Pryanishnikov, Dmitry Nikolaevich

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(b.Kyakhta, Transbaikalia, Siberia, 7 November 1865; d. Moscow, U.S.S.R., 30 April 1948)

agricultural chemistry, plant physiology.

Pryanishnikov’ father, a native Siberian, was a bookkeeper; his mother was the daughter of exiles. After the father’ death in 1868, the family moved to Irkutsk, where Pryanishnikov graduated from the Gymnasium with a gold medal in 1882. In the same year he entered Moscow University in the natural sciences section of the department of physics and mathematics. After his graduation in 1887, he decided to study agronomy and entered the third-year course at the Petrovskaya Agricultural Academy (now the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy); following his graduation in 1889, he remained there to prepare for an academic career. From then on, all of Pryanishnikov’ work was connected with that academy, where in 1895 he received the chair that he occupied for the rest of his life, and began to give courses on fertilization and special agriculture. From 1892 Pryanishnikov lectured on agronomical chemistry at Moscow University and later presented the first course in Russia on the chemistry of plants; the latter formed the basis for the university’ department of plant biochemistry. In 1896 he defended his master’ thesis, “O raspadenii belkovykh veshchestv pri prorastanii” (“On the Breakdown of Albuminous Substances During Germinatio”), and in 1900 his doctoral dissertation, Belkovye veshchestva i ikh prevrashdwnie v rastcnii v svyazi s dykhaniem i assimilyatsiey (“Albuminous Substances and Their Transformation in Plants in Connection With Respiration and Assimilation”).

Pryanishnikov devoted much time to the improvement of agricultural education. In 1896 he introduced into practical courses an arrangement for experimentation with plants, and did much to improve the teaching at the Petrovskaya Agricultural Academy (which later became the Moscow Agricultural Institute), where from 1907 to 1913 he was deputy director of the teaching division, then its director and dean. From 1907 he took part in the organization of women’ courses in agriculture, directed them for ten years, and lectured on plant physiology and agronomical chemistry. Pryanishnikov wrote a number of textbooks: Chastnoe zemledelie (“Special Agriculture” 1898; 10th ed., 1938), Uchenie ob udohrenii (“Studies in Fertilization”; 1900; 5th ed., 1922), Khimia rasteny (“Plant Chemistry” 1907; 2nd ed., 1925), and Agrokhimia (“Agricultural Chemistry”; 1934; 3rd ed., 1940). Almost all were translated into several languages. He is also considered the founder of the largest school of Soviet agricultural chemists.

In 1892-1894 Pryanishnikov worked in Göttingen with Alfred Koch, in Paris with Emile Duclaux, and in Zurich with F. E. Schulze. His travels abroad aided his scientific work and teaching considerably, as did his frequent participation in scientific congresses and his familiarity with the organization of higher education, experimental institutions, and the agriculture of various countries.

Pryanishnikov’ basic scientific research was devoted to the study of plant nutrition and the application of artificial fertilizers to agriculture. His works on nitrogen nutrition and the replacement of nitrogen substances in the plant organism are especially well known. He provided a general scheme for the transformation of nitrogen substances in plants and noted the exclusive role of ammonia as the original and final product in this process. Having explained the role of asparagine in the plant organism, Pryanishnikov refuted the idea that this substance was the primary product of the breakdown of albumins, showing that it is synthesized from ammonia, which forms during the breakdown of proteins or enters it from without. Introducing an analogy between the role of asparagine in the plant and urea in the animal, Pryanishnikov discovered the general features of the exchange of nitrogen substances in plants and animals. This research provided a scientific foundation for the use of ammonia salts in agriculture and for their extensive production. Pryanishnikov also participated in the development of methods of evaluating the natural phosphorites as a source of phosphorus for plants and as raw material for industrial production of superphosphates. He described the physiological characteristics of natural potassium salts, studied various forms of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, and examined the liming of acid soils and the use of gypsum on solonetz.

Pryanishnikov’ works and his school of agricultural chemistry aided the wide introduction of mineral fertilizers into agricultural practice and the creation of a high-capacity chemical fertilizer industry in the U.S.S.R. For his work Azot v zhizni rasteny i v zemledelii SSSR (“Nitrogen in the Life of Plants and in the Agriculture of the U.S.S.R.” Moscow-Leningrad, 1945), the Soviet Academy of Sciences awarded him the K. A. Timiryazev Prize in 1946.

Pryanishnikov was also concerned with “green fertilizer” (enriching land by planting a legume crop), and with the use of peat, manure, and other organic fertilizers. He provided a scientific foundation for methods of plant feeding and for the application of various types of fertilizer. He also developed ways to study plant nutrition: isolation feeding, sterile cultures, and fluid solutions, as well as methods of analyzing soils and plants.

For his scientific services Pryanishnikov was elected corresponding member (1913) and full member (1929) of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and from 1935 he was an active member of the V. I. Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences. He received the Lenin Prize in 1926 and the State Prize in 1941.


I. Original Works. Pryanishnikov’s works were collected in Izbrannye sochinenia (“Selected Works”), V.A. Maksimov, ed., 4 vols. (Moscow, 1951-1955), and in a shorter collection with the same title, A. V. Peterburgsky, ed., 3 vols. (Moscow, 1965), with a bibliography of his writings in III, 577-608. His doctoral dissertation is Belkovye veshchestva i ikh prevrashchenk v rastenii u svyaz’t s dykhaniem i asshnilyatshy (“Albuminous Substances and Their Transformation in Plants in Connection With Respiration and Assimilation”Moscow, 1899). There is also the autobiographical Moi vospominama (“My Recollections”Moscow, 1957).

II. Secondary Literature. See S. I. Vavilov, ed., Dmitry Nikolacrich Pryanishnikov (1865-1948) (Moscow-Leningrad, 1948), with a bibliography of his works and of SECONDARY LITERATURE. 21-75; V. S. Nemchinov, ed., Akademik D. N. Pryanishnikov (Moscow, 1948), with a bibliography of his writings and of secondary literature; Materialy nattchnoy konfercntsii, posviashchcnnoy 100-Itey so dnya rozhdenia akadanika D. N. Pryanishnikova (“Material of the Scientific Conference on the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Academician D. N. Pryanishnikov”), B. A. Baranov, ed, (Perm, 1968); and S. I. Volfkovich, ed., Dmitry Nicolaevich Pryanishnikov. Zhizn i deyatelnost (“D. N. Pryanishnikov: Life and Work”; Moscow, 1972).

E. M. Senchenkova