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in memoriam - Maria Alfredovna Glazovskaya (1912-2016)

By M.I.Gerasimova and S.V.Goryachkin (Vice-President, Dokuchaev SSS)

Maria Alfredovna Glazovskaya

The outstanding and oldest Russian soil scientist, Prof. Dr. Maria A. Glazovskaya passed away on the 20th of November, 2016. She was 104 years old.
She was a great pedologist widely known for her two-volume monograph “SOILS of the WORLD” (1983, 1984), the very popular manual (co-author I.P.Gerasimov) “Fundamentals of Soil Science and Soil Geography” (1965) and many other books and papers. Together with her teacher Boris Polynov and her colleague Alexander Perelman she gave birth to the new discipline – Geochemistry of landscapes. Now the conceptual background of this science became the basis for research on contaminants migration in the environment. M. Glazovskaya is famous for her studies on weathering and soil formation in Antarctic and Alpine landscapes, Scotland, and Norway, for her contribution to the development of catena concept, geochemistry of natural and human-modified landscapes, cycles of carbon in deep subsoil and beneath-soil horizons (concept of pedolithogenesis); she was involved in compiling soil maps of continents in World atlases of 1964 and 1998.
During her long career Maria Glazovskaya has been a Vice-president of the All-Union (Soviet) Society of Soil Science, a member of the International Commission on land use, a member of the advisory committee of the FAO-UNESCO, National Committee of SCOPE, for many years she was active in national and international projects.

Maria Glazovskaya was born in Saint-Petersburg, graduated from the Leningrad University. Then she was a post-graduate student in this university and after getting her PhD degree moved to Kazakhstan (1939-1952), where she was working at the Institute of Soil Science, Kazakh Academy of Sciences. In 1952, she was invited to the Moscow State University. In the years 1959-1987 Maria Glazovskaya was the Head, and from 1987 until the present time she was a consulting professor of the Department of Geochemistry of Landscapes and Soil Geography, Faculty of Geography, Lomonosov Moscow State University. She was the Distinguished Professor of this University, Honorary Member of the Russian Geographical Society and the Dokuchaev Soil Science Society.
Glazovskaya belonged to a generation of geographers who had practically no opportunity to perform scientific research in the world outside the Soviet Union because of political circumstances, but her brilliant geographical education and thorough study of foreign publications have largely compensated for these restrictions. The broad geographic background allowed her to write a short book about an exotic continent that was totally unknown in our country in the postwar years: it was entitled” Soil-Geochemical Essay on Australia” (1952). The fathers of Australian soil science (J.A. Prescott and C.G. Stephens) adhering to V.V. Dokuchaev’s ideas, and Prof. J.A.Prescott were sincerely surprised to learn that the author of this book had never seen the object described. Her Australian colleagues expressed affection and deep respect for Glazovskaya, who took part in the IX International Congress of Soil Science in Adelaide in 1968 and in congress excursion across the continent. Prof. Glazovskaya said then with her inherent self-irony that her field terrain observations proved that she had described everything correctly in her small book.
Australia was one of few lucky exceptions in Glazovskaya’s acquaintance with foreign soils; nevertheless, problems of global soil geography attracted her attention. This was the time of the triumphant progress of zonal ideas in soil geography and soil classification; however, few attempts were made from time to time to revise them and to produce alternative hypotheses. In 1966, Glazovskaya published a paper on general regularities of global soil geography with a strong criticism of the zonal concept. Glazovskaya outlined her ideas concerning the regularities of the distribution of soils on the earth based on the assessment of soil properties and soil processes, as well as on the types of soil-geochemistry interactions. These ideas, as well as the grouping of world soils proposed by her, were realized in her two-volume work Soils of the World (1972-73 in Russian, 1983-84 in English). A clearly unique place in soil geography belongs to the Soil Map of the World (1:15 M Scale) compiled by Glazovskaya and supplemented by V.M. Fridland’s insert map of genetic–geometric forms of the soil cover patterns (1982). Unlike its predecessors, this map has no zonal concept, and it is the implementation of Glazovskaya’s idea of the objective cartographic expression of regularities governing the distribution of soils in the world.

Along with the global soil geography and cartography M.A.Glazovskaya got distinguished scientific results in many branches of pedology and biogeochemistry – initial stages of weathering, pedolithogenesis and continental carbon cycles, technopedogenesis, regional studies in soil geography and geochemistry of landscapes.
Professor Glazovskaya was a brilliant lecturer and a supervisor of many PhD theses and several habilitations. With her energy, bright talent and very kind attitude to people, she inspired many students for a soil science and biogeochemistry.
Soil scientists, geographers and biogeochemists in Russia and all over the world will remember Maria Glazovskaya as an outstanding scientist, patriot of Russian soil science, kind and modest person, open to people’s problems and ready to support their scientific, educational and cultural initiatives.