Voronin, Mikhail Stepanovich

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(b.. St Petersburg, Russia [now Leningrad, U.S.S.R.], 2 August 1838; d. St. Petersburg, 4 March 1903), mycology, phytopathology.

Voronin entered the natural sciences section of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of St.Petersburg University in 1854 and specialized in botany, which he studied under L. S. Tsenkovsky, who influenced him to investigate the lower plants. After graduating in 1858 with a candidate’s degree, Voronin worked in Holle’s laboratory in Heidelberg and in de Bary’s laboratory at Freiburg. His acquaintance with de Bary developed into a close friendship and collaboration, and they later published the journal Beiträge zur Morphologie und Physiologie der Pilze. It was in de Bary’s laboratory that Voronin did his first botanical work, on the anatomy of the stalk of Calycanthus. In 1860 he moved to the Antibes laboratories of the French algologist G. A. Thuret adn Édouard Bornet. The results of his research there on the marine plants Acetabularia and Espera were presented in his master’s thesis, which he defended at St. Petersburg University in 1861.

Voronin continued his studies of marine plants after returning to Russia but devoted his later work primarily to fungi. Because he was independently wealthy, he was not obliged to seek paid employment. He was Privatdozent in mycology at St. Petersburg University in 1869-1870 and taught general cytology and mycology at the St. Petersburg university for Women from 1873 to 1875 without fee. He used his wealth to organize and support scientific institutions and to publish scientific works.

Novorossyk University in Odessa awarded Voronin the doctorate in 1874 without his having defended a dissertation; and in 1898 he was elected a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, of which he subsequently headed the section of cryptogamous plants. Although he conducted his research in a modest home laboratory, using only the simplest equipment (a Hartnack microscope, a razor, and needles), his results were included in standard Russian and foreign textbooks of botany and mycology. His work was concerned mainly with the lower plants: he discovered and studied their cycle of development and described many that are biologically, as well as botanically, important. His most important research in algology dealt with Botrydium and Chromophyton.

It was for his mycological research, however, which was of great practical ad theoretical importance, that Voronin acquired an international reputation. He discovered and studied the causal organisms of clubroot, sunflower rust, the mold on apples, and ergotism. The cause of clubroot, which ravaged huge areas and destroyed the harvest, had previously been ascribed to insects. Voronin’s study (1874-1877) led him to determine that the causal organism was a slime mold, which he named Plasmodiophora brassicae;and the proposed concrete measures for combating the disease. His earlier study of the life history of sunflower rust (1869-1875) resulted in the discovery that it was caused by the fungus Puccinia helianthi. While investigating “drunken” rye bread from the southern Ussuri region (1890), which induced headache, vomiting, and vertigo, Voronin isolated fifteen fungi, identifying four as those that cause ergotism. It was for these and related discoveries that many consider Voronin the founder of phytopathology in Russia.

Voronia’s most important theoretical works were in mycology, to which he contributed knowledge of a new form of basidiomycete, Exobasidium vaccinii, which has no fruiting body; and he provided the basis for classifying the smut fungi (Ustilagineae) according to the germination of the chlamydospores. The outstanding results of his research on Sclerotinia, which attacks bilberry plants, was his discovery of the parasite of th ascomycete Sclerotina heteroica, which grows successively on two platns; the parasite had previously been considered only a rust fungs.

Voronin also studied the slime mold Ceratium (similar in form to higher fungi) and the ascomycetes in the development of ascous fruiting bodies. While examining the latter, he discovered a peculiar structure of the female sex organ (an archicarp) in the form of a thick curved hypha, now known as Voronin’s hypha. He also investigated Chytridium (Archimycetes) and Mucorales (Mucoraceae). With de Bary he established the genus Synchytrium, and in 1867 he described the cycle of development of Synchrytium mercurialis. In the last year of his life Voronin investigated the developemtn and the sexual and asexual reproduction of three species of the aquatic fungus Monoblepharis, which he discovered in Finland.


I. Orginal Works. Many of Voronin’s writigs were brought together in Izbrannye proizvedenia (“Selectd Works;” Moscow, 1961), which includes a bibliography of his works (271–274). They include Mikologicheskie issledovania (“Mycological Research” ; St. Petersburg, 1869); Issledovania nad razvitiem rzhavchinnogo gribka Puccinia helianthi, prichinyayushchego bolezn podsolnechnika (“Research on the Development of the Rust Fungus Puccinia helianthi, which causes the Sunflower Disease”; St. Petersburg, 1871); Plasmodiophora brassicae. Organizm, prichinyayushchy kapustnym rasteniam bolezn, izvestnuyu pod nazvaniem kily (“…Organism Causing the Disease of Cabbage known as ‘Kila’[Clubroot]” ; St. Petersburg, 1877); “O ‘pyanom khlebe’ v Yuzhno-Ussuryskom krae” (“On ‘Drunken Bread’ in the Southern Ussuri Region”), in VIII sezd russkikh estestvoispytatelei v Peterburge (“VIII Congress of Russian Natural Scientist in St. Petersburg” ; St. Peterburg, 1890), 13–21; and “Sclerotinia heteroica,” in Trudy Imperatorskago S.-Peterburgkago obshchestva estestvoispytatelei, Botany sec., 25 (1895), 84–91.

II. Secondary Literature. See I. P. Borodin, “Pamyati nezabvennogo M. S. Voronina” (“Recollections of the Unforgettable M. S. Voronin”), in Trudy Botanicheskogo sada. Yurevskogo universiteta, 4 no. 4 (1903), 286–292; M. S. Dunin, “M. S. Voronin—a Classic of Mycology and Phytopathology”), in Voronin’s Izbrannye proizvedenia (see above), 3–16; which also includes a list of secondary literature (275); A. S. Famintsyn, “Nekrolog M. S. Voronina” (“Obituary of M. S. Voronin”), in Trudy Imperatorskago S.-Petersburgskago obshchestva estestvoispytatelei, 34 (1903), 210–222; N. A. Komarnitsky, “Voronin, M. S.,” in S. Y. Lipshits, ed., Russkie botaniki, Biografo-bibliografichesky slovar (“Russian Botanist, Biographical-Bibliographical Dictionary”), II (Moscow, 1947), 163–168, with lists of Voronin’s works (106 titles) and secondary literature (16 titles); N. I. Kuznetsov, “Sorokaletie nauchnoy deyatelnosti M. S. Voronina” (“Fortieth Anniversary of the Scientific Career of Voronin”) in Trudy Botanicheskogo sada. Yurevskogo universiteta, 1 , no. 1 (1900), 47–51; and S. Navaschin, “Michael Woronin,” in Berichte der Deutschen botanischen Gesellschaft, 21 , no. 1 (1903), 36–47.

E. M. Senchenkova