Morozov, Georgy Fedorovich

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(b. St. Petersburg, Russia, 7 January 1867; d. Simferopol, U.S.S.R., 9 May 1920)

biogeography, ecology.

Morozov’s father, a cutter in a linen draper’s shop who later became commissar of the administration of city property in St. Petersburg, planned a military career for his son. Morozov accordingly entered the Pavlovsk military academy in 1884, graduating as a second lieutenant of artillery two years later. He was then sent to the fortress of Daugavpils, in Latvia, where he became acquainted with a group of youthful students and began to broaden his own education. In particular he was influenced by a young woman revolutionary, O. N. Zandrok, who had been sent into exile for participating in the People’s Will movement. Zandrok, for whom he clearly felt affection, fostered Morozov’s sympathy for the peasant classes; when he decided to devote himself to studying science, it was therefore natural for him to select the agricultural sciences as being closest and most necessary to the people. He chose forestry as his specialty and spent his free time reading the works of Timiryazev, Gustavson, and the other professors at the Petrovskaya (now Timiryazev) Agricultural Academy and in attending lectures on Russian village economy.

When Zandrok’s term of exile was up she returned to St. Petersburg. Morozov gave up his commission and accompanied her there, entering the St. Petersburg Forestry Institute in 1889. Morozov’s father thought that he was mad and refused him financial aid; he broke with his family and was forced to live on the meager earnings that he made giving lessons. At the Forestry Institute Morozov’s teachers included the botanist I. P. Borodin, the soil scientist P. A. Kostichev, and the zoologist N. A. Kholodkovsky. His scientific views were, however, more strongly influenced by the anatomist and social activist P. F. Lesgaft, whom he had met in the Zandrok household, Lesgaft having been introduced into the family circle by O. N. Zandrok’s sister, Lidia Nikolaevna. When Lesgaft, who had been dismissed from the University of St. Petersburg for his radical social opinions, began to give an anatomy course in his own home, Morozov was his most eager auditor. From Lesgaft, a convinced evolutionist, Morozov learned to consider the mutual relationship of the form and function of an organism and to view the animal within its environment; he learned to think in broad terms and to see in each biological phenomenon the outcome of development under the influence of a complex chain of interrelationships in nature.

Morozov’s student years were saddened by the death from diphtheria of O. N. Zandrok. He remained on good terms with her family, however, and after a period of shared mourning married her sister. He graduated from the Forestry Institute in 1894 and became an assistant forester and teacher at the school in the Khrenovk forest preserve in Voronezh gubernia, where he was faced with the complex problems of managing a forest on sandy soil in a dry climate. His first article, published in 1896, was “O borbe s zasukhoy pri kulture sosny” (“On the Struggle Against Drought in the Culture of Pine Trees”).

In May 1896 Morozov received a commission to go abroad to study forest management in Germany and Switzerland for two years. He attended lectures on forestry at Munich University and at the Eberswalde Academy and met the leading German specialists in forest economy. Shortly after his return to Russia he was appointed director of the KammenoSteppe experimental forestry preserve in Voronezh gubernia, one of the preserves created by Dokuchaev in an attempt to prevent drought. (The drought of 1891 had led to a terrible famine in the steppe chernozem zone.)

It was Dokuchaev who had founded soil science in Russia, and in 1899 Morozov, who had completed a zealous study of Dokuchaev’s works, published a paper of his own, “Pochvovedenie i lesovodstvo” (“Soil Science and Forestry”). In this, and in a series of other works, Morozov proposed the establishment of forest management as a specific discipline with a theoretical basis in forestry and forest economy. Morozov’s work became widely known, and in 1901 he was appointed professor of forestry at St. Petersburg University; from 1904 until 1919 he also edited the Lesnoy zhurnal (“Forest Journal”). He had always been an ardent advocate of women’s education, and he participated actively in the creation of the first women’s institution of higher learning devoted to agricultural sciences—the Stebutovsky Higher Women’s Agricultural Courses—of which he was the director from 1905. He took part in congresses on forestry and lectured to foresters throughout Russia; he was head of the Forestry Institute until 1917.

Morozov began to suffer from a serious nervous disorder in 1904, and his health, undermined by the deprivations of his student years and by overwork, rapidly grew worse until in 1917 he was forced to leave St. Petersburg for the milder climate of the Crimea. His condition was aggravated by professional frustration; all about him he observed the senseless, irremediable despoliation of Russia’s forests. Morozov’s health did not improve in the Crimea; isolated from his work, his friends, and from a scientific environment, he had nothing to live for. He therefore joyfully accepted the offer to give a course in forest management when a new university was opened in Simferopol in 1918. Those who knew him at this time were struck by the contrast between his physical disability and the cheerfulness and enthusiasm that he brought to his work. He died two years later, at the age of fifty-three.

Morozov’s work laid the theoretical bases for rational forest management. His theory of the forest as “a single complex organism with regular interconnections among its parts and, like every other organism, distinguished by a definite stability” had a further general biological importance. Morozov showed that “a forest is not simply an accumulation of trees, but is itself a society, a community of trees that mutually influence each other, thus giving rise to a whole series of new phenomena that are not the properties of trees alone.” He further stated that trees in a forest display an influence “not only on each other, but also on the soil and atmosphere…” In one of his last articles, in 1920, he wrote, “The forest is not only a community of trees; it is also a community of a broader order, in which … plants are adapted to each other, as well as animals to plants and plants to animals; all this is influenced by the external environment…” Morozov also showed the forest to be a geographical as well as a biological phenomenon. He made detailed investigations of the interrelationships of plants, animals, soils, and their geographical distribution; he may thus be considered to have been one of the founders of the modern studies of phytosociology, phytobiology, phytogeography, biogeography, and ecology.

Morozov was a firm Darwinist, maintaining that “the forest is not some sort of homogeneous thing in space, unchanging in time,” but that “for every forest community, as for every living substance, there is a tendency toward development.” He drew upon a wealth of ecological data to reach a theory of the transformation of species, showing that the replacement of species can be understood only in the dynamical context of climate, geography, soil, plant communities, the activities of man as they affect natural processes, and the complex interrelationships among all these factors. His theory of the types of forest plantation had considerable practical significance. He distinguished among types of plantations according to soil composition, climate, geological considerations, topography, the processes by which the soil had been formed, and distribution of plants. Morozov considered this concept of plantation type to be analogous to the botanical-geographical classification of vegetational zones.


I. Original Works. Morozov’s major writings are “Pochvovedenie i lesovodstvo” (“Soil Management and Forest Management”), in Pochvovedenie (1899), no. I: Biologia nashikh lesnykh porod (“Biology of Our Forest Species”; St. Petersburg, 1912); Les kak rastitelnoe soobshchestvo (“the Forest as a Plant Society”; St. Petersburg, 1913); “O biogeograficheskikh osnovaniakh lesovodstva” (“On the Biogeographical Bases of Forest Management”), in Lesnoy zhurnal (1914), no. 1; Les kak yavlenie geograficheskoe (“The Forest as a Geographical Phenomenon”; St. Petersburg, 1914); Smena porod (“The Replacement of Species”; St. Petersburg, 1914); Uchenie o tipakh nasazhdeny (“The Theory of Types of Plantation”; Petrograd, 1917; Moscow-Leningrad, 1931); Uchenie o lese (“Theory of the Forestt”), 7th ed. (Moscow, 1949); and Ocherki po lesokulturnomu delu (“Sketches on Forest Matters”), 2nd ed. (Moscow– Leningrad, 1950).

II. Secondary Literature. See I. G. Beylin, G. F. Morozo—vydayushchysya lesovod i geograf (“G. F. Morozov—Distinguished Forest Manager and Geographer”; Moscow, 1954); Istoria estestvoznonia v Rossii (“History of the Natural Sciences in Russia”), III (Moscow, 1962); V. G. Nesterov, “G.F. Morozov,” in Vydayushiesya deyateli otechestvennogo lesovodstva (“Distinguished Workers in Forestry of Our Country”), no. 2 (Moscow–Leningrad, 1950); and V. N. Sukachev and S. I. Vanin, G. F.Morozor kak ucheny i pedagog (“G. F. Morozov as Scientist and Teacher”; Leningrad, 1947).

S. R. Mikulinsky