Mushketov Ivan Vasilievich

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(b. Alekseevskaya, Voronezh, Russia, 21 January 1850; d. St. Petersburg, Russia, 23 January 1902)

geology, geography.

Mushketov was born to a family of modest means. After the death of his father, Vasily Kuzmich, in 1864, he continued his education at the Gymnasium at Novocherkassk, supporting himself by tutoring children of wealthy parents. While attending the Gymnasium he acquired an interest in natural history, inspired by his teacher, S. F. Nomikosov, that determined his life as a scientist. Recommended by the Gymnasium authorities on the basis of his progress in ancient languages, in 1867 he entered the department of history and philology of St. Petersburg University. He quickly realized his mistake, however, and transferred to the St. Petersburg Mining Institute, where he studied mineralogy and petrography under P. V. Eremeev.

While still a student Mushketov published his first scientific work, a description of volynite. Immediately after graduating from the Mining Institute in 1872 he was sent to the Urals to study deposits of precious stones. Here he continued his work in mineralogy, discovered several arsenical minerals, and journeyed along the Chusovaya River. In 1873 he was assigned to Turkistan and began his many years of research in central Asia. The following year Mushketov worked in the Karatau Mountains and the western spur of the Tien Shan, also investigating the Badamsky Mountains and the plain of the Syr Darya River between Tashkent and Samarkand. In 1875 he traveled from Tashkent through the central Tien Shan to Kuldja; climbed the Talass Ala-Tau, Terskei Ala-Tau, Kungei Ala-Tau, and Zailissky Ala-Tau ranges; traversed the Kirghiz Range, went around the high mountain lakes Son Kul and Issyk Kul; and visited the Dzungarian Ala-Tau. In 1876 he published Kratky otchet o geologicheskom puteshestvii po Turkestanu v 1875 g. (“A Short Account of a Geological Trip Through Turkistan in 1875”).

In 1876 Mushketov reported to the St. Petersburg Mineralogical Society and the Russian Geographical Society on the scientific results of his trips. For these communications the two societies elected Mushketov a member, and the Geographical Society gave him a silver medal. The Mining Institute invited Mushketov to teach; but in order to do so he had to present a dissertation, and the material on central Asia was too extensive and required more work. In December 1877 he defended his dissertation, “Materialy dlya izuchenia geognosticheskogo stroenia i rudnykh bogatsty Zlatoustovskogo gornogo okruga v yuzhnom Urale”(“Material for the Study of the Geognostic Structure and Ore Resources of the Zlatoust Mountain Region in the Southern Urals”), which contained extensive material on mineralogy and descriptions of ore deposits. He was then appointed adjunct professor, and from 1896 professor, of geology, geognosy, and ore deposits.

In the summer of 1877 Mushketov returned to central Asia, completing a trip from Fergana across the Alai and Trans-Alai ranges to the Pamir, studying the relations between the Tien Shan and the Pamir. In 1878 he investigated the region where the Fergana and the Alai ranges meet, and in 1879 he participated in an expedition to the Turan lowlands.

In 1880 Mushketov made his last trip to central Asia, to study glaciers, and climbed Zeravshan glacier, previously considered inaccessible. Part of the results of these investigations appeared in publications of the Russian Geographical Society and the St. Petersburg Mineralogical Society. These articles brought him a gold medal from the Russian Geographical Society and a prize from the Academy of Sciences. He was also elected an honorary member of the Vienna Geograph- ical Society. In 1884 Mushketov and G. D. Romanovsky published Geologicheskaya karta Turkestanskogo kraya (“A Geological Map of the Turkistan Region”), the first summarizing work on the geology of the region.

In 1886 there appeared the first volume of Mushketov’s Turkestan, which contained a description of the geological structure of that territory. This was widely recognized as a basic work and was awarded a prize by the Academy of Sciences and the St. Petersburg Mineralogical Society. Unfortunately, Mushketov did not finish working out all the material; and the second volume, containing journals of the trip, was published posthumously. The first volume was reprinted in 1915 by his students and for many years served as the basic source on the geology of central Asia.

After completing his expeditions in central Asia, Mushketov undertook diverse projects in various regions of Russia. In 1881 he traveled to the Caucasus to study mineral sources and ore deposits, as well as the Elbrus glacier. During this trip he participated in the fifth Congress of Archaeologists in Tiflis, where he presented a report on nephrite from the tombs at Samarkand.

In 1882 Mushketov became senior geologist of the Geological Committee of Russia. The following year, on instructions from the Committee, he studied the Lipetsk mineral waters and suggested measures to increase their flow. In 1884–1885 he investigated the geological structure of the Kalmuck steppe region along the lower Volga and inspected the Caucasian mineral waters and salt lakes of the Crimea. In 1886 he organized a geological study of the Transcaspian region for his students V. A. Obruchev and K. I. Bogdanovich and established a research program for them.

Mushketov published the results of this work in 1891—"Kratky ocherk geologicheskogo stroenia Zakaspyskoy oblasti”(“A Short Account of the Geological Structure of the Transcaspian Region”)— in Zapiski Imperatorskogo mineralogicheskogo ob- shchestva; a supplementary geological map was based on the data of Obruchev and Bogdanovich.

In 1887 a government commission headed by Mushketov was organized to study the causes and consequences of the powerful earthquake that had struck the town of Verny (now Alma-Ata) that year. This work led to his lasting interest in earthquakes. The preliminary data from the investigation were published by Mushketov in a series of articles as early as 1888; and in “Vernenskoe zemletryasenie 28 maya 1887 g.”(“The Verny Earthquake of 28 May 1887”), which appeared in 1890, he analyzed the causes of the earthquake and of seismic phenomena in general.

In 1888, at Mushketov’s initiative, a seismic commission was organized in the Russian Geo- graphical Society. To collect information on earth- quakes it compiled a list of questions, which it sent to all seismically active regions. In a supplement to the list Mushketov wrote an explanatory note on earth- quakes, methods of observing them, and the reasons for them. On the basis of the material thus compiled and processed by Mushketov, Materialy dlya izuchenia zemletryaseny Rossii (“Materials for the Study of Earthquakes in Russia”) was published (1891, 1899).

During this time A. P. Orlov began to compile “Katalog zemletryaseny Rossyskoy imperii” (“Catalog of Earthquakes in the Russian Empire”) but died without finishing the work. Mushketov expanded and published this catalog (1893), which became the most valuable source of information on earthquakes in Russia.

In 1900 Mushketov became a member of the Permanent Central Seismic Commission of the Academy of the Sciences, as a representative of the Geological Committee. In the same year he investigated the severe earthquake at Akhalkaliki in the Caucasus.

In 1888–1891 Mushketov published his two-volume Fizicheskaya geologia (“Physical Geology”). In 1892 he studied the upper reaches of the Don, with the aim of organizing hydrological research. He worked in the lower Volga region and in the Kirghiz steppe in 1894 and investigated the salt lakes of the Crimea. He revis- ited theCrimean lakes in 1895 and also studied the plain of the Teberda and Chkhalta rivers and the glaciers of the Caucasus. In his account of this trip (1896), Mushketov described the rocks he had seen and suggested that the gradual formation of the main Caucasus range had been accompanied by dislocations caused by horizontal pressure.

In the region where he worked, Mushketov discovered fifteen previously unknown glaciers. In 1895 Mushketov was elected to the International Commission for the Study of Glaciers. As director of glaciological studies in Russia he attracted a large group of young scientists. Also in 1895 Mushketov published Kratky kurs petrografii (“A Short Course in Petrography”).

In 1900, having investigated the aftereffects of the Akhalkaliki earthquake, Mushketov traveled to Transbaikalia as consultant on a projected new railroad and then to Paris to take part in the eighth session of the International Geological Congress.

To explain the complex orography and tectonics of central Asia, Mushketov considered it necessary to study its geological history, believing that “every contemporary phenomenon can be fully explained and understood only by the study of its history …”(Kratky otchet o geologicheskom puteshestvii po Turkestanu …, p. 24). Such an approach to the study of the geological structure of central Asia distinguishes Mushketov from his predecessors, who understood its tectonics only through purely external, morpho- logical signs.

On the basis of his own observation and study of its geological history, Mushketov offered a scheme for the geological structure of central Asia which showed that the Tien Shan and Pamir-Alai consist of folded arcs that extend to the northeast and northwest but are bent toward the south by tangential pressure from the north.

Mushketov also distinguished the stratigraphic relations of the formations in the region and described many deposits of useful minerals. He worked out the particular details of the glaciers of central Asia, arguing that the mountain glaciers were retreating; he described the central Asiatic loess; and he provided a classification of quicksands.

Mushketov believed the earth to be so complex that it can be studied only through the aggregate efforts of many sciences. Physical geology, to which

his major work is devoted, examines tectonic and erosional processes. He felt, however, that to study processes it is necessary first to understand the position of the earth in space, the hypotheses concerning its origins, and its physical properties, and then to grasp the interplay of tectonic processes, volcanic and seismic phenomena, the record of surface features, and development of the phenomena of denudation. The book is organized according to this plan. The second volume is devoted to a description of the geological activity of the atmosphere, water, and ice.

Mushketov was an adherent of the Kant-Laplace nebular hypothesis, the generally accepted cosmogony of the time. He considered the internal heat of the earth a remnant of the previous molten state. But the idea of a molten state and thin crust was contradicted, as Mushketov stressed, by the phenomena of precession and nutation; yet in the assertion of a solid earth or thick crust, volcanic phenomena remained inexplicable. He saw the solidification of the earth as proceeding both from the center to the periphery and from the periphery to the center. Thus he considered the present structure of the earth to comprise a hard crust and nucleus, with an inter- mediate belt, possibly of olivine composition.

On the causes of tectonic processes, Mushketov started from the then widely accepted contraction hypothesis. “The main reasons for dislocation and plasticity,”he asserted, “are found in the gradual tightening or shrinking of the crust as a consequence of the decreasing volume of the nucleus due to cooling and the loss of volcanic material”(Fizicheskaya geologia, vol. 1, p. 599). The contraction of the crust as a consequence of the cooling of the earth was, in Mushketov’s opinion, the main cause of seismic phenomena. The statistics of earthquakes and data on the geological structure of various areas led him to distinguish five seismically active regions in Russia: the Caucasus, Turkistan, Transbaikalia, Altai, and Kamchatka.

In the Mining Institute Mushketov taught geology and physical geography for twenty-five years. He also taught in the Institute of Communications Engineers, in the Higher Courses for Women, and in the Historical-Philological Institute, as well as giving many public lectures. Among his students were V. A. Obruchev, K. I. Bogdanovich, and L. I. Lutugin.

Mushketov was president of the physical geography section of the Russian Geographical Society, a member of the St. Petersburg Mineralogical Society, a member of the Council of the St. Petersburg Biological Laboratory, and a representative of Russia at the International Commission for Research on Glaciers. His work was especially influential in the study of the geology of central Asia, tectonics, seismology, and glaciology.


I. Original Works. His works include “Volynit”(“Volynite”), in Zapiski Imperatorskogo mineralogicheskogo obshchestva, 2nd ser., 7 (1872), 320–329; Kratky otchet o geologicheskom puteshestvii po Turkestanu v 1875 g. (“A Short Account of a Geological Journey Through Turkistan in 1875”; St. Petersburg, 1876); “Geologicheskie issledovania v Kalmytskoy stepi v 1885 g.”(“Geological Research in the Kalmuck Steppe in 1885”), in Izvestiya Geologicheskogo komiteta, 5 (1886), 203–233; Turkestan, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg, 1886–1906); Fizicheskaya geologia (“Physical Geology”), 2 vols. (St. Petersburg, 1888–1891); “Vernenskoe zemletryasenie 28 maya 1887 g.”(“The Verny Earthquake of 28 May 1887”), in Trudy Geologi- eheskogo komiteta, 10 , no, 1 (1890), 1–154; Zemletryasenia, ikh kharakter i sposoby nablyudenia…(“Earthquakes, Their Character and Methods of Observing Them … .”; St. Petersburg, 1890); “Kratky ocherk geologicheskogo stroenia Zakaspyskoy oblasti”(“A Short Sketch of the Geological Structure of the Transcaspian Region”), in Zapiski Imperatorskogo mineralogischeskoga obshchestva, 28 (1891), 391–429; and “Katalog zemletryaseny Rossyskoy imperii”(“Catalog of Earthquakes in the Russian Empire”), in Zapiski Russkogo geograficheskogo obshchestva, 26 (1893), a completion of the work begun by A. P. Orlov.

II. Secondary Literature. See D. N. Anuchin, “I. V. Mushketov i ego nauchnye trudy”(“I. V. Mushketov and His Scientific Work”), in Zemlevedenie, 1 , 9, no. 1 (1902), 113–133; B. A. Fedorovich, “I. V. Mushketov kak geograf”(“I. V. Mushketov as a Geographer”), in Izvestiya Akademii nauk SSSR, Geog. ser., no. 1 (1952), 63–67; A. P. Karpinsky, “Pamyati I. V. Mushketova”(“Memories of I. V. Mushketov”), in Gornyi zhurnal, 1 , no. 2 (1902), 203–207; V. A. Obruchez, “Ivan Vasilievich Mushketov,”in Lyudi russkoy nauki (“People of Russian Science”; Moscow, 1962), 54–62; and L. A. Vayner, Ivan Vasilevich Mushketov i ego rol v poznanii geologii Sredney Azii (“Ivan Vasilievich Mushketov and His Role in the Knowledge of the Geology of Central Asia”; Tashkent, 1954).

Irina V. Batyushkova