First expedition by L. G. Ramensky and its importance in his creative biography

V. B. Golub



The paper follows the series of publications in “Vegetation of Russia” devoted to L. G. Ramensky (Golub, 2013, 2014, 2017 a,b). It tells about the first field trip by Ramensky together with V. P. Savich in 1907 on the northwest of the St. Petersburg province, where they under the guidance by V. L. Komarov studied the vegetation of lakes and swamps.

Undoubted interest in the biography by Ramensky is represented by his choice of the direction by which he moved into the field of phytocenology. We tried to search for the reasons that pushed him to the chosen path in the impressions and experience that he took out in the first expedition in his life One of the sources of information about this expedition was the Savich’s archive at the Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, that contains the photo album with the photographs taken in 1907. The second important source of the events of that summer were the letters (now stored in the Archive of the Russian Aca­demy of Sciences) by Ramensky and Savich, which they sent to Komarov.

Entering the St. Petersburg University in 1906, Ramensky began fr om the very first days to take part in the work of the student scientific botanical society. With a group of students, he made several excursions in St. Petersburg vicinity under the leadership by A. A. Elenkin, collecting mosses and lichens. Then together with Savich, he in the course of the whole year was engaged in their identifying. However, in 1907 they both went to another head, namely to V. L. Komarov, who began to supervise the student botanical society.

Thanks to Komarov Ramensky and Savich get a business trip sponsored by the St. Petersburg Socie­ty of Naturalists to Gdov and Yamburg regions of the St. Petersburg province where they studied the flora and vegetation of the lakes and swamps The beginning of this expedition was not successful. The first point where they stopped was Ust-Narva in Estlandia, where Ramensky fell ill, that made further participation in field researches very problematic. Fortunately, he quickly recovered. Judging by the Komarov’s photo on the cape Kolganpya on the Soykinskiy Peninsula in the Savich’s album, he visited his pupils and made excursions along together with them.

Ramensky and Savich reported the results of their first expedition at a meeting of the student scientific botanical society, as well as to the Imperial St. Petersburg Society of Naturalists. One of the reports, made by Ramensky on March 19, 1908, was entitled “On the сomparative method of ecological investigation of plant communities”. The title of this report literally coincides with that which he made two years later at the 12th Congress of Russian Naturalists and Physicians. The idea of continuum in the plant cover was set forth in the published abstract (Ramensky, 1910).

The question is legitimate: “Was it really enough the only field season to come to the idea so not ordinary for his time”? We have to admit that yes. Plant communities of lakes, swamps, especially coastal-aquatic phytocenoseses are greatly appropriate for such conclusions. Especially obviously the changes in plant populations are seen when moving fr om the water edge of the lake up the slope of the shore, wh ere soil moisture gradually decreases. However, this was not the only reason for a new look at the vegetation cover.

In 1906–1907 Ramensky closely communicated with Elenkin, who developed the theory of “mobile equilibrium” in the relationship of living organisms among themselves and with their environment. Later this theory became for Ramensky the basis from which he derived the main regularities of plant cover, in­cluding its continuum. Acquaintance to Elenkin’s publications and, furthermore, conversations with him, could promote formation at Ramensky of view on vegetation, different from that of the geobotanists of that time. We beleive, Ramensky’s physico-mathematical training, which he received while studying for two years at the Mining Institute, also contributed to a new view of the plant cover. Thus, it can be assumed that a set of factors helped the second-year student of St. Petersburg University, with the only field season, to formulated a revolutionary idea that was not immediately accepted by phytocenologists, and in general by biologists.

The first expedition determined the objects of Ramensky’s research for a long time. Komarov appreciated his and Savich’s work and took them in next 1908 to Kamchatka, wh ere Ramensky continued the swamp and lake vegetation studying. In 1909–1911 he studi­ed the water and coastal-aquatic vegetation of the St. Petersburg province and the neighboring Olonets one. Ramensky quickly became so authoritative expert in the field of studying of this vegetation that in 1909 he was involved in development of the all-Russian “Program for botanical-geographical researches”, for which he wrote the chapter “Water and coastal vegetation”. When in 1911 Ramensky was invited to Voronezh province for “natural historical research”, he began his activity with the study of lake and swamp vegetation, gradually passing to the research of mea­dows.

Later, Ramensky studied various types of vegetation. Nevertheless, the phytocoenoseses of hydromorphic landscapes, which he has faced in his first expedition, were forever the most interesting to him.

Key words: L. G. Ramensky, V. P. Savich, V. L. Komarov, biography, science history

Section: History of science

How to cite

Golub V. B 2018. First expedition by L. G. Ramensky and its importance in his creative biography // Vegetation of Russia. N 32. P. 129–136.

Received February 6 2017


Golub V. B. 2013. Some details of the L. G. Ramensky biography (additions and comments to the letter by V. P. Savich to T. A. Rabotnov) // Vegetation of Russia. N 23. P. 122–132. (In Russian).

Golub V. B. 2014. Some facts of the L. G. Ramensky bio­graphy (the 30thyears of the XX century) // Vegetation of Russia. N 25. P. 131–141. (In Russian).

Golub V. B. 2017a. L. G. Ramensky communication with N. I. Vavilov (from the chronicle of the 1920’s) // Vege­tation of Russia. N 30. P. 133–141. (In Russian).

Golub V. B. 2017b. L. G. Ramensky is the faculty member at the Voronezh university and his students // Vegetation of Russia. N 31. P. 139–148. (In Russian).

Ramensky L. G. 1910. O sravnitelnom metode ekologi­cheskogo izucheniya rastitelnykh soobshchestv [On the comparative method of ecological investigation of plant communities] // Dnevnik XII siezda russkikh estestvoispytatelei i vrachei. Otdel II. [Diary of the XII Congress of Russian Naturalists and Physicians. Division II. ]. P. 389–390. (In Russian).