Johann Anton Güldenstädt
Güldenstädt lost both his parents early, and from 1763 onwards studied pharmacy, botany and natural history in Berlin. At the age of 22, he obtained his doctorate in medicine at the University of Frankfurt in 1767. In the following year, he joined the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences' expedition sent by Catherine II of Russia to explore the Russian empire's southern frontier. Güldenstädt travelled through Ukraine and the Astrakhan region, as well as the northern Caucasus and Georgia, both of which were almost entirely beyond the borders of the Russian empire. In March 1775 he returned to St Petersburg. The results of the expedition and Güldenstädt's edited expedition journal were published after his death by Peter Simon Pallas in Reisen durch Russland und im Caucasischen Gebürge (Travels in Russia and the Mountains of the Caucasus) (1787–1791).
The expedition contributed greatly to the fields of biology, geology, geography, and particularly linguistics. Güldenstädt took detailed notes on the languages of the region. After the expedition, which definitively established Güldenstädt's reputation at the Academy, he continued to work as a naturalist.
Güldenstädt's expedition was the first systematic study of the Caucasus. As was typical of contemporary expeditions organized in the spirit of the Enlightenment (including the later American Lewis and Clark Expedition), it was tasked with the observation and description of virtually every aspect of the region under study. This included both its "natural" attributes — flora, fauna, geography, and geology — and its peoples, economy, and government. In this sense it was both a scientific expedition and a mission of reconnaissance to learn more about a region that was important in the simultaneous Russian war with the Ottomans, of which the Caucasus was a theater, with the Georgians acting as Russian allies. Immediately following the expedition, Russian interest in the region, particularly Georgia, grew markedly, culminating in the Treaty of Georgievsk, which made East Georgia a Russian protectorate.
In 1781, he died from an outbreak of fever in St. Petersburg.
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- Reisen durch Rußland und im Caucasischen Gebürge. Russisch-Kayserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften *, St. Petersburg 1787. (* Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences)
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