Book review – The life of a an Ichthyologist
The life of an ichthyologist by A. P. Saveliev
Renome Publishers, St. Petersburg 2010
Published in Russian, 392 pp.
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This biography of A. P. Andriashev is based on documents, photographs and reminiscences of colleagues collected and collated into a book by his nephew, A. P. Saveliev, about this incredible Russian ichthyologist. Apart from his encyclopaedic knowledge of fishes, Anatolyi Petrovich Andriashev was a polymath, an excellent sportsman who kept skiing well into the tenth decade of his life. Much of his life was spent in field work, travelling frequently and collecting fish both in the northern and southernmost parts of the globe. Andriashev’s colleagues and friends described him in social circumstances, as unassuming, tactful, very intelligent and life of the party. A man who commanded incredible respect from his colleagues and was respectfully known as “Petrovich”, his patronymic. The book is richly interspersed with photographs beginning with early childhood (curiously he was born in Montpellier, France, returning to Russia at the age of 2). A brief account of early years, as well as education, is culminated by a description of his tertiary studies at Leningrad State University. A brief account of his mentors is particularly interesting as it describes the scienitific luminaries of that period, not all being ichthyologists. Andriashev commenced his postgraduate studies in 1933 and this was also the time that many expeditions followed. The author, at this stage, once more gives short biographical accounts of people who would have influenced Andriashev in his academic life. Names and accounts of such scientists as Vavilov, Schmidt and others, are briefly mentioned who lived and worked during his postgraduate years. An account of the culmination of Andriashev’s formal education in 1937 is also recorded. Postgraduate employment, research and expeditions are then described as well as the effects of the Finnish and World War II on marine science in the USSR. Early post war period described a number of important expeditions on a dedicated research vessel “Vityaz”, as well as Andriashev ‘s defence of his doctoral dissertation. Other expeditions followed in the 1950s, including excursions into the Antarctic. Brief biographies of marine scientists of the period are recorded. Various research vessels used in expeditions are described, some equipped as icebreakers. During these excursions, the scientific crew was able to study fishes collected at depths down to 3000-4000 metres. This period of expeditions and research had yielded a large quantity of ichthyofauna (as well as other animal and plant specimens) which had been deposited in the Leningrad Zoological Institute where Andriashev was working. More than fifteen hundred specimens of fish were placed into the Institute’s collection. The period following, found Andriashev working on the collection. Such work as the revision of the family Myctophidae was completed by 1965. Temperate and tropical zones were not ignored during the expeditions, the collections made included representative of 16 orders and more than 50 families of fishes. In 1966 Andriashev was elected as a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, a considerable honour, followed by other awards for his work on fish. Following this are pages of reminiscences of various colleagues about expeditions which include both the scientific results and the life of the ichthyologists on board the research vessels. Once more, short biographies of various soviet scientists of the period are included. The book is concluded by listing Andriashev’s awards and honorary titles. Up to this point, the book is essentially an account of Andriashev’s academic and personal life. This is then followed by a list of descriptions of 17 orders and suborders of fishes and descriptions of 158 species and subspecies of fishes. During his life, 243 publications are recorded (quite a few in English) as a completed bibliography, a very valuable component for any one who works on cold water or deepwater fishes. Following the bibliography, there are 60 pages of what may be loosely called “curricula vitae” by several of Andriashev’s colleagues. A. P. Andriashev died on January 4, 2009 not reaching a centenary since his birth by one year. The included obituary is written by some of his closest colleagues who list his achievements during his long and productive life. Andriashev’s obituary also appeared in Copeia (2009, (3): 628-634), written by D. S. Stein and N. V. Chernova, which appears in this book in English and is translated into Russian by the author. There is also a selected bibliography recorded in English for those whose knowledge of Russian is wanting. Several short articles written by western scientists are also included to commemorate the life of this extraordinary man. This book is a magnificent tribute to Dr. Andriashev who will be remembered through his publicatios long after this generation of biologists will pass on. Although, in many ways, it is a celebration of a life of an eminent scientist, it also gives a reader a glimpse into the life of soviet scientists, what they did, what they achieved and what legacy they have left for generations to come. As an ichthyologist myself, I am aware that many western ichthyologists have a reasonable knowledge of scientific Russian. They should try reading this book in Russian as the language is not complicated and in its entirety, it will give a better view of how Andriashev and his colleagues lived and worked.