Studia Historica Septentrionalia 73


Anto Leikola, Alexander von Nordmann, an international naturalist

Alexander von Nordmann (1803–1866) was the most important and evidently the internationally best-known Finnish naturalist of his time. His contemporary C. G. Mannerheim reached international fame as an entomologist, but his field was limited to Coleopterans, whereas Nordmann’s interests encompassed all of the natural world, from plants to birds and mammalian fossils. 

Alexander von Nordmann was born the son of the commander of the Svensksund Fortress near the present town of Kotka, went to school at Hamina, Viborg and Porvoo, and graduated from the Academia Aboensis at Turku (the present day University of Helsinki) in 1827. After the great fire of Turku he continued his studies in Germany and excelled with his thesis on certain parasitic animals, based on microscopic research. He was invited for a professorship in Odessa and participated in many research expeditions to South Russia and the Caucasus Mountains. In the years 1848–1866 he worked as the Professor of Zoology (at first Natural History) at the Alexander University in Helsinki and died soon after retirement.

Nordmann published tens of studies on plants, mammals, birds, insects and even coelenterates, a thorough survey on the fauna of the Black Sea, an extensive review on parasitic worms in a French comprehensive study and, in Helsinki, an account on certain fossils found near Odessa. One of his last publications was a survey on Finnish spider species. He was a member of more than thirty scientific societies and an honorary member of more of than ten of them, and several species of plants and insects were named in his honour.

Takaisin Studia Historica Septentrionalia 73