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Peter Simon Pallas

Peter Simon Pallas (1741 – 1811) was a naturalist, ethnographer, linguist, and Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Born into a family of a physician, he studied in Germany, Holland, and England.  In 1767, he was invited to Russia and elected Academician of the Academy on natural history. 

On April 24, 1767, Pallas was tasked with governing the Cabinet of Natural History. In August 1767, the Academy of Sciences Commission resolved to put Academician Peter Simon Pallas in charge of the zoological collections of the Kunstkamera, Samuel Gottlieb Gmelin in charge of the botanical collections, and Caspar Friedrich Wolf in charge of the anatomical collections. 

Since 1768 to 1774, he was the head of the academic expedition to the central provinces of Russia, the Volga region, the Urals, Western Siberia, Altay, and Transbaikalia, during which unique materials on zoology, botanic, paleontology, geology, geography, and ethnography of the peoples inhabiting these areas were collected. The collections gathered were donated to the Kunstkamera and University of Berlin. Expedition’s outcomes were described in the 3-volume monograph A Travel through Various Provinces of the Russian Empire published in St. Petersburg (1771-1776). In 1767-1793, he superintended zoological collections of the Kunstkamera, and in 1793-1794, he visited southern provinces of Russia to describe their climate.  Since 1795 to 1810, he lived in the Crimea where he wrote 3-volume monograph on the Russian fauna.  He returned to Berlin in 1810. 

Presently, the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) RAS has the following collections of P.S. Pallas: № 828 (Siberian funds), № 719, 741 (East Asian funds), and № 766 (European funds). 

In August 1769, P.S. Pallas visited Yaitsky Town (nowadays Ural’sk city in Kazachstan) where the local Cossack Chieftain offered him to purchase a collection of Buddhist sculptures. In his books, P.S. Pallas published several images of the items he bought.  A detailed comparison of the images published by Pallas with exhibits from the Kunstkamera’s Buddhist collections gives grounds to claim that at least some of the items which Pallas bought in Yaitsky Town are kept in MAE RAS as part of the collection № 719.