Fyodor Litke

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Count Fyodor Petrovich Litke (Russian: Граф Фёдор Петро́вич Ли́тке, born Friedrich Benjamin Lütke; 28 September [O.S. 17 September] 1797 – 20 August [O.S. 8 August] 1882) was a Russian navigator, geographer, and Arctic explorer. He became a count in 1866, and an admiral in 1855. He was a Corresponding Member (1829), Honorable Member (1855), and President (1864) of the Russian Academy of Science in St.Petersburg. He was also an Honorable Member of many other Russian and foreign scientific establishments, and a Corresponding Member of the French Academy of Science in Paris.


Count Friedrich Lütke (Russified in Fyodor or Fedor Litke) came from a family of Baltic Germans. Count Litke’s grandfather was Johann F. Lütke, a German Lutheran preacher and writer on physical science and theology. In 1745, Johann Lütke went from Germany to Moscow as pastor of a Lutheran parish in order to spread Protestantism to Russia and Baltic provinces. As a youth, Fyodor attended a Lutheran German-speaking school. His maternal language was German and he always spoke Russian with a German accent. He remained a practicing Lutheran.

A book, in English, about Fyodor P. Litke, published in 1996 by The University of Alaska, entitled Fedor Petrovich Litke by A.I. Alekseev, ISBN 0-912006-86-2, is a 262-page biography of this 19th-century Russian scientist. This book was originally published in Russian in Moscow in 1970.

Litke started his naval career in the Imperial Russian Navy in 1813. He took part in Vasily Golovnin's world cruise on the ship "Kamchatka" from 1817 to 1819. Then from 1821 to 1824, Litke led the expedition to explore the coastline of Novaya Zemlya, the White Sea, and the eastern parts of the Barents Sea. From August 20, 1826 to August 25, 1829, he headed the world cruise on the ship "Senyavin", sailing from Cronstadt and rounding Cape Horn. At the beginning, he was accompanied from Copenhagen and the Baltic Sea by Capt. Staniukovich who was in command of the sloop Möller. The scientific team included Heinrich von Kittlitz (ornithologist), Karl Heinrich Mertens (botanist) and Alexander Postels (mineralogist). During this voyage he described the western coastline of the Bering Sea, the Bonin Islands off Japan, and the Carolines, discovering 12 new islands.

In 1835 Fyodor Litke was appointed by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia as tutor of his second son, Grand Duke Constantine Nicholaievich of Russia.

Litke was the first one to come up with the idea of a recording tide measurer (1839). They were built and installed along the coastlines of the Arctic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in 1841. Litke was one of the organizers of the Russian Geographic Society and its president in 1845–1850 and 1857–1872. He was appointed Chairman of the Naval Scientific Committee in 1846. Litke was a commander-in-chief and a military governor of the ports of Reval (today's Tallinn) and later Kronstadt in 1850–1857. In 1855, Litke became a member of the Russian State Council (Государственный совет in Russian; a legislative entity that predated the Duma, which came into existence only on 1906).

In 1873, Russian Geographical Society introduced the Litke gold medal. A cape, peninsula, mountain and bay in Novaya Zemlya, as well as a group of islands in Franz Josef Land, Baydaratskaya Bay, and the Nordenskiöld Archipelago and a strait between Kamchatka and Karaginsky Island, as well as two Russian icebreakers were named after him.

Nereocystis luetkeana was named after him by Mertens (first as Fucus luetkeanus) and then described by Postels and Ruprecht.[1]

Litke's contribution to the geography of Alaska

Fyodor Litke's portrait on a 1947 Soviet postage stamp in a series issued to commemorate the centennial of the Russian Geographical Society.

During his voyage round the world on the Russian corvette Seniavin Litke arrived at Sitka in 1827. From there he sailed to Unalaska, surveying the Pribilof Islands, St. Matthew Island and the Commander Islands, before arriving to Petropavlovsk, a harbor which he used as a base for further surveys along the Siberian coast all the way to St. Lawrence Bay by the Bering Strait.

After finally returning to Kronstadt Litke published an 3-volume account of his explorations with atlases in Russian and in French, the latter being published in Paris and entitled Voyage autour du monde, : exécuté par ordre de sa majesté l’empereur Nicolas Ier, sur la corvette Le Séniavine, dans les années 1826, 1827, 1828 et 1829, par Frédéric Lutké, ... commandant de l’expédition. Partie historique, avec un atlas, litographié d’après les dessins originaux d’Alexandre Postels et du baron Kittlitz. Traduit du russe sur le manuscrit original, sous les yeux de l’auteur, par le conseiller d’état F. Boyé. Tome I–III. Very few copies were printed and especially the Russian original work with its nautical part became an extremely rare item.

The nautical volume contains hydrographic and geographic details on the then little-known Bering Sea and Alaska obtained not only from Litke's own work but also from various previously unpublished Russian sources. Even though there were errors and delays in the publication that didn't satisfy the author, Litke's work is a valuable source of information on the evolution of geographic knowledge of Alaska and the Bering Sea. When W. H. Dall published an index for the book, Litke's name was given as "Lutke", which reflects the spelling under which the book was published in Paris.[2]

Certain geographic features of the Alaskan coast, like the Walrus and Kritskoi Islands, Kudobin Islands and numerous other features in the Aleutians, were named by Count Feodor Litke in the maps that were subsequently published. The landhead now named Cape Lutke in Alaska was named after this Russian explorer by the Imperial Russian Hydrographic Service in 1847.[3]

Admiral v. Lütke's manor in Avanduse, present-day Estonia

See also


  1. Marine Algae of California
  2. The Naming of Alaska — Explorers 'L' — ExploreNorth
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  4. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by President of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Succeeded by
Dmitry Tolstoy