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Ozersky, Aleksandr Dmitrievich


(b. Chernigov guberniya, Russia, 21 September 1813; d. St. Petersburg, Russia, 1 October 1880), mining engineering, geology.

Ozersky’s father, Dimitry Nikitich Ozersky, owned a small estate and had the rank of state councillor. His mother, Varvara Aleksandrovana, came from a noble family. In 1831 Ozersky, who had graduated from the Mining Cadet Corps (now the Leningrad G. V.Plekhanov Mining Institute), returned to the corps as a tutor in chemistry; lectured on mining statistics and mineralogy from 1833 to 1857; and from 1848 to 1851 was school inspector. From 1857 to 1864 he was the head of the Altay mines and for several years during the period was civilian governor of Tomsk. Upon his return to St. Petersburg. Ozersky worked in the Mining Department and until almost the end of his life was a member of the Committee on Mining Science. In 1857 he was given the rank of major general and in 1866 that of lieutenant general. He married Sofia Semenovna Gurieva and had two daughters, Olga and Sofia.

Ozersky’s extremely varied scientific interests at the beginning of his career included the chemical analysis of minerals, rocks, and alloys. Through these precise investigations he established the composition of a number of Russian minerals, pointing out a number of cases in which new names had been suggested for already known minerals. Commissioned by the Free Economic Society to systematize its collection of natural stones according to use, he distinguished thirteen groups of minerals, rocks, and ores.

In his study of ore deposits—following the ideas on the origin of ores then current—Ozersky accepted the sublimation theory: that metalliferous veins are formed by a cooling of “metallic sublimates” that penetrate into cavities, fissures, and pores of a rock. During his expeditions he tried not only to study outcrops of ore and mineral deposits but also to deduce their genesis, in order to assist further prospecting.

While working in Transbaikalia, Ozersky established that ore deposits do not depend upon the enclosing strata but are directly associated with intrusive igneous rocks. He determined a pattern according to which all the deposits of Transbaikalia could be grouped into several isolated stretches. This regularity was later confirmed and was of great practical importance in prospecting.

Ozersky was also interested in the origin of sulfur, saltpeter, and other nonmetallic minerals. He believed in the organic origin of oil, assuming that it could have an animal beginning, particularly a molluscan one. In his regional investigations he attached great importance to the problems of stratigraphic subdivision and solved a number of complicated problems of geological age.

While working in the Baltic provinces in 1843, Ozersky was the first to compile a detailed sequence of Silurian strata of this area, which is now regarded as a classic example of the Lower Paleozic of northern Europe. Minor subdivisions that he distinguished according to paleontological and lithological data are still valid. Although at that time there were no adequate tables for making paleontological determinations, the stratigraphic scheme worked out by Ozersky proved so accurate that all subsequent studies have confirmed it without introducing any vital changes. Later, in Transbaikalia, he discovered Jurassic deposits which had long been overlooked, an omission resulting in the compilation of erroneous tectonic and paleogeographical schemes of that vast territory. Not until the middle of the twentieth century were his conclusions fully confirmed.

In tectonics Ozersky was a plutonist, believing that all uplifts are determined by injections of a liquid magma into a sedimentary shell. At the same time he admitted the possibility of alternating ascending and descending movements, suggesting that they be called oscillation movements, a term later accepted in geological literature. He indicated that vertical crustal movements could be divided into “local,” involving only small portions of the crust, and “ general” , resulting in an uplift or subsidence of an entire continent.

Ozersky’s Russian translation (1845) of Murchison’s The Geology of Russia in Europe and the Ural Mountains included much new data obtained through extensive research conducted during the four years following the appearance of Murchison’s book. He also supplied many footnotes with references to the studies of Russian geologists that had served as a basis for Murchison’s work.

Ozersky was a materialist, stating that only experience and its practical application can be depended upon to determine the laws of nature. In public lectures he discussed the interrelations between material objects and natural phenomena, the cycle of matter (the circulation of substances through chemical change), the process of development as reflected in everything that surrounds us, and the fact that light can be emitted only by existing bodies.

Advocating the development of industry and the national economy, Ozersky urged the expansion of railway transport in Russia, the construction of canals to connect the major rivers, the use of hard coal instead of charcoal by industrial enterprises, and the introduction of modern methods in metallurgy.


Ozersky’s major writings are “Geognostichesky ocherk severo-zapadnoy Estlyandii” (”Geognostic Outline of Northwestern Estonia”) in Gornyi zhurnal,2 (1844), 157–208, 285–338; “Vstupitelnye lektsii i kurs prikladnoy mineralogii” (“Introductory Lectures of the Course in Applied Mineralogy”), in Zhurnal Ministerstva narodnogo prosveschenia,46, sec.2 (1845), 1–38, 87–111, 161–224; and “Ocherk geologii, mineralnykh bogatstv i gornogo promysla Zabaykalya” (” Outline of the Geology, Mineral Reserves, and Mining Industry of Transbaikalia”), in Izdaniya SPb. Mineral. Obshchestva,8 (1867), 89c.

On Ozersky and his work, see V. V. Tikhomirov and T. A. Sofiano, “Zabyty russky geolog A. D. Ozersky” (” A. D. Ozersky, Forgotten Russian Geologist”), in Byulleten Moskovskogo obshchestva ispytatelei prirody, geological ser., 29, no.1 (1954).

V. V. Tikhomirov

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