Carl Johann Maximowicz

Abstract

CARL JOHANN MAXIMOWICZ, who died at St. Petersburg on February 16, after a few days' illness, was born at Tula in 1827. He went early to St. Petersburg, where he was brought up at the St. Annenschule, a renowned German Lutheran College. In 1844 he left the Russian capital for the University of Dorpat. After completing his studies, he was appointed director's assistant at the botanical garden of Dorpat, a post he held until 1852, when he was made Conservator of the Imperial Botanical Garden at St. Petersburg. The following year he set out on a voyage around the world on board the frigate Diana, his chief task being to make acquisitions of living plants for the botanical garden at St. Petersburg. The Diana visited Rio de Janeiro, Valparaiso, and Honolulu. But when war was declared by the Western Powers against Russia, she was compelled to call at the nearest Russian harbour, De Castries, on the coast of Mantchuria, at that time the youngest, and scarcely an organized, Russian colony. Maximowicz had to leave the frigate, and decided at once to go up the River Amur, and to explore its banks and the adjoining country, which was then little known. Though furnished with only limited means, he carried out his task under great difficulties and severe privations in a very successful manner. He returned to St. Petersburg by way of Siberia in 1857, The next two years he devoted entirely to the working out of his “Primitias Florae Amurensis: Versuch einer Flora des Amurlandes,” a thick quarto volume, which appeared in 1859, and contained a full enumeration of his botanical collections, and a most clear exposition of the general physical features of the country visited by him, and particularly of its phytogeographical character. Immediately after, the full Demidoff Prize was awarded to him in acknowledgment of the excellence of his work. At the same time he was directed to proceed again to the far East. In 1859 and 1860 he travelled in Mantchuria; in 1861 he visited the island of Yesso; 1862, Nipon; 1863, Kiu-siu. He returned to Europe by the sea-route in 1864. It was then that he first visited England. He was at that time in a bad state of health, in consequence of an obstinate fever he caught in Japan, and from the effects of which he suffered from time to time throughout his life. In 1869 he was appointed Botanicus Primarius at the Imperial Botanical Garden at St. Petersburg, and he was a Fellow of the Imperial Academy of Science from 1864. Consequently he was also entrusted with the direction of the Herbarium of the Academy. After 1866 he published many contributions to the flora of Eastern Asia in the Mémoires and the Bulletins of the Academy, the most important being a monograph of the rhododendrons of Eastern Asia, the “Diagnoses breves Plantarum Novarurn Japoniæ et Mandshuriæ, Dec. i.-xx.”; the “Diagnoses Plantarum Novarum Asiaticarum, i.-vii.,” &c. It was in the latter that he began to work out the large and exceedingly important collections made by Prjevalsky, Potanin, &c., in Central Asia. In consequence, however, of the extreme thoroughness of his work, and his highly critical method, combined with overwhelming official duties, the first parts of these important works did not appear before the end of 1889. These are the “Flora Tangutica” and the “Enumeratio Plantarum hucusque in Mongolia, &c., Lectarum,” each comprising only the Thalamifloræ and the Discifloræ of the collections. A general review of the phytogeography of Central Asia, founded on the collections of Prjevalsky and other Russian explorers, however, was submitted by him to the Botanical and Horticultural Congress at St. Petersburg, 1884; it is a model of lucidity of style and arrangement. Now, we fear, these two works, so comprehensively planned, will proceed no further, although Maximowicz's preparations for the remaining parts were considerably advanced and a large number of most beautiful plates are ready for press. But we look in vain for the man in Russia who could take up the work. Russia was so unfortunate as to lose her great explorer by sudden death at the very moment when he was setting out to gather new laurels, and now his most famous interpreter has breathed his last not less unexpectedly. Deeply as we must regret that he was not permitted to finish his work himself, one thing is certain—that whatever he completed will last. He was of a noble, high-minded nature, a highly cultivated scholar in almost every branch of learning, and a gentleman in the truest sense of the word.

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STAPF, O. Carl Johann Maximowicz. Nature 43, 449 (1891). https://doi.org/10.1038/043449a0

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