(3 November 1863 – 12 February 1932)

Artur Louis Arturovich Yachevsky

Artur Louis Arturovich Yachevsky

Artur Arturovich Yachevsky, a mycologist famous worldwide and an acknowledged figure in science, was born in Rylkovo village, Gzhatsky raion, Smolensk oblast, Russia, probably on 3 November 1863 (but possibly, following V.I. Lipsky (1913), on 23 January 1864) into a noble family. His childhood and youth were spent in Switzerland, and his secondary education was received in his own home. From early years he showed an interest in botany. Ne entered the Natural Sciences Faculty of Bern University in Switzerland, simultaneously attending lectures at Lausanne Academy, Switzerland, and at the universities of Montpelier and Sorbonne in France. During numerous excursions he studied the flora of around his home town of Montreux.

From 1889 onwards, Yachevsky began to specialize in mycology under the supervision of E. Fisher, a leading Swiss mycologist and student of Anton de Bary. Yachevsky's "Switzerland" period of scientific activity (1889-1894) was characterized by fungal surveys. During excursions in Switzerland (1893, 1894), southern France (1894), and Italy and Algeria (1892,1893), he amassed large reference collection of fungi and slime moulds. These specimens provided a basis describing fungal diseases and new fungal species and forms. His first independent research, devoted to a new species, Laestadia ilicis Jacz., was published in 1892. From 1894 to 1896, he wrote a series of taxonomic research works about different Swiss ascomycete families, including the Calosphaeriaceae, Capnodiaceae, Chaetomiaceae, Dothideaceae, Erysiphaceae and Massariaceae, as well as about fungi of other groups including the family Tuberculariaceae. These works were presented in the form of original monographic studies. His work in Switzerland, and his monograph of Swiss pyrenomycetes (1894) in particular, were twice awarded the Shlefli Prize of the Swiss Naturalists Society. In 1894, Yachevsky won the silver medal for his composition on fungi morphology, submitted for a competition concur announced by the Société Industrielle de Mulhouse.

At the end of 1894, Yachevsky returned to Russia as an acknowledged European expert mycologist. From then on, systematic surveys of the fungi of Russia became his main scientific goal. He began with a survey of the fungi of Smolensk oblast, where he collected during summer 1892 and autumn 1894. His first list of fungi and slime moulds collected in the Ryl'kovo village in 1892 had been published at France in 1893. Now three new publications (1896, 1897, 1898) appeared in Russia, all based on collections from Smolensk oblast. In 1897, Yachevsky was awarded the Fisher von Waldheim Prize for his series of works on the fungi of Smolensk oblast. From 1895 to 1899, along with V.L. Komarov and V.G. Tranzschel, he organized the exsiccatum series Fungi Rossiae Exsiccati in 7 fascicles. In 1896, he moved to St Petersburg and was assigned to the Botanic Garden by the Ministry of Agriculture. In the same year he was elected a corresponding member of the Scientific Committee of the Central Administrative Board of Land-Use & Agriculture. Yachevsky sent a private memorandum to the minister at the Ministry of Agriculture on the need to organize a plant pathology laboratory in Russia to investigate fungal diseases of plants.

In 1897, Yachevsky was working in the Department of Agriculture and conducted trips through Russia and the Russian Empire (Donsk region, Transcaucasia) studying diseases of vine and mulberry. In the summer of 1898, he was sent to western Europe (Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland) to become appraised of the situation of black rot in vineyards and to learn how plant protection services were organized in other countries. In 1900, he carried out a mycological survey of the southern regions of the Russian Empire (Kiev oblast, Volyn oblast, Podil' region, Kherson oblast, the former Tavrichesaya region, and the former province of Bessarabia) [now parts of Ukraine, and Moldova]. In the same year, he represented Russia at the International Botanical Congress. In 1901, A.A. Yachevsky was appointed as a senior expert on plant disease at the Department of Agriculture and in the same year, by decree of the Scientific Committee, he wasa assigned the post of head of the Central Plant Pathology Station at the Botanic Garden.

From 1901 to 1905, Yachevsky carried on a number of extended plant pathology surveys of different areas of Russia, paying particular attention to diseases of vine, sunflower, cotton, cereals and horticultural crops. At the same time he organized a network of correspondent over the whole country to get information about plant diseases at a local level. Information from these communications and from his personal observations provided the foundation of the annually published reports On Diseases and Damage to Cultivated and Useful Wild Plants (1903-1917). This was the first time any coherent effort had been to record plant diseases in Russia. From 1902, for the first time in Russia, Yachevsky organized an edition of the popular publication Informational Bulletin for Control of Diseases and Damage to Cultivated and Useful Wild Plants.

In January 1906, Yachevsky resigned from the position of head of the Plant Pathology Station and, at the beginning of 1907, was elected a full member of the Scientific Committee of the Central Administrative Board of Land-Use & Agriculture. At the same period he initiated a new type of laboratory, the Bureau of Mycology & Plant Pathology, which became the focus of his future scientific activity. In 1917, the Bureau of Mycology & Plant Pathology was re-organized as the Department of Mycology & Plant Pathology of the Agricultural Scientific Committee. In 1924, the Department was renamed the Mycological & Plant Pathological Laboratory and, during his lifetime, it was named after him. In 1929, it was incorporated into the All-Union [now All-Russian] Institute of Plant Protection. Under Yachevsky's direction the Bureau developed several main lines of research. These included:

  • surveys of the fungi of Russia;
  • establishment and development of fungal dried reference collections;
  • research on diseases of agricultural plants;
  • research on fungal biology and fungal developmental cycles;
  • development of pest control techniques;
  • basic research in mycology and plant pathology;
  • establishment of a network of correspondents and observation stations;
  • establishment of mycology & plant pathology laboratories at Plant Protection Stations.

    His programme of scientific research necessitated extensive publishing activity (monographs, reports, identification keys, hand-books etc.). Under his editorship the Transactions of the Bureau on Mycology & Plant Pathology (1908-1915) and the journal Results in Mycology & Plant Pathology (1915-1931) were published. By 1917, thanks to the energy of Yachevsky and his staff, the fungal dried reference collection numbered more than 100,000 specimens and was one of the best and most famous in the world. As work progressed, new directions arose (plant immunity, soil mycology, plant quarantine, viral and bacterial diseases, forest pathology, seed screening etc.). All these directions then saw further development in different laboratories in the new All-Union Institute of Plant Protection after its reorganization in 1929.

    The laboratory headed by Yachevsky was for many years a centre of excellence in research and an important advisory body co-ordinating the efforts of mycologists and plant pathologists from different regions of the Russian Empire and, later, the USSR. As far back as 1905, the Central Plant Pathology Station ran courses on plant pathology organized by Yachevsky. Later, each year, the Department of Agriculture sent numerous trainees to the Bureau on Mycology & Plant Pathology to raise expertise. Yachevsky's training of personnel in systematics continued in all educational Institutions where he worked, starting with the Stebutovskiye Women's Agricultural School in 1904 and ending in 1930 with the Institute of Applied Zoology & Plant Pathology where he was Professor and Dean of the Plant Pathology Department. Many of his students became outstanding scientists in their own right - Academician N.A. Naumov, Prof. M.V. Gorlenko, Prof. A.A. Babayan, Prof. D.N. Teterevnikova-Babayan, Prof. V.I. Ulyanishchev, N.N. Voronikhin, S.M. Tupenevich, I.N. Abramov and others.

    A.A. Yachevsky was author of numerous key works in mycology and plant pathology. He wrote the first textbooks on plant pathology in Russian (published and republished in 1907, 1908, 1910 and 1911). For a long time these were the only manuals for young specialists working in that language. The book Fundamentals of Mycology, published after his death, even now remains interesting for specialists. He was author of the first identification guide to Russian fungi (1897). He developed a classification scheme for fungi (1923), published in his pocket identification guide to the Exoascales (1926). He belived that systematics was the basis of all other research in other branches of mycology and plant pathology: "... without it all other investigations lose their meaning". In 1907, for his monograph on A Mycological Flora of European and Asiatic Russia. Volume II. Slime Moulds Yachevsky was awarded the Fischer von Waldheim Prize for the second time.

    Several of his works were devoted to theoretical questions in mycology. He emphasized the importance of the phylogenetic age of a species, and its effects on that species' range of characteristics and geographical range. He also emphasized that evolutionary processes take a range of paths depending on many different factors, and he repeatedly stressed the importance of Vavilov's law of hereditary variation of homologous series in revealing polymorphism patterns in fungi. In his views on the origin of fungi Yachevsky followed the H.Y. Gobi teachings about evolution. Like Gobi, Yachevsky supported the view that in taxonomic constructions ancient morphological traits, characteristic for many groups are of great phylogenetic importance. Among such traits Yachevsky placed number, shape and disposition of cilia (flagella) in zoocarps, on the assumption that a watery environment was common for all early organisms. Forms without cilia were also treated as ancient, descended like their ciliated equivalents from protists but in an independent and parallel line. Yachevsky was the author of an innovative classification (1931) of what are now called Chromistans, based on the presence and number of flagella in zoocarps.

    He was also author of numerous works on fungal nomenclature. Along with M.I. Golenkin he translated into Russian the Rules of Botanical Nomenclature compiled by A.P. de Candolle and adopted by the International Congress in Paris in 1867. He then worked on changes and additions to those rules. His proposals were approved in Russia and submitted on behalf of Russian botanists at the International Botanical Congress held in Vienna in 1905.

    According to L.S. Gitman (1964), Yachevsky's literary output numbered more than 1,200 works, including more than 500 reviews of foreign literature. Yachevsky was also a talented popularizer of scientific achievements not only through his publications, but also by lecturing, organizing of plant pathology exhibitions in agricultural centres, establishing dried reference collections, and producing posters etc. He took an active part in compilation of the Encyclopaedic Dictionary edited by Brokgauz & Efron, and the Complete Encyclopaedia of Russian Agriculture published by Devrien. Being a scientist with all-round interests, he paid a great deal of attention to viral and bacterial diseases of cultivated plants (a topic wholly undeveloped in Russia at that time). His monograph Plant Bacterioses, published posthumously in 1935, is even now the only manual on this subject in Russian.

    He had extraordinary managerial abilities. They were already evident in Switzerland in 1893, when he organized and headed the Montreux Botanical Society. At the same time he was the editor of their scientific journal for three years. In 1894, with the active support of the Montreux Botanical Society, he established a mountain Botanic Garden (2044 m above sea-level) and became its first director. After returning to Russia, he managed put the cause of plant protection on the national agenda. He was one of the organizers of the Institute of Applied Zoology & Plant Pathology, one of the initiators of the State Service of Plant Quarantine in Russia and the Service for Registering Damage & Harvest Losses Caused by Pests & Diseases in 1929. He was the founder and long-term Chairman of the Mycological Section of the All-Union Botanical Society (1920-1932), and organizer, active participant and member of the Permanent Bureau (1920-1931) for entomology and plant pathology meetings in Russia.

    Yachevsky was a member of numerous scientific societies in Russia, and of scientific societies of France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and about 20 other countries. He was an active participant of International Botanical Congresses. During many years he was the permanent representative for Russia in the International Agricultural Institute in Rome. His communication with foreign colleagues was all the easier through his knowledge of 6 European languages. For scientific purposes, he traveled all over Russia, western Europe, north Africa (Algeria) and North America.

    Yachevsky described many new fungi taxa (the exact figure is not known, but according to different authors varies from 200 to 1,000). Among the new taxa of higher rank were 5 orders, 4 families, 1 subfamily, 10 genera and 3 subgenera. Most new species described by Yachevsky are still accepted by mycologists. Russian and other mycologists named 23 new fungal species, and two new genera (Jaczewskia phalloides Mattirolo and Jaczewskiella uralensis Muraschkinski) after A.A. Yachevsky.

    During the last years of his life (1930-1931), Yachevsky worked as a consultant of for the Peoples' Commissariat of Foreign Commerce, at the Quarantine Laboratory of the Peoples' Commissariat of Agriculture and the national agricultural industry "Union-Potato". A.A. Yachevsky died in Leningrad [St Petersburg] on 12 February 1932.

    Summarized from an article about A.A. Yachevsky written by Berestetskaya, L.I., All-Union Institute of Plant Protection, St Petersburg, 2003, 12 pp.

    Biographies & obituaries. Mycological Notes by C.G. Lloyd 68: 1169, 1923 Lists. Taxa. Kirk & Ansell form of name: Jacz.

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