Peter Simon Pallas, a German naturalist, died Sep. 8, 1811, at the age of 69. In 1767, Pallas accepted an invitation from the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences to come to Russia, where he spent the next forty years, leading expeditions into much of unexplored Russia, and writing a series of works on the geology and zoology of the Asian mainland. He made one extensive trip in 1768-70 and published a 3-volume narrative of his travels. And then, in 1793-94, Pallas made a second trip, this time south, to the area around the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, where he encountered many Kalmyk and Tartar tribes, descendants of the Mongols who had invaded the area in late medieval times. Pallas made sketches of the landscape, the people, and the settlements, and he published an account of his journey in German in 1799-1801, which was subsequently translated into English. We have the 2nd edition (1812) of Travels through the Southern Provinces in our Library, and it is embellished with beautiful hand-colored engravings based on Pallas’ sketches. We see above, in order: sleighs used for winter transportation; a pheasant in a thicket, headed for a bird trap; a view of Tartar nomads with their yurts; a large schist rock; and a Kalmyk warrior and a priest.

After his wife died in 1810, Pallas was allowed by the emperor to return to his native Berlin, where he died the next year.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to