(13 January 1897 – 27 March 1962)

Semion Filimonovich Morochkovsky

Lists. Publications. Taxa. Kirk & Ansell form of name: Morochk.

Semion Filimonovich Morochkovsky was born in Smila (Cherkasy oblast, Ukraine) on 13 January, in the family of a railwayman. In 1914 he finished Smila two-year school and entered the Cherkasy teacher's seminary, from which he graduated in 1919. From 1919 to 1924, Morochkovsky worked as a teacher in the seven-year trade schools of the towns of Cherkasy, Yablunev and Smila. In 1924, he became a student at the Agrobiological Department of Kiev University (at that time the Institute of Popular Schooling). After graduating from the university in 1928, Morochkovsky began his postgraduate study on mycology and plant pathology at the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of the Sugar Beet Industry in Kiev. From 1928 to 1931 he studied under the scientific direction of the famous Ukrainian mycologist Prof. G.S. Nevadovsky who suggested he looked at fungi of the hyphomycete genus Penicillium, which were prominent on sugar beet, especially on roots stored in clamps.

According to the tradition of the time, during his postgraduate study, Morochkovsky made an annual trip to Leningrad [St Petersburg] to work in the Mycological Laboratory of the All-Union Institute of Plant Protection and to consult the head of the laboratory, the prominent mycologist A.A. Yachevsky. Plant pathologists and mycologists from different regions of the former Soviet Union were trained in this laboratory, raising their professional standards. From the reminiscences of Morochkovsky it is clear that Yachevsky unsparingly shared his knowledge and experience with those beginners, involving them in different theoretical and methodical questions and discussing the most topical problems in mycology and plant pathology. Morochkovsky found in the person of Yachevsky an excellent mentor, who treated him very kindly. Yachevsky in turn noted and appreciated the enthusiasm of this graduate student from Ukraine in his investigation of sugar-beet fungi. When Morochkovsky was leaving Leningrad [St Petersburg] shortly before the end of his postgraduate course in 1931, Yachevsky, conveying his greetings in a letter to G.S. Nevadovsky, said: "please send us more bright lads like this one", and presented Morochkovsky with a photo signed with the dedication, "to Semion Semionovich Morochkovsky with good memories on his visiting the laboratory. 14 October 1931". Morochkovsky's communication with that outstanding scientist, made a permanent impression on the his life and activity, and he always regarded Yachevsky as his teacher. Many years later, in 1952, Morochkovsky wrote, "I am now preparing a large account of Yachevsky's life and activities. This year, on 12 February, it will be 20 years to the day since Yachevsky' death. He was my teacher. On 12 February I intend to convene all the mycologists and plant patologists of Kiev, and to read this account".

In October 1931, Morochkovsky successfully finished his postgraduate study and began to work as a research officer in the staff of the Laboratory of Mycology & Plant Pathology at the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of the Sugar Beet Industry, working there till 1938. As long as the Institute was closely concerned with agriculture, including the growing and processing of sugar beet, Morochkovsky's research priorities were set as studying the fungi of sugar beet clamp rot. This work involved sampling on sugar-refinery clamps, extracting fungi into pure culture, identifying them, and determining how they influenced sugar beet roots during storage. Using his results, Morochkovsky developed ways to control clamp rot. The results of these investigations were published in the following papers Fungi of Sugar Beet Clamp Rot (1948, translated into Czech in 1951), Conditions for Development of Sugar Beet Clamp Rot and Control Measures (1950), Sugar Beet Growing. Volume III, Chapter 2. Sugar Beet Diseases and Control Measures (most of this collective work was written by Morochkovsky). Both of Morochkovsky's dissertation works were devoted to the fungi causing sugar beet clamp rot, and to mechanisms of development of rot. In 1936 he defended his candidate degree thesis "Fungi of the genus Penicillium on sugar beet", and in 1943 his doctoral thesis "The fungi of sugar beet clamp rot".

From September 1938, Morochkovsky worked as a senior research officer at the M.G. Kholodny Institute of Botany, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. In 1939, he became head of the Department of Mycology and held this position till his death in 1962. From 1939 to 1946, he was deputy director for scientific work. The goals of mycologists at this academic Institute differed from that of an applied Institute. Morochkovsky defined them as comprehensive surveys of the fungi in different of plant communities of Ukraine. Before and during the Great Patriotic War [Second World War], however, mycologists of academic institutions, including the Institute of Botany, also took part in resolving various practical problems, which arose periodically. In this connexion, Morochkovsky had to investigate fungi which were the agents of diseases of different crops (sunflower, mulberry etc.), and to take part in the search for the cause of the mysterious disease of horses which spreaded throughout Ukraine and other regions of the former Soviet Union in 1938 and 1939. This complex investigation, which required the teamwork of specialists of different fields - mycologists, veterinarians, microbiologists - discovered that the cause of the disease was a fungus of the hyphomycete genus Stachybotrys. Once this was known, preventative measures against the disease, which became named as stachybotriotoxicosis, could be proposed.

Morochkovsky had to continue with applied science after the war. Because of severe shortages in Ukraine at that time, it was important to use wild sources of food (mushrooms, berries etc.) as much as possible. On the instructions of the government, in 1945, mycologists at the Institute were assigned to determine the conditions favourable for high harvests of the edible wild fungus, Boletus edulis (Bull.) Fr., and to look at possibilities of increasing yield artificially. Morochkovsky led this research. Along with his assistants he ascertained that crop levels of the fungus depend on a number of factors, including mechanical and chemical soil composition, forest type, humidity, air and soil temperatures, and quantity and time of precipitation. Academician V.F. Kuprevich, who reviewed a manuscript of the paper by Morochkovsky and co-authors devoted to ways of increasing of yield of this fungus wrote that the paper was "a remarkable event in the history of research on edible fungi. As a consequence of their studies, the authors have managed to establish for the first time what conditions are necessary for germination of [Boletus edulis] spores".

Despite the fact that those investigations took much of the time, Morochkovsky did not forget the principal direction of his Department: an inventory as complete as possible of the fungi of Ukraine. He had made this topic a priority because he realized that progress in other areas of mycological research were impossible without an identification guide to the country's fungi. At the same time, he understood that the main pre-condition for an identification guide would be a substantial fungal dried reference collection containing specimens from different natural zones of Ukraine. For that reason, he considered fungal surveys in the form of route-expeditions throughout Ukraine, and continual enrichment of the dried reference collection as top priorities. Even when wartime priorities dictated otherwise, along with his departmental staff, Morochkovsky constantly collected fungi from different systematic and ecological groups. During the first years after the war, he collected much mycological material from the right-bank Polessye [forest region west of the Dnieper river] of Ukraine. At the same time in Gladkovich forest in Zhytomyr oblast, work to determing the conditions favourable for the Boletus edulis harvest in natural habitats was carried out over 4 years. In 1948, in connexion with the state plan for creation of field-protecting shelterbelt plantations, mycologists of the Department were called to investigate fungi of shelterbelts throughout Ukraine. Morochkovsky carried out mycological surveys of the field-protecting shelterbelt plantations of the Left-Bank [area east of the Dnieper river] of Ukraine. Rich collections, mainly of conidial fungi, were obtained from shelterbelts in the forest, forest-steppe and steppe zones of this region. These served as a basis for numerous scientific works on the fungi of shelterbelt trees and shrubs and the diseases they caused.

In 1953, the Co-ordinating Conference of Botanists decided to support Morochkovsky's proposal to prepare a multi-volume Guide to the Identification of Fungi of Ukraine. An this Conference, Morochkovsky expressed for the first time his view that it was necessary to prepare a "flora" of fungi of Ukraine. The Co-ordinating Conference of Botanists authorized Mycological Department to get on with this. By that time all main geobotanical areas of Ukraine had been surveyed for fungi, and Morochkovsky had covered by field trips a large part of Ukraine. Fungal surveys of some regions (the upper reaches of the Dniester river, Western Polessye [the forest zone west of the Dnieper river], the Transcarpathians, the Left-Bank [area to the east of the Dnieper river] Forest-steppe around the Vorskla river valley etc.) were carried out by his postgraduate students. Virgin steppe remained the least surveyed areas for fungi. This endangered ecosystem remained intact only in special Steppe Nature Reserves (principally Askania-Nova, Michailovskaya Tselina, Khomutovskiy Step', Streletskaya Step' and Kamennyi Mohily). In the 1950s, S.F. Morochkovsky organized fungal surveys of all these steppe reserves and published a list of fungi for each. Being also something of an expert on vascular plants, his interests naturally gravitated to conidial microfungi, ascomycetes of the order Erysiphales and, particularly, rust and smut fungi: he had a long-term ambition to write a "flora" of the Uredinales and Ustilaginales fungi of Ukraine.

In 1954, based on specimens in the mycological dried reference collection, almost all accumulated during the 9 post-war years, Morochkovsky created a list of types, and began to write the Guide to the Identification of Fungi of Ukraine [in Ukranian]. At the same time he gathered co-authors for this guide and, shortly after, colleagues from the Department of Mycology (M.Y. Zerova, Y.G. Radzievsky and M.F. Smitskaya) started work on other volumes in the series, as did mycologists from another institutions: Z.G. Lavitskaya (Kiev University), P.E. Sosin (Poltava Teachers' Training Institute), P.I. Klushnik (Ukrainian Scientific Research Institute of Forestry and Agro-Forest-Improvement). The personal contribution of Morochkovsky to the preparation of all volumes of the guide, except volume 5, was enormous. He was one of the principal author's of the first volume, for which he prepared such difficult groups as the Myxomycetes and Zygomycetes (order Mucorales), the second volume, for which he participated in writing diagnoses of and keys to the orders Erysiphales and Microthyriales and more than 15 ascomycete families. Morochkovsky was author or co-author of all parts of the third volume, the largest in the series, which was devoted to conidial fungi. He made available for this volume his original notes and material on conidial fungi of the order Moniliales (in particular, the families Dematiaceae, Moniliaceae and Stilbaceae), some families of the order Sphaeropsidales, and the group Mycelia sterilia. He was author of the first manuscript versions dealing with problematic and variable hyphomycete genera such as Botrytis, Corynespora, Didymaria, Fusicladium, Passalora, Stachybotrys and many others, and with coelomycete fungi of the most species numerous genera including Ascochyta, Cytospora, Diplodia, Phoma, Phomopsis and Septoria. About 90% of the information presented in the fourth volume, which was devoted to certain basidiomycete groups, including rust and smut fungi, was prepared by him. He was thus an initiator, organizer and one of the principal authors of, more or less, the whole series of the guide and, in doing that work, he managed to unite all available specialists on different fungal groups for preparation of this key work, which involved an enormous amount of work checking identification keys, standardizing diagnoses of taxa of different ranks, and editing all manuscripts. As a result, the first version of the manuscript, which was initially planned as three-volume edition, was ready by the first half of 1961. The manuscript was then circulated for critical appraisal, after which the Academic Council of the Institute resolved that, following corrections identified as necessary by that appraisal, the manuscript could be sent to the publisher. Morochkovsky did not live to see this, as he died in March 1962.

The work on the guide was then continued by his colleagues of the Laboratory of Mycology, under the direction from 1964 till 1972 of M.Y. Zerova. She enlarged the group of co-author and co-ordinated their efforts to complete Morochkovsky's life-work. The guide was completed as a five-volume edition in seven books, the last book being published in 1979. This unique summary of all fungi known in Ukraine, has for a long time been an indispensable manual for mycologists, plant pathologists, specialists on forestry and agriculture, and students and graduate students of biological and agricultural institutes. In particular, the guide has become a starting point for further development of mycology, for preparation and writing of numerous volumes of the "flora" of fungi of Ukraine initially planned Morochkovsky. For his work on the Guide to the Identification of Fungi of Ukraine, Morochkovsky and his co-authors were awarded the National Prize of Ukraine for Science & Technology. His active scientific, educational, and social activities were recognized by the Order of the Labour Red Banner, and by medals and diplomas.

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