Founders of the Society

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Karl Ernst Ritter von Baer, Edler von Huthorn (Russian: Карл Эрнст фон Бэр), 28 February 1792 – 28 November 1876 was an Estonian scientist and explorer. Baer is also known in Russia as Karl Maksimovich Baer (Russian: Карл Макси́мович Бэр). Baer was a naturalist, biologist, geologist, meteorologist, geographer and a founding father of embryology. He was an explorer of European Russia and Scandinavia. He was a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a co-founder of the Russian Geographical Society and the first President of the Russian Entomological Society, making him a distinguished Baltic German scientist.

Count Friedrich Wilhelm Rembert von Berg (Russian: Фёдор Фёдорович Берг Graf Fyodor Fyodorovich Berg; 15 May 1793 – 6 January 1874) was a Russian Field Marshal, and the Governor-General of Finland from 1855 to 1861.

He was born in the Sangaste Castle, Livonia (present-day Valga County, Estonia) into a Baltic German noble family. He studied at the University of Dorpat and joined the Imperial Russian Army in 1812.

He was also the last Namestnik of the Kingdom of Poland (1863–1874). He was crucial in crushing the PolishJanuary Uprising and carrying out repressions and russification policies afterwards. Polish insurgents carried out an unsuccessful assassination attempt on him on 19 September 1863.

He was made a count in the Finnish House of Nobility (and thus a Finnish citizen) in 1857, along with his adopted sons, as the 11th Finnish comital family.

Vladimir Ivanovich Dal (alternatively transliterated as Dahl; Russian: Влади́мир Ива́нович Даль; November 10, 1801 – September 22, 1872) was one of the greatest Russian language lexicographers. He was a founding member of the Russian Geographical Society. He knew at least six languages including Turkic and is considered to be one of the early Turkologists. During his lifetime he compiled and documented the oral historyof the region that was later published in Russian and became part of modern folklore.


Gregor von Helmersen  (11 October1803 – 15 February 1885) was a Baltic German geologist. He received an engineering training and became major-general in the corps of Mining Engineers. In 1837 he was appointed professor of geology in the mining institute at Saint Petersburg of which he was also director. In 1839, along with Karl Ernst von Baer, he founded the first serial natural scientific publication in Russia known as Beiträge zur Kenntniss des Russischen Reiches. In 1850, he became an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg. He founded and became the first head of the Russian Geological Committee in 1882.

In 1865, for the creation of the refined, complete geological map of the European part of the Russian Empire Helmersen was awarded the Gold Constantine Medal - the highest award of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society. 

Helmersen was an honorary member of many Russian universities and international scientific communities including London, Vienna, Berlin Geographical Society (16 Russian and 9 foreign). He was an author of numerous memoirs on the geology of Russia, especially on coal and other mineral deposits of the country; and he wrote also some explanations to accompany separate sheets of the geological map of Russia. Most of his memoirs were published by the Imperial Academy of Sciences at Saint Petersburg. 

Pyotr Koeppen (February 19, 1793, Kharkov - 23 May, 1864, Crimea) - Russian scientist of German origin. Published works on the history, geography, ethnography, demography and statistics. Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1839). In 1829-1834 years lived in the Tauride province, worked with the Inspectorate of sericulture collecting materials on the geography and history of the Crimea. 

In 1845 was among the founding members of the Geographical Society. In 1845 - Head of the Statistics department of the Society. He took part in many publications of the Society. In 1846, on behalf of the Geographical Society he created the ethnographic map of European Russia (published in 1851). He was working on the map for many years. For this map the Geographical Society awarded Koeppen Constantine Medal and Zhukovsky Prize. 

Special merit of Peter Ivanovich is finding former names of cities and settlements of the Crimea. These studies were published in his "Crimean collection" in 1837, which became a part of the "Ethnographic map of Russia," published in 1851.

Adam Johann Ritter von Krusenstern (Russian: Ива́н Фёдорович Крузенште́рн, Ivan Fyodorovich Kruzenshtern; November 19, 1770 – August 24, 1846) was a Baltic German admiral and explorer, who led the first Russian circumnavigation of the globe. In 1787, he joined the Russian Imperial Navy, and served in the war against Sweden. Subsequently, he served in the Royal Navy in 1793-99, visiting America, India and China.

Under the patronage of Tsar/Czar Alexander I, Count Nikolay Petrovich Rumyantsev and the Russian-American Company, Krusenstern led the first Russian circumnavigation of the world. The chief object of this undertaking was the development of the fur trade with Russian America (Alaska). Other goals of the two-ship expedition were to establish trade with China and Japan, facilitate trade in South America, and examine the coast of California in western North America for a possible colony. Upon his return, Krusenstern wrote a detailed report, "Reise um die Welt in den Jahren 1803, 1804, 1805 und 1806 auf Befehl Seiner Kaiserlichen Majestät Alexanders des Ersten auf den Schiffen Nadeschda und Newa" ("Journey around the World in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 at the Command of his Imperial Majesty Alexander I in the Ships Nadezhda and Neva") published in Saint Petersburg in 1810.

The geographical discoveries of Krusenstern made his voyage very important for the progress of geographical science. His work won him an honorary membership in the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1816, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Count Fyodor Petrovich Litke (Russian: Граф Фёдор Петро́вич Ли́тке; born Friedrich Benjamin Lütke; 28 September 1797 – 20 August 1882) was a Russian navigator, geographer, and Arctic explorer. He became a count in 1866, and an admiral in 1855. He was a Corresponding Member (1829), Honorable Member (1855), and President (1864) of the Russian Academy of Science in St.Petersburg. He was also an Honorable Member of many other Russian and foreign scientific establishments, and a Corresponding Member of the French Academy of Science in Paris.

Litke started his naval career in the Imperial Russian Navy in 1813. He took part in Vasily Golovnin's world cruise on the ship "Kamchatka" from 1817 to 1819. Then from 1821 to 1824, Litke led the expedition to explore the coastline of Novaya Zemlya, the White Sea, and the eastern parts of the Barents Sea. From August 20, 1826 to August 25, 1829, he headed the world cruise on the ship "Senyavin", sailing from Cronstadt and rounding Cape Horn. At the beginning, he was accompanied from Copenhagen and the Baltic Sea by Capt. Staniukovich who was in command of the sloop Möller. The scientific team included Heinrich von Kittlitz (ornithologist), Karl Heinrich Mertens (botanist) and Alexander Postels (mineralogist). During this voyage he described the western coastline of the Bering Sea, the Bonin Islands off Japan, and the Carolines, discovering 12 new islands.

Litke was the first one to come up with the idea of a recording tide measurer (1839). They were built and installed along the coastlines of the Arctic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in 1841. Litke was one of the organizers of the Russian Geographic Society and its president in 1845–1850 and 1857–1872.

In 1873, Russian Geographical Society introduced the Litke gold medal. A cape, peninsula, mountain and bay in Novaya Zemlya, as well as a group of islands in Franz Josef Land, Baydaratskaya Bay, and the Nordenskiöld Archipelago and a strait between Kamchatka and Karaginsky Island, as well as two Russian icebreakers were named after him.

Count Mikhail Nikolayevich Muravyov or Muraviev (Russian: Михаи́л Никола́евич Муравьёв) (April 19, 1845, Saint Petersburg – June 21,1900) was a Russian statesman who advocated transferring the attention of Russian foreign policy from Europe to the Far East. He is probably best remembered for having initiated the Hague Peace Conference.


Prince Vladimir Fyodorovich Odoyevsky (Russian: Владимир Федорович Одоевский) (13 August 1803 – 11 March  1869) was a prominent Russian philosopher, writer, music critic, philanthropist and pedagogue. He became known as the "Russian Hoffmann" on account of his keen interest in phantasmagoric tales and musical criticism.

Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve (Russian: Vasily Yakovlevich Struve) (April 15, 1793 – November 23, 1864) was a German astronomer from a famous dynasty.

Struve's name is best known for his observations of double stars, which he carried on for many years. Although double stars had been studied earlier by William Herschel and John Herschel and Sir James South, Struve outdid any previous efforts. He discovered a very large number of double stars and in 1827 published his double star catalogue Catalogus novus stellarum duplicium. He was also interested in geodetic surveying, and in 1831 published Beschreibung der Breitengradmessung in den Ostseeprovinzen Russlands. He initiated the Struve Geodetic Arc, which was a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, through ten countries and over 2,820 km, to establish the exact size and shape of the earth. UNESCO listed the chain on its List of World Heritage Sites in Europe in 2005.

Michael Pavlovich Vronchenko (1802 Kopys, Mogilev province of North-West region of the Russian Empire - 14  in October 1855, Kharkov) - Belarusian scientist and writer, orientalist, geographer and military surveyor, a career intelligence of the Russian army, novelist, poet and translator. A founding member and active leader of the Russian Geographical Society.  His name is engraved on the commemorative medal "In commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Corps of military surveyors. 1872 "

In the years 1834-1836 by their Imperial Majesty Russian Tsar Nicholas I highest order, under diplomatic cover he carried out reconnaissance military geographic expedition into the possession of the Ottoman Porte within the peninsula of Asia Minor. Personally identified 100 astronomical points with instrumental methods, did a wonderful cartographic work - Map of Asia Minor, scale 1: 840 000. The result of this trip, besides to the set of maps and plans theta remained unpublished, was a "Report", published by the Depot of Geodesy and later the book "Review of Asia Minor in its current state, made by Russian traveler Michail Vronchenko» was based on it. In 1845 he became one of the founding members of the Russian Geographical Society; his older brother Fedor, as Minister of Finance of the Russian Empire with the consent of Emperor Nicholas I granted 10 thousand silver rubles from the state treasury to the Geographical Society and donated to the Society a few books of geographic content. 

Baron Ferdinand Friedrich Georg Ludwig von Wrangel (Russian: Фердина́нд Петро́вич Вра́нгель, Ferdinand Petrovich Vrangel; 9 January 1797– 6 June 1870) was a Baltic German explorer and seaman in Russian service, Honorable Member of the Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences, a founder of the Russian Geographic Society. He is best known as chief manager of the Russian-American Company, in fact governor of the Russian settlements in present day Alaska.

He was appointed in 1820 to command the Kolymskaya expedition to explore the Russian polar seas. Sailing from St. Petersburg, he arrived at Nizhnekolymsk on 2 November 1820, and early in 1821 journeyed to Cape Shelagskiy on sledges drawn by dogs. He sailed afterward up Kolyma River, advancing about 125 miles into the interior, through territory inhabited by the Yakuts. On 10 March 1822, he resumed his journey northward, and traveled 46 days on the ice, reaching 72° 2' north latitude. He left Nizhnekolymsk on 1 November 1823, and returned to St. Petersburg on 15 August 1824.

He established that north of the Kolyma River and Cape Shelagsky there was an open sea, not dry land, as people thought. Together with Fyodor Matyushkin and P. Kuzmin, Wrangel described the Siberian coastline from the Indigirka River to the Kolyuchinskaya Bay in the Chukchi Sea. (See Northeast Passage.) His expedition made a valuable research in glaciology, geomagnetics, and climatology and also collected data about natural resources and native population of that remote area.

Krotky world voyage

Having been promoted to commander, Wrangel led the Russian world voyage on the ship Krotky in 1825–1827.

Governor of Russian Alaska

He was appointed chief manager of the Russian-American Company in 1829, effectively governor of its settlements in North America (present day Alaska). Von Wrangel was the first of a series of bachelor appointees to the office of governor who had to find a wife before assuming the duties in America, the Russian American Company rules having been changed in 1829.[2] Prior to his departure for Russia’s American colonies, he was married to Elisabeth Teodora Natalia Karolina de Rossillon, daughter of Baron Wilhelm de Rossillon.

He traveled to his post early in 1829, by way of Siberia and Kamchatka. After thoroughly reforming the administration, he introduced the cultivation of the potato, opened and regulated the working of several mines, and urged upon the home government the organization of a fur company. He promoted investment, and sent out missionaries. He began a survey of the country, opened roads, built bridges and government buildings. He made geographical and ethnographical observations, which he embodied in a memoir to the navy department. Recalled in 1834, he returned by way of the Isthmus of Panama and the United States, where he visited several cities.


Wrangel was promoted rear admiral in 1837, and made director of the ship-timber department in the navy office, which post he held for twelve years. He became vice-admiral in 1847, but resigned in 1849, and temporarily severed his connection with the navy to assume the presidency of the newly reorganized Russian-American Company. Wrangel had been a member of the board of directors of the Russian-American Company from 1840 to 1849.

In 1854 he re-entered active service and was made chief director of the hydrographical department of the navy. He was the Minister of the Navy 1855–1857.

Wrangel retired in 1864. He opposed the sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867. Wrangel wrote the book Journey along the northern coastline of Siberia and the Arctic Ocean and other books about the peoples of northwestern America.