YANSHIN ALEXANDER LEONIDOVICH

 1911-1999

YANSHIN, Alexander Leonidovich (March 15 (28), 1911, Smolensk; d. October 1999, Moscow) – Russian scientist on stratigraphy, tectonics, lithology, geography, and ecology.

Yanshin was an academician (1958) and vice-president of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1982–88). He was Honorary Director of the Institute of the Lithosphere of the Russian Academy of Sciences and founder and first president of the Russian Academy of Ecology (1993). Yanshin discovered deposits of bauxite, iron ore, phosphates, artesian water, oil and gas, potassium salts, and so on. He developed new methods of stratigraphic, tectonic, and paleogeographic analysis and made a number of important theoretical and practical discoveries. He developed the doctrine on evolution of geological processes in the Earth’s history, together with N.S. Shatskii and N.P. Kheraskov, and the doctrine of geological formations – natural parageneses of rocks containing certain mineral complexes. Using geophysical and experimental methods he studied the structure of depths of the Earth’s crust and upper mantle to develop theories about the processes occurring there. He participated in the study of the marine and ocean floor using various methods, including drilling, in order to clarify the possibility of wide use of its mineral resources. In 1960–82 he was closely involved in the studying and protection of the human environment, working in the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences of the USSR. At this time, he wrote articles about the recent origin of the Teletskoe Lake in Gorny Altai, the protection of forests in Siberia against fires, and the origin of Lake Baikal; and at the same time, he began the struggle to preserve the purity of the lake, and against the construction of the Baikal pulp mill. From 1982, when Yanshin was elected vice-president of the Russian Academy of Sciences USSR and the chairman of the Scientific Council of the RAS USS.R. on biosphere studies, his work on biospheric and ecological processes broadened significantly. Proven environmental and economic irrationality and even crime in the offered transfer of the northern rivers in the European part of Russia to the south – as far as the basin of the Volga river and the Caspian Sea, and the Siberian rivers – to Central Asia. Together with other scientists he failed to scientifically prove the need to stop producing pulp at Baikal and develop serious measures for the protection of natural resources in the basin of this unique lake. Several of Yanshin’s studies were related to environmental problems in Leningrad caused by the construction of a dam across the Gulf of Finland, high-speed railway from Moscow to St. Petersburg, and to the problems that appeared in Central Asia owing to a sharp decrease in the level of the Aral Sea, and to inadmissibility of building the Crimean Oil Refinery on a tectonic break. Yanshin’s great contribution to the promotion and development of the scientific ideas of Vernadsky, especially his theory of the biosphere and the noosphere, is priceless. He comprehended the deep ecological content of Vernadsky’s ideas and made sure that Vernadsky’s study of the biosphere and its transition into the noosphere became the theoretical basis of a broad environ- mental protection program. Based on a comprehensive analysis of Vernadsky’s unpublished works, he first identified the systemic conditions of biosphere to noosphere transition, showed the enduring value of this heuristic knowledge in solving contemporary global problems. During his last years Yanshin emphasized the methodological connection between Vernadsky’s ideas of biosphere and noosphere and the concept of sustainable development, which became especially urgent after the un Conference on Environment and Development accepted it in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro.

 Works: Tectonic Map of Eurasia (Moscow, 1964); History of the Atmosphere (Leningrad, 1985); Evolution of Geological Processes in the Earth’s History (Leningrad, 1988); Studies of Environmental Blunders (Moscow, 1991); The Doctrine of the Biosphere (Moscow, 1993); On the Eve of the Noosphere Era (Moscow, 1995); Scientific Heritage of Academician V.I. Vernadsky – Golden Fund of Mod- ern Science (Moscow, 1997).

Lit.: “Alexander Leonidovich Yanshin,” Materials for Bio-Bibliography Scientists in the USSR (Moscow, 1991); V. Parfenov, From the Team of Ascetics (Moscow, 2001).