the Institute of Comparative Anatomy (established on the basis of the Anatomy Museum) was reorganized into the Institute of Morphology of Animals (USSR Academy of Sciences) largely due to the efforts of its director, Acad. Alexei Severtsev; today it is the A. N. Severtsev Institute for Problems of Ecology and Evolution (Russian Academy of Sciences).
Still and all, the hard times notwithstanding, the museum could expand its collections. It was in those years, in the 1920s and 1930s, that active ecofaunistic studies were launched in this country. On one hand, they were prompted by the need of studying the Soviet Union's productive forces, and, on the other, by the work to establish a network of
nature preserves all over the country. By the end of the 1930s the museum's basic stock was up to 1.2 million items.
Beginning in 1935 the Zoological Museum began to publish collections of its scientific works. Such publications became regular under the title Studies on the Soviet Union's Fauna (Fauna Studies today).
Substantial improvements took place in the exposition work largely due to enthusiasm on the part of Nikolai Plavilshchikov, a major expert in entomology (the branch of zoology that treats of insects) and popularizer of knowledge on animals. The exposition of the Lower Hall was refurbished and, at the end of 1932, opened to the broad public.
In those times the museum sent field expeditions mostly to the Caucasus and Central Asia. They brought in rich samples of vertebrates, insects, ground and fresh-water mollusks and crustaceans. These fresh materials made up a fundamental collection on the animal kingdom of northern Eurasia.
The Soviet Union's Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany that broke out in 1941 interfered with the museum's work. In the fall of that year its collections were conserved or else moved to Ashkhabad, Turkmenia, where most of the staff of Moscow University's Department of Biology was evacuated. In spite of all these hardships, the museum soon returned to its normal course. Two professors did much for that - Sergei Turov, the director, and the acting dean of the Department of Biology in Moscow (some of it stayed in Moscow nonetheless) Leonid Rossolimo, the father of Olga Rossolimo, a woman who became head of the Zoological Museum many years after. Already in 1942 the museum opened both of its halls on the first (upper) floor to visitors; the evacuated fund collections were brought back in 1943 and two years later, in 1945, the museum opened its Lower Hall (on the ground floor) to guests.
Despite the turmoil and mess of the initial post-war years when the Department of Biology of Moscow State University had to move from its old building on Mokhovaya ulitsa (street) in the heart of Moscow to its new premises on Lenin Heights, the museum continued its regular activities.
In research, too, though it had to suspend the publishing business for a time. This work was resumed with a batch of fundamental studies "shelved" for the time being: several volumes on Animals... by Sergei Ognev; six volumes on the Birds of the Soviet Union edited by Georgi Dementyev; Fish of the Upper Pechora Basin prepared by Georgi Nikolsky (elected to the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1953) and coworkers, among other publications.
The 1950s and 1960s saw major changes in the substance of incoming materials due to the shift of interests in zoological taxonomy from the typological to the populationist approach with its emphasis on the intraspecies structure and variability. As a matter of fact, such studies have always been in the focus of attention ever since the days of Karl Rulie. That outburst of interest was kindled by new quantitative methods of research that entered the stage.
The results on mammalians proved quite impressive. It came out that the laws of geographical variability proved species specific. This conclusion is consistent with the notion that each and every species is characterized by a special mode of interaction with the environment and, consequently, by a pattern of spatial differentiation proper to it. This prodded a fresh look on the "ecogeographical rules" accentuating the general laws of spatial variability of individual characters in many species-like, for instance, body dimensions of warm-blooded animals. It is clear now that the "rules" are of restricted significance since the underlying general physiological mechanisms are particularized by specific ecological adaptations (fitnesses).
The studies in this domain called for abundant morphological materials, a trend that resulted in a dramatic rise in the number and scope of collections. By the late 1960s the Zoological Museum had amassed no less than 3.5 million artifacts. Again, there was no room enough for them. The custodians would eat their heart out and refuse to take in some of the fresh entries. This portended a real disaster: a museum, unable to navigate and catch up in the ceaseless maelstrom of dataflow, was certain to fall behind unless it added to its stocks.
At the end of 1969 the museum's building was badly damaged by a breakdown in the plumbing and sewage system. All of it, except the roof and the walls, had to be restored. Its director was Olga Rossolimo, an energetic woman reared within the museum's walls and fully dedicated to it. She managed to come on top of many old problems and find space elsewhere for the museum funds; by the mid-1980s the old collections "settled down" in their new homes with much better conditions and room enough for new entries.
The layout of exhibits was changed in full, too. We followed the classical canons by grading the items put on display - the Lower and Upper Halls featured taxonomy, while the Hall of Evolutionary Morphology (formerly on comparative anatomy)-phylogeny. The Lower Hall on the ground floor was opened to guests in 1984, and the two others, in 1989 and 1990.
Early in the 1980s we reopened our research laboratory founded by Anatoly Bogdanov and closed afterwards. In 1985 our museum's status was upgraded to that of a research center, and it regained its high position in science sacrificed in part during the reforms of the 1930s.
The new spacious premises opened up broad opportunities to us in augmenting our stock by new collections. Among other things, we owed much to our tight cooperation with academic institutes. Hundreds of zoologists pooled efforts, and by the onset of the 21st century the total fund of Moscow University's Zoological Museum topped 5 million items. In this regard we are second in Russia only to the RAS Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg, and we are among the world's ten foremost collections in the field of zoology. Many use our collections in making taxonomic studies, describing new species and ascertaining the makeup of animal populations in particular regions.
Our museum has also stepped up work in drawing up systematic (taxonomic) catalogs. Really and truly, this is the domain of museum workers who have a vast body of reference material at their disposal and thus are competent in data evaluation for different animal kingdoms. Thus they produced the two-volume thesaurus Mammalians of Eurasia (1995) and the capital monograph Systematics of Present-day Mammalians (2003) covering the whole world.
Gaining a wealth of experience in itemizing this country's fauna, our researchers have elaborated principles for making lists of species and subspecies which have special significance for nature conservation. These principles became a basis for The Red Book of the USSR(1985) and The Red Book of the Russian Federation (1986).
We are actively involved in taxonomic and phylogenetic studies activated of late by the new trend of cladism studying cladogenesis (branching evolution) and cladotypes, or relict forms. According to Ernst Mayr, a prominent American evolutionist and taxonomist, cladism has revolutionized classical systematics (taxonomy) and phylogeny. This approach is being fostered most actively in America and Western Europe. Our people have responded by publishing such monographs and collections as Biological Systematics (1988), Cladistic Analysis(1990), and Present Systematics: Methodic Aspects (1996). Our latest fundamental study just off the press is AN INTRODUCTION INTO MODERN PHYLOGENETICS (2005).
The classical trend in systematics, typology, is not neglected either. The latest ideas are summed up in the book The Archetype, Stile and Rank in Biological Systematics (1996). Published two years before was the monograph Methodology of Systematics (1994) by Vladimir Beklemishev, the zoologist expert in the anatomy of invertebrates.
Accordingly, the museum has expanded the list of its journals and periodicals, too. For one, the Zoological Studies are now published on a regular basis alongside the Fauna Studies. Our Zoomuseum is contributing to several international journals on the systematics of different groups of the animal kingdom, such as Ruthenica, Acarina, etc.
As before, we attach much significance to popular science books for enlightening the broad public. The multivolume series Diversity of Animals includes books on ground animals. The Moscow-based ASTREL Publishers have produced the five-volume Life of Russia's Animals prepared by us. We have authored about a dozen books to keep the public up to date on the globe's animal kingdom; these books have come out in the WANT TO KNOW ALL series (ASTREL Publishers).
Our research staff has active educators in its ranks who are lecturing at Moscow State University on systematics; they invite undergraduates to the museum's repositories to let them see at first hand the diversity of the animal world.
Even though modern taxonomy and phylogenetics are largely based on molecular genetic studies, the "classical" morphological materials collected over many decades are still relevant today: both "museum zoology" and morphology have a great future, for every living organism is a product of complex moiphogenetic processes that change in the course of evolution. This is the subject-matter of evolutionary biology of development going back to the ideas of the Russian evolutionist Acad. Ivan Schmalhausen (1884 - 1931).
Our unified strategy deals with individual and historical evolution of the animal kingdom; one of its most active protagonists is Dr. Emilia Vorobyeva, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Obviously, our collections of diverse anatomical structures furnish fruitful material for research and thus bring us nearer to the idea of evolution as a formative course of specific adaptations and fitnesses manifest in the diversity of organisms.
Опубликовано 27 сентября 2018 года
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