Steller Georg Wilhelm
German traveler and naturalist, was in the Russian service, an
associate of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.
Born in the town of Windsheim near Nuremberg.
At the age of five, he entered the city gymnasium, where
instruction was conducted in Latin and lasted 14–15 years.
Steller, distinguished by his brilliant abilities and rare
industriousness, immediately became the first student in the class
and retained this place during the whole course of study.
After graduating from high school in 1729, Steller entered the
theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg, and in April
1731 the theological faculty of the University of Halle.
He attended lectures not only at his faculty, but also at the
medical school, where he studied the natural sciences and gained
in-depth knowledge of the anatomy of animals and humans.
On the advice of medical professor Hofmann, Steller passed the
botanical qualification exams in Berlin, and passed it brilliantly.
Hoffman made great efforts to convince King Frederick William
that it was important to have a professor of botany at the
University of Halle and that there was an excellent candidate for
Steller, but all his efforts were in vain.
The king did not agree, and as a result, Steller was prepared for
a different fate - the life of the traveler, full of hardships and
On the advice of Hofman, Steller decided to try his luck in
Russia, where there was a vacancy of a professor of botany in the
Academy of Sciences.
In November 1734, accompanying the wounded to the Russian ship,
the scientist arrived in St. Petersburg.
There he became close to the prominent enlightener of the Peter
epoch by the Novgorod archbishop Feofan Prokopovich, who played an
important role in his life.
Profound botanical knowledge, a bright, lively mind, a cheerful
nature of Steller were fully appreciated by Prokopovich, and the
archbishop suggested that the young scientist become his doctor, to
which he gladly agreed.
From Prokopovich Steller found out about V. Bering of the Second
Kamchatka Expedition and got excited about the idea of exploring
the unexplored territories of Eastern Siberia.
Thanks to the petition of Prokopovich in February 1737, he was
accepted into the Academy of Sciences as an adjunct to the natural
history of the Kamchatka expedition and was included in its land
Moving from St. Petersburg through Novgorod and Moscow to the
east, Steller conducted a wide variety of scientific research
throughout the journey: he studied traditional medicine, worked in
the private botanical garden of the Demidovs, met with academicians
Miller, L. Delille de la Croroyer, made excursions around the
Pre-Baikal and Transbaikalia, collected collections of flora and
fauna, conducted a topographical description of the Baikal region.
In May 1740, he arrived in Yakutsk, then proceeded to Udomsk, and
then to Okhotsk, from where he traveled to Kamchatka by sea in
September 1740, where he met Bering, who agreed to take him on board
as a naturalist.
The famous journey began on June 4, 1741, when the packet boat
under the command of Bering left Kamchatka for the shores of
During the expedition, Steller kept diaries in which he recorded
information about the course of the vessel, about the islands
encountered, their flora and fauna, about the natives and much more.
Island Steller received permission for 6 hours to descend to the
ground, previously completely unknown.
During this time, he managed to describe the flora and fauna of
the island, finding 160 species of plants.
Of the animals found on Kodiak Island and in coastal waters,
Steller noted gophers, sea otters, seals, whales, large and small
During the short visit to Kodiak, Steller managed to describe the
life of its inhabitants.
The return trip was very difficult.
Prolonged swimming without fresh food caused most of the team
For about a month the ship was in the zone of storms, and sick
people suffered terrible agony.
Only two months later the crew saw the land.
The position of the vessel was catastrophic, almost all members
of the crew were sick and completely exhausted.
Bering, also seriously ill, decided to disembark on the shore of
an unknown island, which later received his name.
Shortly after the landing, the captain-commander died.
The crew led a desperate struggle for life.
In these difficult conditions, exceptional self-control, courage
and diligence of Steller appeared.
He hunted animals, collected plants, studied the topography and
geology of the island, described its flora and fauna, collected a
large herbarium, numerous collections of fish, animals and birds.
Among the birds, the endemic of Bering Island, the spectacled
large, or steller, cormorant, was of particular interest to
This large, weighing 12–14 pounds, bird was practically unable to
fly due to its small wings.
She is known to science only because of the description of
Steller - he was the only naturalist who saw her alive.
Especially in his diary Steller described the behavior of marine
mammals, and in particular the sea cow.
Steller wrote: “This animal, which has become so useful to us,
reached a length of 8–10 m, its weight reached 200 pounds.
These animals, like cattle, live in the sea in herds;
usually male and female move side by side;
they chase babies before themselves.
The back and half of the body fall constantly above the water.
The only occupation of these animals is finding food.
They feed like animals that live on the earth, slowly moving;
they peel off sea grass from the stones with their feet and
continuously chew it ... When they eat, they constantly move their
heads and necks like bulls, and every 4-5 minutes they stick their
heads out of the water to draw in fresh air, accompanying it with a
neigh, like a horse.
They are not at all afraid of man”.
After returning to Kamchatka in August 1742, Steller again
energetically began to research the peninsula.
Until August 1744, he proceeded far and wide through Kamchatka
and traveled to Kamchatka, visited almost all the places of land
(settlements), collecting collections of plants and animals
everywhere, producing ethnographic, historical and linguistic
Considering Kamchatka to be an important region for the Russian
economy, he advocated its more complete economic development,
raising cattle there, and building new Russian settlements.
In August 1744, when it became known about the completion of the
2nd Kamchatka Expedition, Steller went by sea to Okhotsk and went to
St. Petersburg via Yakutsk, Irkutsk, Tomsk.
Reach the goal he failed.
Surviving in the hardest swimming, Steller in Tyumen became ill
with fever and died.
He was buried on the lands of the Trinity Monastery on the bank
of the Tura River.
The grave was not preserved; it was washed away during one of the
A serious investigation into the search for Steller’s burial
place was carried out in our time by the Tyumen local historian
Cape in the Gulf of Faddey on
Named in 1919 by
On some maps is written "Cape Lagerny".