Nikitin, Sergey Nikolaevich

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(b. Moscow, Russia, 4 February 1851; d. St. Petersburg, Russia, 18 November 1909)


Niktin’s father was a dissector in the department of anatomy at Moscow University. While still a Gymnasium student the boy was attracted to the natural sciences, especially botany and geology. In 1867 he entered the natural sciences section of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics at Moscow University. After graduating in 1871, Nikitin taught botany and geography in secondary schools. He was one of the organizers of the Moscow Natural History Courses for Women, where he lectured in mineralogy and geology. At the same time he studied Paleozoic and Mesozoic deposits of the Russian platforms. In 1878 Nikitin was awarded the master’s degree for work on the ammonites.

In 1882. when the Russian Geological Survey was founded, he was elected its senior geologist. Concerned with the stratigraphy of the Russian platform, he investigated the coal deposits in the Moscow Basin and the Permian deposits of the Ural foothills. He suggested the name “Tatar layer“ for the Upper Permian horizons; divided Jurassic deposits, according to the ammonites, into seven paleontological zones; and established a phylogenetic series of Kelloveyskikh and Oxford ammonites. Nikitin was a Darwinian who introduced evolutionary theory into invertebrate paleontology. He compiled a stratigraphic scheme of the Russian Upper Cretaceous deposits, comparing them with corresponding deposits in Western Europe, and determined the northern limit of the distribution of the Upper Cretaceous remains. Nikitin assigned great importance to the study of Quaternary deposits, distinguishing ten sorts of regions in Russia according to geological types of glacial deposits. Regarding the origin of loess he advocated the eolian hypothesis.

Nikitin laid the foundation for systematic hydrogeological and hydrological research in Russia. Participating in the expeditions organized by the Geological Survey to study the southern arid regions through investigations of the sources of Russian rivers, he generalized the material obtained and published several works. These investigations were of great importance for the development of agriculture. He studied the conditions of occurrence of underground water in the Moscow region and showed the possibility of using artesian wells for supplying the capital. From 1907 through 1909 he was president of the Hydrological Committee. He presented his conclusions on the conditions for artesian water supply to cities and on the hydrogeological conditions for railroad regions.

From 1905 through 1907 Nikitin headed an expedition that studied the geological structure of the Mugodzhar Hills. During the last years of his life, at the request of the imperial mining department, he was concerned with ways to prevent the flooding of the salt mines in the Urals. Nikitin was well acquainted with the geological literature and published a bibliographical guide, Russkaya geologicheskaya biblioteka (“Russian Geological Library”, 1886–1900), and surveys of Russian and general geology.

In 1883 the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences awarded Nikitin the Helmersen Prize for his pale-ontological works, and in 1894 the Russian Geographical Society awarded him the Medal of Constantine. In 1902 he was elected a corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.


I. Original Works. Nikitin’s most important writings are “Ammonity gruppy Amaltheus funiferus“ (“Ammonites of the Group Amalthcus ftwiferus’), in Bulletin de la Societe impérkile ties naturatistes de Moscoun.s. 3 (1878), 81–160; “Darvinizm i vopros o vide v oblasti sovremennoy puleontologii“ (“Darwinism and the Question of Form in Contemporary Paleontology“), in Mysl (St. Petersburg), no. 8 (1881), 144–170; no. 9 (1881), 229–245; “Yurskie obrazovania mezhdu Rybinskom, Mologoy i Myshkinym” (“Jurassic Formations Between Rybinsk, Mologa and Myshkin”), in Materialy dlya geologii Rossii, 10 (1881), 199 331; “Posletretichnye otlozhenia Germanii v ikh otnoshenii k sootvetstvennym obrazovaniam Rossii“ (“Post-Tertiary Deposits of Germany In Their Relations to the Corresponding Formations of Russia”), in Izvestiya Geologicheskago komiteta, 5 , no. 3–4 (1886), 133–185; “Sledy melovogo pcrioda v Tsentralnoy Rossii“ (“Traces of the Cretaceous Period in Central Russia”), in Trudy Geologischeskago komiteta, 5 , no. 2 (1888), 1–205; and “Ukazatel literatury po burovym na vodu skvazhinam v Rossii” (“A Guide to Literature on Wells Drilled for Water in Russia”), supp. to Izvestiya Geologicheskago komiteia, 29 (1911).

II. Secondary Literature, See F. N. Chernyshev, “Sergey Nikolaevich Nikitin,” in Izvestiya Imperatorskoi akademii nauk, 6th ser.,3. no. 18(1909), 1171–1173; F. N. Chernyshev, A. A, Borisyak, N. N. Tikhonovich, and M, M. Prigorovsky, “Pamyati Sergeya Nikolaevicha Nikitina” (“Recollections of …. Nikitin”), in Izvestiya Geologicheskago komiteia, 28 , no. 10 (1909), 1–51; and N. N. Karlov, “S. N. Nikitin i znachenie ego rabot dlya razvitia otechestvennykh geologicheskikh nauk” (“S. N. Nikitin and the Importance of His Work for the Development of Native Geological Sciences”), in Ockerki poistorii geologicheskikh znuny no. 1 (1953), 157–180.

Irina V. Batyushkova