GMELIN, Samuel Gottlieb.
(1743 – 1774)
German naturalist and traveller in Russia, nephew of J.G. Gmelin Samuel Gottlieb (1743-1774), the son of Johann Conrad, was appointed professor of natural history at St Petersburg in 1766, and in the following year started on a journey through south Russia and the regions round the Caspian Sea. On his way back he was captured by Usmey Khan, of the Kaitak tribe, and died from the ill-treatment he suffered, on the 27th of July 1774. Gmelin was born at Tuebingen in a well known family of naturalists. His father was Johann Conrad Gmelin, an apothecary and surgeon. His uncle was Johann Georg Gmelin. Samuel earned his medical degree in 1763 from the University of Leiden at the young age of 18 (Silva et al., 1996). While living in Holland, Gmelin developed a keen interest in marine algae. In 1766 he was appointed professor of botany at St Petersburg. In the following year he was sent on an expedition to study the natural history of the Russian Empire. He explored the rivers Don and Volga, and the western and eastern coasts of the Caspian Sea. Whilst travelling in the Caucasus he was taken hostage by Usmey Khan of Kha kes and died because of ill treatment in captivity in Derbent. He was only 29 years of age. Gmelin was the author of Historia Fucorum (1768), the first work dedicated to marine biology, dealing exclusively with algae and the first using the binomial system of nomenclature. It includes elaborate illustrations of seaweed and marine algae on folded leaves. However, algal specimens used by Gmelin in the Historia fucorum are thought to no longer exist (Dixon & Irvine, 1970). The results of his travels were published in Reise durch Russland zur tersuchung der drey natur-reiche (Trip through Russia to study the three natural provinces) (1770-1784, 4 vols.). The final volume was edited by Peter Simon Pallas.
Biographical references: ADB. DBA: I 399, 39-45; II 455, 264-275. Hirsch, Biographisches Lexikon, 1884-8. Hirsching, Historisch-literarisches Handbuch, 1794-1815. Jöcher, Gelehrten-Lexikon, Supplement. Meusel, Verstorbenen Teutschen Schrifsteller, 1802-16. NDB. Poggendorff: 1, col. 914. WBI.
1. German, 1770-84.
Samuel Gottlieb Gmelins, ... Reise durch Russland zur Untersuchung der drey Natur-Reiche. ... St. Petersburg, Gedruckt bey der Kayserl. Academie der Wissenschaften, -84.
4 vols. [Vol 1: 1770] 4°: , 182 p., 39 plates, one map. [Vol 2: 1774] 4°: viii, 260 p., 38 plates. [Vol 3: 1774] 4°: , 508 p., 51 plates. [Vol 4: 1784] 4°: , xxvi, 218 p., 18 plates.
Contents: Theil 1 : Reise von St. Petersburg bis nach Tscherkask ... 1768 und 1769. Theil 2 : Reise von Tscherkask nach Astrachan und dem Aufenthalt in dieser Stadt ... 1769-1770. Theil 3 : Reise durch das nordliche Persien 1770-1772. Theil 4 : Reise von Astrachan nach Zarizyn ... 1772-1774. Nebst dem Leben des Verfassers.
Very scarce. Trip through Russia to study the three natural provinces published in 4 volumes. Fourth volume editied by Peter Simon Pallas [1741-1811]. A fourth volume was posthumously published by P. S. Pallas in 1784. This work is a narrative of Gmelin?s expedition undertaken by command of the Empress Catherine II 1768?1772. The first volume describes the journey from St. Petersburg to the Don area in 1768?9, while the second deals with the journey to and the stay in Astrakhan in 1769?70. In 1770?2 Gmelin travelled in Northern Persia and was the first naturalist to explore part of this country. Volume three contains some of the results from these regions.
Bibliographical references: Anker, Bird Books and Bird Art, 1938: 162. BL [151.e.11-13.]. LKG: XIV 749. Stafleu & Cowan, Taxonomic Literature, 1976-88: no. 2049 [collation of plates incorrect]..