Georg Wilhelm Steller

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Georg Wilhelm Steller (March 10, 1709 - November 14, 1746) was a German botanist, zoologist, physician and explorer, who worked in Russia.

Steller was born in Windsheim, near Nuremberg and studied at the University of Wittenberg. He then travelled to Russia to work at the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences, arriving in November 1734.

Steller was appointed as naturalist on Vitus Bering's Second Kamchatka Expedition, to chart the Siberian coast of the Arctic Ocean and search an eastern passage to North America. He left St Petersburg in January 1738, eventually reaching Okhotsk on the east coast in August 1740. It was here that he met Bering for the first time.

In September the expedition sailed to the Kamchatka Peninsula. Steller spent the winter in Bolsheretsk, where he helped to organize a local school. He was then appointed to join Bering on the voyage to America. The expedition landed in Alaska at Kadyak Kayak Island in July 1741, staying only long enough to take on fresh water. During this time Steller became the first European naturalist to describe a number of North American plants and animals, including a Blue Jay later named Steller's Jay.

On the return journey the expedition was shipwrecked on what later became known as Bering Island. Here Bering died, and almost half of the crew perished from scurvy. The remaining men settled in to survive the winter, the camp plagued by Arctic Foxes. During this time Steller wrote De Bestiis Marinus, describing the fauna of the island, including the Northern Fur Seal, the Sea Otter, Steller's (or Northern) Sea Lion, Steller's Sea Cow, Steller's Eider and Spectacled Cormorant. Both the Sea Cow and the Cormorant were later hunted to extinction.

In the spring the crew constructed a new vessel to return to Okhotsk. Steller spent the next two years exploring the Kamchatka peninsula. He was recalled to St Petersburg but caught a fever on the journey and died at Tyumen.

His journals did reach the Academy and were published by Peter Simon Pallas. They were used by future explorers of the North Pacific, including Captain Cook.

The standard botanical author abbreviation Steller is applied to species he described.

There is a secondary school in Anchorage, Alaska named after him: see Steller Secondary Georg Wilhelm Steller de:Georg Wilhelm Steller nn:Georg Steller zh:乔治·斯特拉


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