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PETER SIMON PALLAS (1741–1811)

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Originally appearing in Volume V20, Page 638 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PETER SIMON PALLAS (1741–1811), German naturalist and traveller, was born in Berlin on the 22nd of September 1741, the son of Simon Pallas, surgeon in the Prussian army and professor of surgery in Berlin. He was intended for the medical profession, and studied at the universities of Berlin, Halle, Gottingen and Leiden. He early displayed a strong leaning towards natural history. In 1761 he went to England, where for a year he devoted himself to a thorough study of the collections and to a geological investigation of part of the coast; and at the age of twenty-three he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Society. He then spent some time in Holland, and the results of his investigations appeared at the Hague in 1766 in his Elenchus Zoophytorum and Miscellanea Zoologica, and in 1767–1804 in his Spicilegia Zoologica (Berlin). In 1768 he accepted the invitation of the empress Catharine II. to fill the professorship of natural history in the Imperial Academy of Science, St Petersburg, and in the same year he was appointed naturalist to a scientific expedition through Russia and Siberia, the immediate object of which was the observation of the transit of -Venus in 1769. In this leisurely journey Pallas went by Kasan to the Caspian, spent some time among the Kalmucks, crossed the Urals to Tobolsk, visited the Altai mountains, traced the Irtish to Kolyvan, went on to Tomsk and the Yenisei, crossed Lake Baikal, and extended his journey to the frontiers of China. Few explorations have been so fruitful as this six years' journey. The leading results were given in his Reiser; lurch verschiedene Provinzen des riissischen Reichs (3 vols., St Petersburg, 1771–1776), richly illustrated with coloured plates. A French translation in 1788–1793, in 8 vols., with 9 vols. of plates, contained, in addition to the narrative, the natural history results of the expedition; and an English translation in three volumes appeared in 1812. As special results of this great journey may be mentioned Sammlungen historischer Nachrichten fiber die mongolischen Volkerschaften (2 vols., St Petersburg, 1776-1802); Novae species quadrupedum, 1778-1779; Pallas's contributions to the dictionary of languages of the Russian empire, 1786-1789; Icones insectorum, praesertim Rossiae Siberiaeque peculiarium, 1781-1806; Zoographia rossoasiatica (3 vols., 1831); besides many special papers in the Transactions of the academies of St Petersburg and Berlin. The empress bought Pallas's natural history collections for 20,000 roubles, 5000 more than he asked for them, and allowed him to keep them for life. He spent a considerable time in 1793-1794 in visiting the southern provinces of Russia, and was so greatly attracted by the Crimea that he determined to take up his residence there. The empress gave him a large estate at Simpheropol and 1o,000 roubles to assist in equipping a house. Though disappointed with the Crimea as a place of residence, Pallas continued to live there, devoted to constant research, especially in botany, till the death of his second wife in 181o, when he removed to Berlin, where he died on the 8th of September 1811. The results of his journey in southern Russia were given in his Bemerkungen auf einer Reise durch die sitdlichen Statthalterschaften des russischen Reichs (Leipzig, 1799-18o1; English translation by Blagdon, vols. v.-viii. of Modern Discoveries, 18o2, and another in 2 vols., 1812). Pallas also edited and contributed to Neue nordische Beitrage zur physikal schen Erd- and Volkerbeschreibung, Naturgeschichte, and Oekonomie (1781-1796), published Illustrations plantarum imperfecte vel nondum cognitarum (Leipzig, 1803), and contributed to Buffon's Natural History a paper on the formation of mountains. See the essay of Rudolphi in the Transactions of the Berlin Academy for 1812 ; Cuvier's Eloge in his Recueil des iloges historiques, vol. ii.; and the Life in Jardine's Naturalists' Library, vol. iv. (Edin., 1843).
End of Article: PETER SIMON PALLAS (1741–1811)
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