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Philipp Adamovich



March 26, 1877 – June 20, 1957


Taxonomic specialisation:

Dytiscoidea, Hydrophiloidea, Coleoptera


The scientific and public activities of Academician Philipp Adamovich Zaitzev, a prominent scientist, the founder of scientific research of insect fauna of the Caucasus, were closely associated with Georgia. Ph.A. Zaitzev devoted more than 45 years to scientific research and teaching activity in Georgia.

Philipp Adamovich Zaitzev was born on 26 March (Gregorian Calendar) 1877 in Kiev into a family of a post officer. In 1887 Philipp Adamovich entered a classical gymnasium in Kiev. During the years at the gymnasium he displayed remarkable abilities in languages and mastered at first Latin and Greek and then European languages (German, English, Italian, Spanish, French, etc.). In 1895 Ph.A. Zaitzev finished the Gymnasium with honours and was awarded a great golden medal.

Ph.A. Zaitzev was interested in the study of languages and in 1895 he entered the Faculty of Oriental Languages at St. Petersburg University. Since his first days at the University Ph.A. Zaitzev did not restrict himself to the study of oriental languages. Striving for knowledge he attended lectures at other faculties. Thus he became a constant listener of lectures of Faculty of Physics and Mathematics (mostly lectures in natural sciences).

In those years well-known naturalists lectured at St. Petersburg University: anatomist Professor P.F. Lesgaft; a course in histology was read by Professors A.S. Dogiel, V.M. Shimkevich, and V.T. Shivyakov. Lectures of those outstanding scientists determined the fate of Ph.A. Zaitzev, who a year later became a student of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics where Prof. A.S. Dogiel noticed the talented young man.

Under his influence and supervision Ph.A. Zaitzev began working in the area of histology studying thin structure of the Boumen glands [“capsula glomeruli”] in mammals. This student work was later reported at XI European Congress of Naturalists and Doctors held in St. Petersburg in 1901. Although Ph.A. Zaitzev did not become a histologist he started his teaching activities at the Chair of Histology.

During the years of study at the University Ph.A. Zaitzev devoted himself to science completely. His interests were broad and diverse. He had lively interest in literature and art. Being acquainted with M.N. Rimsky-Korsakov, who later became a well-known entomologist, Ph.A. Zaitzev attended musical and literature parties in the house of the famous Russian composer N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov where he met writers A.I. Kuprin, A.P. Chekov, R.G. Garin-Mikhailovsky, composers A.L. Lyadov, A.K. Glazunov and S.V. Rakhmaninov, sculptor M.M. Antokolsky. Acquaintance with those people played an important role in formation of personality of F.A. Zaitzev.

For participation in the first All-Russian strike of students at St. Petersburg University on 8 February 1899 Ph.A. Zaitzev was expelled from the University. It was with a great difficulty that he got permission to continue attending the lectures. In 1900 Ph.A. Zaitzev graduated from St. Petersburg University and was invited as an assistant to St. Petersburg Women’s Medical Institute for reading a course of lectures in histology. In 1901 Ph.A. Zaitzev was sent on mission to Bologovskaya Freshwater Biological Station established for studying lake fauna. Studying rotifers he described a new species of parasitic rotifer. It was there that attention of the young man was for the first time attracted by aquatic insects, in particular by aquatic beetles. A year later Ph.A. Zaitzev began studying composition of Coleoptera and Lepidoptera of Novgorod Province. Since that time the main area of scientific interests of Ph.A. Zaitzev was determined, that was entomology to which he devoted his life.

Working on collections of the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences Ph.A. Zaitzev examined all families of aquatic Coleoptera. As a result of this research he published a series of papers on systematics of Coleoptera with descriptions of dozens of new species and genera in transactions of the Russian Entomological Society, which made Ph.A. Zaitzev a world famous entomologist. On 4 October 1904 Ph.A. Zaitzev was elected Member of the Russian Entomological Society. At the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences the young man was noticed by the outstanding entomologist Nikolai Alexadndrovich Kholodkovsky who introduced Ph.A. Zaitzev to his talented disciple Eugeny Nikanorovich Pavlovsky. That was the beginning of friendship of two zoologists that lasted for many years. Later Academician E.N. Pavlovsky who highly appraised F.A. Zaitzev as a scientist and organizer of science actively supported the initiative of F.A. Zaitzev in the development of zoology in Georgia and establishment of the Institute of Zoology in Tbilisi.

In 1905 F.A. Zaitzev was appointed assistant at the Institute of Agriculture and Forestry in Novaya Alexandria of Lyublinskaya Province. At the same period he began examining in detail scientific insect collections in the most famous museums of natural history of the world. During his study tours to London, Berlin Brussels working at the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences during the period of 1905 to 1910 Ph.A. Zaitzev examined Coleoptera material. As a result Ph.A. Zaitzev compiled a world catalogue of aquatic beetles of the families Dryopidae, Heteroceridae, Hydrophilidae published in the well-known German fundamental edition "Coleopterorum catalogue" and in “Transactions of the Russian Entomological Society”.

In 1909 the Russian Academy of Sciences organized expedition to the Polar Urals to Obdorskaya tundra for studying Arctic fauna and flora. Zoologist Ph.A. Zaitzev, and S.S. Sukachev who later became a famous Russian botanist were invited to participate in the expedition. The vast material collected by Ph.A. Zaitzev during that expedition served as a basis for studies of many Russian and foreign zoologists. Results of scientific research of the material collected during the expedition was published in a special series “Zapiski” (transactions) of the Academy of Sciences. Those studies have contributed to the knowledge of the Arctic fauna. During the same period, i.e. 1907—1911, along with conducting scientific research Ph.A. Zaitzev participated in the activities of the Russian Entomological Society. In 1910 in Brussels the First International Entomological Congress was held. Ph.A. Zaitzev participated in that Congress and afterwards was elected a member of the Permanent Committee for organization of international entomological congresses.

In 1911 the Department of Agriculture commissioned the Senior specialist of that department Ph.A. Zaitzev to Tiflis for organizing scientific research work in applied entomology in the Transcaucasia. For that purpose he was charged to organize entomological cabinet at Tiflis Botanical Garden. Since that time and up to the end of his life Ph.A. Zaitzev gave all his knowledge and experience for organizing scientific research of fauna of Georgia and the Caucasus as a whole, and also to the development of higher education in Georgia.

More detailed information about the Georgian period of life of Ph.A. Zaitzev may be obtained from the memorial paper published in the journal “Entomologicheskoe Obozreniye” (Arnoldi, 1958: vol. 37, 4). The same paper includes a full list of scientific publications of Ph.A. Zaitzev.

V.F. Zaitsev, November 1999

Last update: August 13 2002