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GMELIN, Johann Georg.

(1709 – 1755)

(Born: Tübingen, Germany, 12 June 1709; Died: Tübingen, Germany, 20 May 1755) German chemist & mineralogist.

Gmelin was a member of a large scientifically inclined family. He accepted a lectureship at the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg in 1730 and in 1731 was promoted to professor of chemistry and natural sciences. In 1733 he was recruited as part of the scientific corps to accompany a trans-Siberian expedition. He proceeded as far as Yakutsk observing the natural history of Sibera. Several maps are included in his report including this description of the Arctic coast.

Biographical references: ADB: 9, 269 & 22, 548. Börner, Vornehmsten Lebensumständen, 1749-64. Catalogue of Portraits of Naturalists: 485 [2 portraits listed]. DBA: I 398, 368-424; II 455, 224, 236-239. Drugulin, Sechstausend Portraits, 1863: nos. 1955-6. DSB: 5, 427-9. Gmelin, O., Johann Georg Gmelin 1709-1755. Der Enforscher Sibiriens. Ein Gedenkbuch. München, O. Gmelin, 1911. iii, 150 p., portrait. Hirsch, Biographisches Lexikon, 1884-8. Hirsching, Historisch-literarisches Handbuch, 1794-1815. ISIS, 1913-65: 1, 493. Jöcher, Gelehrten-Lexikon, Supplement. Meusel, Verstorbenen Teutschen Schrifsteller, 1802-16. Moliavko, Geologi Biograficheskii, 1985: p. 79-80. NDB: 6, 479 [by H. Dolezal]. Poggendorff: 1, cols. 913-4. Schrader, Biographisch Lexicon der Tierärtze, 1863. Thieme & Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon, 1907-50. WBI. World Who's Who in Science: 665.

1. German, 1751-2.
D. Johann Georg Gmelins, | [...2 lines of titles and memberships...] | Reise | durch | Sibirien, | von dem Jahr 1733. bis 1743. | Erster Theil. | Mit Kupfern. | [ornament] | [rule] | [...2 lines...] | Göttingen, | verlegts Abraham Vandenhoecks seel., Wittwe, 1751.

4 vols. [Vol 1: 1751] 4°: [26], 467 p., 3 folding plates, one map. [Vol 2: 1752] 4°: [32], 652 p., 5 folding plates, one map. [Vol 3: 1752] 4°: [20], 584 p., 7 folding plates, one map. [Vol 4: 1752] 4°: 692, [8] p., 3 folding plates, one map.

Very scarce. In 1733 he was recruited as part of the scientific corps to accompany a trans-Siberian expedition. He proceeded as far as Yakutsk observing the natural history of Sibera. Several maps are included in his report including this description of the Arctic coast. Gmelin compiled in his four-volume Reise durch Sibirien, written after his return to Tubingen in 1747. This was was the most comprehensive botanical, zoological, geological, topographical, and ethnographic survey of Siberia published up to that time. Gmelin ignored the Academy of Sciences' prohibition against publishing anything about the expedition without special permission, apparently feeling that he could write whatever he pleased since he was back on German soil. His critical comments about the Chancellery's role in the Kamchatka expedition and his graphic descriptions of some of the seamy sides of Siberian life were shocking and embarrassing to the Russian government. Describes an extensive trip through Siberia, including observations on natural history and mining.

"One of the earliest accounts of Bering's voyage to the Northwest mainland" - Howes. Gmelin was the botanist attached to Vitus Bering's second expedition. He went to eastern Siberia in 1733 as part of the imperial Russian scientific expedition which included Gerhard M?ller and astronomer Louis DeLisle. Their original intention was to sail with Bering on his voyage of northeast discovery, but in the event they did not accompany him, working instead in eastern Siberia and along the Lena River. The publications of the scientists attached to the expedition, including Gmelin's travel narrative, constitute much of the earliest material on the discovery and exploration of the Bering Strait and Alaska (see Lada-Mocarski 4-7, 9). Their collective enterprises were the first scientific investigation of the Russian Far East. Gmelin's work is one of the key scientific contributions to the Russian explorations of the 1730s. "Although this work does not contain any material by Gmelin on Alaska proper, it is replete with information on the preparations for Bering's final sea voyage. Altogether, it is indispensable original source material for the study of Bering's second expedition" - Lada-Mocarski. Gmelin also compiled the first comprehensive flora of Siberia, Kamchatka, and the northeastern corner of Asia. After almost a decade in Siberia and the Far East, Gmelin returned to publish his findings, including 1178 species of plants.

Published as Sammlung neuer und merkwürdiger Reisen zu Wasser und zu Lande, vols. 4.-7.

Bibliographical references: BL [978.k.2-5.]. LKG: XIV 745.

2. Dutch, 1752-7 [Dutch transl.].
Reize door Siberiën naar Kamtschatka, van't jaar 1733 tot 1743. Op allerhoogst bevel van haare Russische Keizerlyke Majesteit gedaan door de heeren Professoren J.G. Gmelin, L. de l'Isle de la Croyere, en Ger. Fr. Muller. In't Hoogduits beschreeven. Vertaald door H. van Elvervelt. Haarlem, Gedrukt by Izaäk en Johannes Enschedé ..., 1752-7.

4 vols.

Very rare. Translation by H. van Elvervelt of Reise durch Sibirien, von dem Jahr 1733 bis 1743 (4 vols., Göttingen, 1751-2).

Bibliographical references: BL [no copy listed].

3. French, 1767.
Voyage en Sibérie; contenant la description des moeurs & usages des peuples de ce pays, le cours des rivieres considérables, la situation des chaines de montagnes, des grandes forêts, des mines, avec tous les faits d'histoire naturelle qui sont particuliers à cette contrée. Traduction libre de l'original allemand par M. de Keralio. Paris: Desaint, 1767.

2 vols. [Vol 1] 12°: xxii, 430, [4] p., one folding plate. [Vol 2] 12°: [4], xx-xxii, [2], 324, [4] p., one plate.

Very scarce. Translation by M. de Keralio. First french edition of this famous book on Siberia translated by de Keralio and being in reality almost a new work in regard to the original German edition of 1752-4.French translation, abridged from the original German edition of 1751-52.HOWES G212, "aa." WICKERSHAM 6103. LADA-MOCARSKI 5 (ref).

Bibliographical references: BL [1479.aa.4.]. Coates, A.M., The plant hunters. Being a history of the horticultural pioneers, Their quests and their discoveries from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, [1970]. 400 p., illus., maps, portraits [p. 47-50]. Cox, Guide to the Literature of Travel, 1948-50: 1, 351. LKG: XIV 746a.