By Academician Alexander ALIMOV, Director of the RAS Institute of Zoology; Vadim ZAITSEV, Dr. Sc. (Biol.), Deputy Director of the same institute; Oleg PUGACHEV, Dr. Sc. (Biol.), Deputy Director of the same institute; Sofia STEPANYANTS, Cand. Sc. (Biol.), senior researcher; Nadezhda SLEPKOVA, senior researcher
In 1714 Emperor Peter the Great decreed the establishment of Russia's first federal museum-the Chamber of Curiosities, commonly known as Kunstkamera. Its main mission was to amass rarities and "curiosities" from all over the world, such as collections of objects of natural science, ethnographic rarities, all kinds of instruments, coins, paintings, etc. And the sovereign himself set a fine example in this field: on his journeys across the country and abroad he spared no money purchasing some collections and even whole privately owned museums. Among such acquisitions were collections of anatomical preparations of the Dutchmen F. Ryisch and A. Seb, a collection of minerals of H. Gotwald and drawings of the Dutch natural scientist Maria Merian to mention but a few. At the beginning all of them were kept in a disorderly manner and without any classification.
The year 1742 saw the publication of the first catalogue of the Chamber. It listed, among other things, 212 "quadruped animals", 1,034 birds, 887 "amphibia", 479 fishes, 170 "bloodless Squamata", more than 600 sea shells and over 500 insects. In 1747 the Chamber house caught fire and some of its collections perished, but were being constantly replenished thereafter. And there are good reasons to regard the aforesaid Catalogue as a scientific document on a zoological collection provided with a classification in keeping with the standards of the time and, consequently, regard the year of its publication as the point of origin of our national zoological science in the "Capital on the Neva".
In the 18th century professors and members of the young Russian Academy of Sciences regarded as their duty the organization of scientific expeditions with their personal participation and for the purpose of enlarging their store of knowledge about Nature and its diversity and about life on this planet in general. That century can be regarded as a period of faunistic studies and descriptions of new animal species. The First such expedition was conducted in the lifetime of Peter the Great. This was a journey across Siberia of Professor D. Messerschmidt which lasted for several years (1720 - 1727). That was followed by the Second Siberian and the Kamchatka expeditions (1733 - 1743) with the participation of Professor J. Gmelin (Academician from 1767)-a chemical and natural scientist; of the natural scientist G. Steller (Academician from 1737), and "student of the Academy" (Academician from 1745) S. Krasheninnikov. While on the Commodores, Professor Steller saw for the first time and described the sea-cow (later named in his honour) and a big cormorant. Unfortunately both of these animal varieties disappeared shortly after-the first one being wiped out by native hunters because of its very tasty and nourishing meat and friendly and credulous temper. Because of problems of transportation however, the whole carcass of Steller's cow never reached the banks of the Neva.
In 1766 the Kunstkamera was repaired after a fire and reopened to the public. A year later a young and gifted German researcher P. Pallas was invited to the post of director of what was called Naturkabinet of the Chamber. His name is associated with a stage of a distinct "sorting out" in 1767 of all of the "Kunstkamera exhibits.. .which belonged to the animal kingdom". A year later he led an expedition across Siberia (1768 - 1774) and later still-across the southern regions of Russia (1773 - 1798). On both occasions zoological collections were gathered by his pupils-Professor P. Rychkov (Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Academy from 1759) and Professor V Zuev (Academician from 1779). For additional information about the nature of Russia more expeditions were launched: by Academician I. Lepekhin (across the northern provinces and the Povolzhye region, 1768 - 1773) and Academician S. Gmelin and Academician I. Gildenstein (across Russia's south, 1768 - 1773). New collections were gathered and processed, providing the material for the publication of monographs.
The most notable of them was "Zoographia Rosso-Asiatica" by Professor Pallas.
The gathering of collection of fauna samples gradually spread out to greater areas. The beginning of the 19th century was marked by several big naval expeditions. These included the round-the-world voyages of I. Kruzenstern and Yu. Lisyansky on board the Nadezhda and the Neva (1803 - 1805), two voyages of O. Kotsebu-one on board the Ryurik (1815 - 1818) and another on the Predpriyatie (1823 - 1826) and the first Russian scientific expedition to Antarctica conducted by F. Bellingshausen and M. Lazarev on board the Ryurik and the Mirny (1819 - 1821), etc. The collections brought back by these and other expeditions "filled to the brim" the depositories of the Kunstkamera which had to be enlarged.
In the late 1820s the Academy decided to split the Kunstkamera collections and set up some specialized museums, including the Botanical and Zoological ones. Appointed to the post of the director of the latter in 1830 was one of the founding fathers of embryology Prof. K. Behr. When he failed
to come to St. Petersburg due to a number of reasons, the post was offered, on the advice of the famous German traveler and natural scientist A. Gumboldt, to his young countryman Prof. F. Brandt. He assumed his post in August 1831, and on July 4,1932 he reported to the Academy on the opening of the first 3 halls of the Zoological Museum located on the grounds of the Academy. That was the starting point of the history of what is now the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The year 1819 was marked by the opening of St. Petersburg University. One of the lecturers at the Chair of Zoology of the Department of Natural Sciences of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics in the 1830s was Prof. S. Kutorga- the author of the first course of lectures for students in Russia outlining the ideas of Darvinism. Another prominent scholar, who replaced Prof. Kutorga after his death, was the leading 19th century expert on ichthyology Prof. K. Kessler (Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Academy from 1874). A consistent evolutionist, he combined his research and teaching duties with numerous studies of the fauna in central and southern Russia. After his death, from 1889 the Chair of the Vertebrates was headed by Prof. V. Shimkevitch (Academician from 1920), the author of the textbook "Biological Foundations of Zoology" which came out in five editions. From 1871 the lecture course on the zoology of invertebrates was conducted by Prof. N. Wagner (Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Academy from 1898) who was invited from Kazan. From 1894 this post was taken by a prominent expert in protozoology Prof. V. Shevyakov (Corresponding Member of the Academy from 1908) who laid the foundation of our national school of research in this field. Running ahead, it should be pointed out that this research was continued by our scientists including Corresponding Members of the USSR Academy Prof. V. Dogel and Yu. Polyansky. Today this is one of the foremost schools of biological research in Russia.
Of no lesser significance for the progress of zoological research in this country has been its embryological branch. It is associated, above all, with the names of Prof. I. Mechnikov (Honorary Member of the Academy from 1902) and Prof. A. Kovalevsky (Academician from 1890) during their years of residence in our "Northern Capital". Dealing primarily with invertebrates, they, and later on Prof. V Zalensky (Academician from 1897) who was in charge of the Zoological Museum from 1897 to 1906, continued the studies of Prof. K. Behr, making the latter half of the 19th century "a Russian period in the development of embryology", which is justly regarded as the starting point of the evolutionary trend in this field. These studies were later continued by Prof. P. Ivanov, Prof. I. Sokolov et al. Being developed at the same time at
St. Petersburg University were anatomo-morphological and histological studies to which a substantial contribution was provided by the founder of neurohistology Prof. A. Dogel.
Nor can one pass in silence the course of lectures delivered at St. Petersburg University by Prof. P. Lesgaft, a passionate follower of Lamarck, an outstanding anatomist and pedagogue. He was propagandizing the doctrine of his "French idol" at a time when very little was known about him in Russia. In 1893 Prof. Lesgaft received a fabulous gift from one of his pupils-by the name of I. Sibiryakov - a sum of 200,000 rubles. The scientist spent the money on building in St. Petersburg what was called the Biological (comparative anatomy) Laboratory which later became the Institute of Natural Sciences bearing his name. Attached to it was a Museum of Comparative Anatomy, and after the dissolution of the institute in 1957 its collections were passed over to the Institute of Zoology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
And there were more scientific expeditions launched by the Academy. The most remarkable and effective of them was a journey to Russian America of a 23-year old laboratory assistant of the Zoological Museum I. Voznesensky. The journey was financed by the Russo-American Company, and grandiose research objectives in the fields of ethnography, botany and zoology were formulated by our academicians. Over a period of nearly ten years (1839 - 1849) I. Voznesensky was conducting investigations on Alaska, the Aleutian and the Commodore islands and the Kuriles and also in Northern California, Kamchatka and on the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk, Working in very difficult conditions, he amassed impressive collections, handing over to the Zoological Museum more than six thousand samples of birds, mammals, marine invertebrates and insects.
From the second half of the 19th century there were regular conventions of natural scientists and physicians conducted in Russia and, on the basis of their decisions numerous scientific societies were established later. One of the oldest of these-and not only in this country, but also in the world-was the Russian, and later Imperial Entomological Society set up in
1859. And it is interesting to note that its publications contained the first scientific work of Prof. A, Kovalevsky, one of the founders of evolutionary comparative embryology ("Anatomy of the Sea Cockroach"). Established in 1868 was the St. Petersburg Society of Natural Scientists which had a marked effect on the progress of zoological studies in Russia. It was headed at different times by prominent scientists, including Prof. K. Kessler, Prof. K. Deryugin, Prof. V. Dogel and Prof. Yu. Polyansky. The Society organized expeditions, set up biological stations and promoted the establishment of museums of local lore, history and economy. The same can be said about the role of the Russian Geographical Society at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries which gave its support to expeditions of scientists, like Prof. N. Przhevalsky, Prof. A. Fedchenko and Prof. P. Kozlov, to the little studied regions of Central Asia. This also proved to be of benefit for zoology since collections in St. Petersburg received new exhibits: 408 skins and stuffed mammals, 3,425 birds, 976 reptiles and amphibia and 423 fishes.
Further progress of zoological studies, especially of experimental kind, necessitated the establishment of a network of biological stations. Many such stations were set up by researchers from St. Petersburg, and the first one on Russian territory was the Marine Biological Station of the Academy of Sciences in Sebastopol. From 1892 it was headed by Prof. A. Kovalevsky and after his death, from 1901 its director was Prof. V. Zalensky. Later on the station was handed over to the Zoological Institute and was headed by a prominent hydrobiologist, Academician S. Zernov (today this is the Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine). Another center which belonged to the Zoological Institute was the Baikal Biological Station headed by Prof. G. Vereshchagin (now-the Lymnological Institute, RAS). And the Solovki station (founded in 1882) belonged to the St. Petersburg Society of Natural Scientists. Its researchers provided their contribution to the studies of the fauna of the White Sea (in 1899 it was moved to the port of Alexandrovsk-on- Murman). The aforesaid society also had at its disposal the Borodinskaya Fresh-water Station in Bologoye (founded in 1896) which was later moved to Karelya. In 1936 construction was started of a new biological station at Dalnezelenetskaya Guba (Eastern Murman. From 1958-the Murmansk Marine Biological Institute-now part of the RAS network). As one can spend much time describing all of these centers, we would therefore like to focus on just one more station located on the Kurshskaya Kosa in the Baltic (town of Rybachy of the Kaliningrad Oblast) on the site of the famous German ornithological station "Vogelware Rossitten". Since 1956 it belongs to the Institute of Zoology and its main area of research includes what we call the energetics of birds and problems associated with birds migrations.
But to come back to the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1882, by the time of its 50th jubilee, the Zoological Museum occupied 32 not very large exhibition rooms into which about 40,000 exhibits were literally packed (some were not even unpacked). According to an 1889 inventory there were some 350,000 exhibits of animals. The aforesaid facts called for an expansion of the facilities and a new building was set up on a patch of land on the Strelka which used to be property of the Academy of Sciences. In a letter to Russia's Finance Minister, S. Witte, the President of the Academy, Grand Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich, asking for financial backing of the relocation of the Zoological Museum, wrote: "... in a not distant future (it) will become one of the greatest museums in the world. On its opening day you will be delighted to see it and will not regret spending the money on its arrangement." The relocation project began in 1896 and on February 6,1901, there was the opening ceremony of the new museum.
Since 1896 the museum has been publishing its "Yezhegodnik" (year-book) and since 1911-"The fauna of Russia and neighboring countries, primarily according to the collections of the Zoological Museum of the Imperial Academy of Sciences" (173 volumes have been published to this day). Published almost simultaneously were "Opredeliteli (guides) on the fauna of Russia" (169 volumes have come out to this day). Other important publications include "Trudy (proceedings) of the Zoological Institute" (283 volumes since 1932); "Studies of Marine Fauna" (57 volumes), "Parasitological Collection" (37 volumes), etc. The editorial offices of a number of these specialized journals are all located in our "Northern Capital".
In 1930, in connection with a general reorganization of the Academy of Sciences, the Zoological Museum was turned into the Zoological Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
Its "expeditionary" activities were being extended to new regions of this planet and, apart from the traditional, new methods of field studies were being developed. These included parasitological expeditions under the direction of Acad. E. Pavlovsky (a total of more than 160); trips to Tajikistan in the years of the Great Patriotic War; complex expeditions to the Far East; the famous Kurilo-Sakhalin, Chinese-Soviet and Mongol- Soviet expeditions, to mention but a few. The International Geophysical Year (1955 - 1956) marked the start of Soviet expeditions to Antarctica which reached their climax in the 1950s-1970s. The 1960s and 1970s marked the start of seasonal shallow-water hydrobiological studies in Antarctica with the use of light autonomous diving gear. Researchers of the Zoological Institute were the first in the world in conducting these studies. And almost simultaneously they launched comprehensive studies of Eurasian arctic seas.
The 20th century added to zoological studies, including those developing in our own city, what we call ecological trends of research. In 1939 Prof. E. Pavlovsky formulated his doctrine of the natural foci of transmissible diseases. This concerns blood-sucking ticks and insects, acting as the reservoirs and carriers of agents of many dangerous human infections and also includes the development of the concept- formulated for the first time-of the host organism as the habitat of parasites and of parasitocenoses.
The second trend of fundamental ecological studies is being pursued by the school of productive hydrobiology of the Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences,
G. Winberg, and Academician A. Alimov. And what we are dealing with here are the quantitative assessments of the role of certain species and groups thereof in fresh- water ecosystems, such as the Nevskaya Guba, Gulf of Finland and a number of lakes in South Karelia and the Leningrad Region. Data on taxonomy and ecology, on the range of temperature and salinity tolerance of various species, make it possible to elaborate problems of introduction of alien species to different areas, or bodies of water, such as the Baltic Sea via the Volga-Baltic route. Several laboratories of our Institute are studying ecology of insects and working on methodological problems of biological suppression of harmful insects and weeds.
A number of interesting studies are conducted by researchers of the chairs of zoology of St. Petersburg University. Widely known is the school of ecological parasitology which had been initiated by Prof. V Dogel. These studies are continued now by his pupils at the Chair of Zoology of Invertebrates, at the Biological Scientific-Research Institute in Peterhof (founded in 1920) and the Zoological Institute. Over the past few decades studies in this field have been conducted at the Laboratory of Parasitic Worms which had been headed for years by Acad. B. Byhovskoi who provided an important contribution to the studies of systematics and phylogeny of these organisms.
The borderline between the 20th and 21st centuries, with its tempos and sense of urgency in introducing novel methods and trends in all areas of life, has also been reflected in the development of zoology. In St. Petersburg systematics and faunistics remain in the lead as the basic areas of studies of the biological diversity of animals. Priority in this respect belongs to our Institute which, as has been said before, is backed by its one of the world's most representative collections. The latest inventories of our collections indicate that we have close to 60 mln exhibits and some 260 thousand species samples (about one quarter of known species of world fauna). Of great importance is the collection of the standard (model) specimens (there are tens of thousands of them at our Institute)- which have been used for the description of this or that species. An object of our special concern is their preservation and correct labeling. The collections are concentrated at various sections of the Zoological Institute: laboratory of vertebrates, herpetology and ornithology, ichthyology, fresh- water and experimental hydrobiology, marine studies, systematics of insects, parasitology, of parasite worms, evolutionary morphology and protozoology.
In keeping with our traditions the Institute now continues its phylogenetic studies. At the lab of evolutionary morphology, along with systematics, our researchers continue studies in comparative morphology which had been initiated in the middle of the 20th century by the school of academicians I. Schmalhauzen and A. Ivanov. And it should be noted that it was there that the discovery was made of a new type of animals- pogonophores (marine filiform invertebrates dwelling in chitin pipes which are open at both ends).
Also developing now are new trends of research-such as kariosystematics (in the focus here are the structure and evolution of the chromosome bank), molecular biology, methods of electron microscopy, computer processing and analysis of data and materials. Set up at the Zoological Institute has been what they call an "interlaboratory" team of molecular systematics whose primary objective is to set up a DNA databank.
It is also important to note the coordinating role of the Zoological Institute in the history of development of zoological research in our country. Its researchers have promoted the establishment and development of the respective centers in different Russian cities and the former Soviet republics. Suffice it to mention the sectors of zoology and parasitology, established with the direct participation of Prof. E. Pavlovsky, in the Academies of Sciences of the Tajik, Kazakh, Kirghiz etc. (later became institutes). Included into the Zoological Institute in 1955 was the Laboratory of General and Cell Physiology headed by Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy, Prof. D. Nasonov. Established on its basis in 1957 was the Institute of Cytology of the Academy. The Institute of Marine Biology of the Far Eastern branch of the Academy located in Vladivostok was conceived by its organizer Prof. A. Zhirmunsky (Academician since 1987) as the "minor" Zoological Institute. The network of the latter includes the Committee for Studies of Mammoths and Their Fauna, the Russian Entomological Society and the Societies of hydrobiology, parasitology, malacology and herpetology (named after A. Nikolsky).
It should also be pointed out that located in our "capital on the Neva" are many other laboratories which have zoologists on their staff. Entomological studies are also conducted at the St. Petersburg Academy of Wood Technology and the All-Russia scientific research institutes of plant protection and plant breeding. Hydrobiological and ichthyological studies are also conducted at the institutes of limnology and fish breeding. There is a number of centers studying problems of nature protection whose activities are also related to zoological science (among them is the RAS Scientific- Research Center of Ecological Safety and the Chair of Geoecology of St. Petersburg University).
Today our museum collection contains 30 thousand exhibits. The principle of their placement, or location, is mainly taxonomic and this makes the Institute a unique center of zoological studies, one of the few such centers in the world.
It goes without saying that the science of zoology cannot be developing in an autonomous manner or mode in St. Petersburg, without links with other centers of this country working in this field, primarily the chairs of universities (of Moscow, Kazan, Far-Eastern, Voronezh, Perm, etc.) and the academic institutions of Russia and CIS member-countries. All this makes it possible to conclude by saying that the science of zoology, born nearly 300 years ago in our Northern Capital, continues to benefit by new ideas originating there to this day.
Опубликовано 07 сентября 2018 года
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