Bolotov, Andrei Timofeevich

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Bolotov, Andrei Timofeevich

(b. Dvoryaninovo, Tula oblast, Russia, 18 October 1738; d Dvoryaninovo, 15 October 1833)

agronomy, biology,

Bolotov’s father was an army officer, and in 1755 Bolotov, too, entered military service. From 1757 to 1761 he was a translator attached to the Russian military governor at Königsberg, and in 1761—1762 he was adjutant to the St. Petersburg chief of police. Bolotov retired in 1762, moved to the country, and devoted himself to agronomy and botany, especially horticulture.

Characteristic of Bolotov’s work was a striving not only to explore a given problem and to explain a given phenomenon arising from his practical experience and experimentation, but also to discover general biological laws and to find means of influencing the development of plants for practical purposes.

Bolotov’s most noteworthy achievenment was the defense and further development, during a period when the humus theory of soil fertility reigned supreme, of the theory that plants need mineral nourishment. Following Linnaeus, Camerarius, Koelreuter, and Christian Sprengel, Bolotov advocated, developed, and propagandized the field concept at a time when the majority of botanists approached it with distrust or completely ignored it as unfounded.

Bolotov considered the union of male and female sexual elements as the condition of fertilization and development of a new plant from a seed bud. He noted the quantity of pollen necessary for normal fertilization, the widespread occurrence in nature of cross-pollination, and the role of wind and insects in the latter process. His research on these questions covered the period 1778 to 1823. In 1778, fifteen years before Sprengel, Bolotov gave a sufficiently precise description of dichogamy—the maturation of the pistil and the stamen of bisexual plants atdifferent times, which ensures cross-pollination in these plants.

In an article on the hazel nut (1804) and in several earlier works, such as “O semenakh” (“On Seeds,” 1780), he noted the role of multiple pollination in increasing the fitness for survival of a species; thus, he anticipated the general features of Thomas Knight’s discovery, which later received an explanation in the works of Darwin and of I. V. Michurin. Bolotov saw in cross-pollination and intraspecific and interspecific hybridization some of the sources of the multiplicity of forms in nature. Much attention is given in his works to the formative influence of environmental conditions; in many of these works elements of an ecological approach to the analysis of phenomena in the plant world are clearly shown.

Bolotov was the author of more than 300 works, a prodigious output.


Many of Bolotov’s works were brought together in lzbrannye sochinenia po agronomy, pludovodstvu, lesovodstvu, botanike (“Selected Works on Agronomy, Fruit Growing, Forestry, and Botany,” Moscow, 1952).

Works on Bolotov are A. P. Berdyshev, A. T. Bolotov— perv russky ucheny agronom (“A. T. Bolotov—The First Russian Agronomist,” Moscow, 1949); Istoria estestvoznania v Rossy (“The History of Natural Science in Russia”), I, pt. 1 (Moscow, 1957), 475–478; I. M. Polyakov, “Istoria otkrytia dikhogamy i rol russkikh uchenykh v etom otkryty” (“History of the Discovery of Dichogamy and the Role of Russian Scientists in This Discovery”), in Uspekhi sovremennoi biologii, 30 , no, 2 (1950), 291–306; and I. M. Polyakov and A. P. Berdyshev, “A. T. Bolotov i ego trudy v oblastiselskokhozyaystvennoy i biologicheskoy nauki” (“A. T. Bolotov and His Works in the Fields of the Agricultural and Biological Sciences”), in Bolotov’s Izbrannye sochinenia.

S. R. Mikulinsky