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Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Background of the Department

The early beginning of the department started in 1770 when a Chair of Zoology and Botany was separated from the Chair of Natural History in Moscow University. This period was the time of broad scientific studies as well as educational and organizational work of Dr. G. I. Fischer fon-Waldheim (1771-1853) the founder of Moscow Zoological Museum and Moscow Society of Naturalists (1805).

In 1808 the Chair of Zoology and Botany was subdivided into two independent departments and later a Chair of Anatomy was founded by professor D. I. Dvigubsky. From 1829 up to 1840 A. I. Lovetsky was the head of the Zoological Department. The second historically significant period of our history is connected with Karl F. Rulle (Rulye) (1814-1858), in 1840 he became Lovetskys successor in the Zoological museum and Zoological Department and later also was a follower of Dvigubsky in the Department of Anatomy. Rulles scientific interests and educational work were dedicated to zoology and comparative anatomy of vertebrate animals. An important historical date is the foundation of the Department of Comparative Anatomy. This event happened on November, 12 in 1842. I. T. Glebov was elected the head of the new department. From this moment and up to present time the Chair of Comparative Morphology, periodically joined and again separated from Zoological Department and acted as a leading structure within the department. The tradition of education of comparative anatomy and morphological studies is very old and strong, the continuous chain of leading professors is the garant of this tradition. After K. F. Rulles death in 1858 A. P. Bogdanov became a new head of the Zoological Museum and of the Department of Comparative Anatomy. However in 1878 he was the head of Zoological Department too. Moreover, in 1880 after the defense of his doctoral theses J. A. Borzenkov became a head of the Cabinet of comparative anatomy (this position was equal to the position of the head of the department in those years). J. A. Borzenkov was the major specialist in comparative anatomy of animals and is known as a founder of the big practical course of vertebrate morphology (Special Practice in Vertebrate Anatomy) which is still one of the most important and crucial courses of the Department. After Borzenkovs death in 1883 the position of the head of the cabinet of comparative anatomy passed to M. A. Menzbir. In 1884 M. A. Menzbir was an associate professor of the chair of of comparative anatomy, and in 1886 he became an extraordinary professor of the chair of zoology and comparative anatomy. Accroding to some data (Dementyev, 1938) in those years (1885-1887) the department was again split into two independent chairs and M. A. Menzbir became a head of the chair of comparative ecology (1885). We should keep in mind, however, that A.P. Bogdanovs both Magister Scientiarum and Doctor Scientiarum theses dealt with vertebrate animals. And he was the person who read the lectures about vertebrates in the university during a rather long period of time. In 1896 after A.P. Bogdanovs death the position of the head of the department passed to A. A. Tikhomirov, who also read the lectures on vertebrate zoology and at the same time he was the director of the zoological museum. In 1903 A.A. Tikhomirov left the Moscow University and the lectural course of Vertabrate Zoology passed to M. A. Menzbir and his Cabinet of Comparative Anatomy. However soon the same lectural course was read by B. M. Zhitkov in the Zoological Museum of Moscow. In 1917 the separate Department of Vertebrate Zoology was founded by B. M. Zhitkov (firstly without permanent stuff). The first and the only (during the first time) Zhitkovs assistant was N. A. Bobrinskiy. On October, 1 in 1918 a paper of SPC RSFSR (Soviet People Commissars of Russian Soviet Federal Socialistic Republic) Some changes in functioning of the state departments . New chairs and departments were founded in the Moscow State University. The number of associate professors and assistant professors became full professors, including B.M. Zhitkov from Vertebrate Zoology Department. With the beginning of his activities as a head of the Department many new scientific studies were developed wildlife conservation, biology of prey and fur animals, and later biological basis of fur-hunting, animal breeding, problems of animal acclimatisation all these were new for Russian science.

Later this complex of studies became a basis for the wide and fundamental research which turned the Department of Vertebrate Zoology of Moscow University into one of the biggest and most important scientific and educational centers of modern Ecology.

So it was the time of A.P.Bogdanov and the beginning of M.A.Menzbirs career as the Head of the Department of Comparative Anatomy (nearly 1885) that can be considered to be the beginning of the history of modern Department of Vertebrate Zoology . This date is significant because M.A.Menzbir became not only the founder of the Department but also the appreciated leader in main research themes (comparative anatomy, zoogeography, systematics, wildlife management) of the Department of Vertebrate Zoology and Comparative Anatomy .

academician A.N.Severtsov

professor B.S.Matveev

professor S.I.Ognev

professor V.G.Geptner

professor A.N.Formozov

The so-called Big Comparative Anatomy Practice (Special Practice in Vertebrate Anatomy) remains at present times being the fundamental professional base of the students training in the Department. (A.N.Druzhinin, L.V.Ganeshina, V.A.Rakov, N.N.Gurtovoi, F.J.Dzerzhinsky, G.I.Goncharova). M.A.Menzbirs department (headed by A.N.Severtzov from 1912) and B.M.Zhitkovs department occured to be parallel structures and their uniting in 1931 gave birth to the new department under the name of Vertebrate Zoology and Comparative Anatomy Department. At the same time due to the closing of Zoological Department headed by prof. G.A. Kozhevnikov (1917-1929) and I.I.Mesiatzev (1929-1930) the newly formed Department included a group of professors, tutors and researchers (S.I.gnev, V.G.Geptner, A.N.Formozov and others who belonged earlier to the G.A.Kozhevnikovs department and specialized in vertebrate zoology and regarded themselves M.A.Menzbirs students). The end of the 20-s - the beginning of 30-s were known as years of really crazy organizational experiments resulting in unbelievable confuse in documentation and archive records. In the reports of these years one can find not only the Vertebrate Zoology and Comparative Anatomy Departments but also the Departments of Fur Trade Zoology, of Morphology and of Vertebrate Systematics.

associate professor E.S.Ptushenko

associate professor A.N.Drujinin

associate professor N.P.Naumov


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