Eine ausführliche Biographie von Radde ist in deutschen Nachschlagewerken kaum hinterlegt. Nach seinem Tod erschien in  „The Geographical Journal, Vol. 21, No. 5 (May, 1903), pp. 563-565“ ein Nachruf von seinen Weggefährten Kropotkin und Freshfield, der den Schaffensweg Raddes bestens beleuchtet.

Kropotkin, P. and Freshfield, D. W., "Obituary: Dr. Gustav Radde", in: The Geographical Journal, Vol. 21, No. 5 (May, 1903), pp. 563-565

Radde, Gustav

Forschungsreisender, *27.11.1831 Danzig, †16.3.1903 Tiflis (Georgien)

Obituary: Dr. Gustav Rade

Gustav Radde was born on November 27, 1831, in Danzig, the son of a schoolmaster. As a youth he was befriended by Dr. A. Menge, and assisted by the Natural History Society of his native town to start on a scientific career. Still quite a young man – that is, in 1852-1855 – he had the good fortune to be employed in the Crimea by the old botanist Steven in collecting plants and as a draughtsman for making drawings of plants. Under the guidance of his enthusiastic master, Radde travelled on foot over most of the hilly parts of the Crimea. During that time he also made the acquaintance of a local landowner, M. Shatiloff, for whom he made a Natural History Museum, which, at a later date, was presented to the Moscow University. During these years he published several valuable articles in the Bulletin de la Société des Naturalistes de Moscou ("Versuch einer Pflanzenphysiognomik Tauriens," 1854; "Beiträge zur Ornithologie Russlands," 1854; "Thierleben am Faulen Meere," 1855), and one on the Crimean Tartars in the Journal of the Russian Geographical Society (1857). Botany, zoology, and ethnography were thus already his favourite subjects.

In 1855 began the great period of exploration of Eastern Siberia. Steven recommended Gustav Radde to the Geographical Society for this task, and in that year Radde went as a botanist and a zoologist to that country and to the newly annexed Amur region with the expedition under Ludwig Schwartz. He travelled there for four years, made the tour of the northern part of Lake Baikal, then almost unknown, observed the migrations of birds in Transbaikalia, and spent a full year in the Little Khingan, studying the fauna and the vegetation of the southern portion of the Amur. In 1858, after the expedition had terminated its work, he made an extremely interesting journey to the highlands of the Sayan (Irkut valley) and to the peak Munku-Sardyk, the only snow-clad peak on the frontier of Eastern Siberia. The collections which he brought in from Siberia were immense, and included specimens of 1760 vertebrates and about 50,000 invertebrates.

The results of these journeys are embodied in two quarto volumes of his 'Reisen im Süden Ost-Sibiriens' (I. 'Die Säugethierfauna,' 1862; II. 'Die Festlands-Ornis,' 1864), published by the Russian Geographical Society and containing the description of his extremely valuable zoological collections, and in a volume of shorter reports, entitled 'Berichte über Reisen in Süden Ost-Sibiriens,' published in vol. xxiii. of Baer und Helmersen's 'Beiträge zur Kenntniss des Russischen Reichs,' 1861. These reports are admirably written, especially in the part which deals with Radde's journeys up the valley of the Irkut and to the Munku-Sardykand the Chohondo region. His intelligent study of the method of Humboldt is perceptible in these reports, and they are the best specimens in all the modern geographical literature of Siberia of a graphic description of the whole of nature, physical and organic, including man, as it appears in these highlands. Strangely enough, these 'Reiseberichte,' which might have been such good guides for Russian travellers, have not been published in Russian, but there are Russian editions of the 'Reise.'

In 1864 Radde moved to the Caucasus, where he soon grew interested in the fauna, the vegetation, and the inhabitants of that fascinating and varied region, and founded at Tiflis a Natural History Museum, to which for the rest of his life he devoted his main activity, and which he made one of the richest and best of local museums. He was also the director of the Tiflis Public Library.

His main literary works on Caucasia were 'The Ornithological Fauna of Caucasia' (in Russian) and 'Ornis Caucasica,' which he began to issue in 1885 at Cassel, and of which he published several fascicules, and his 'Berichte über die biologisch-geographischen Untersuchungen in den Kaukasusländern' (Tiflis, 1866). He published, both in German and in Russian, a great number of separate sketches of his journeys, which appeared, in German, in Petermanns Ergänzungshefte and Mitteilungen – such as "Vier Vorträge über den Kaukasus" (Ergzh., No. 36), "Aus den Hochalpen des Daghestan" (idem., 85), "Karabagh"(idem.,100), "Das Ostufer des Pontus" (idem., 112), "Der Nordfuss des Daghestan" (idem., 117), or in separate volumes, "Khevsuria and the Khevsurs" (Cassel, 1878), 'Talysch und seine Bewohner' (Leipzig, 1885); while in Russian he published a number of smaller monographs in the Memoirs (vols. vii., viii.) and the Izvestia of the Caucasus Geographical Society (vols. ii., iv., v.), as also in the Caucasian Kalendar (Russian). He also made a journey to the Transcaspian region, described in his 'Preliminary Reports of an Expedition to the Transcaspian Region and the Khorassan,' published (in Russian) at Tifis in 1891.

In all these works Radde gives excellent and lively pictures of the lands he visited – their fauna, their flora, and their inhabitants – though less beautiful,  it must be said, than his Tunka and Munku-Sardyk pictures. He wrote also a good general article, "The Caucasus," for 'Picturesque Russia,' and a sketch of his sea voyage round Asia, 'Twenty-three thousand miles on board the Yacht Tamara.' Of his scientific work during the Transcaspian expedition, the first volume only has been published (in German), under the title of 'Wissenschaftliche Resultate der Transcaspischen Wissenschaftlichen Expedition: Band I. Zoologie.' His most important botanical work concerning the Caucasus was 'Grundzüge der Pflanzenverbreitung in den Kaukasusländern,' which constitutes the third volume of the well-known 'Vegetation der Erde,' edited by Profs. Engler and Drude. This is a very serious and most valuable work.

At the time of his death he was engaged in the publication of a work 'Die Sammlungen des Kaukasischen Museums,' of which three volumes (out of six) have appeared (Zoology, Botany, Geology).

In 1898 the Russian Geographical Society awarded to Dr. Radde its chief medal – the Constantine medal – the analysis of his work having been written by Prof. Kuznetsoff (see 'Yearly Report of the Russian Geographical Society' for 1898). He had been awarded the Patron's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1889.

Some of the preliminary reports of Radde, written almost on the spot or immediately after this or that journey in the Caucasus and elsewhere, were from time to time criticized by specialists for small mistakes which he had made here and there. They remain, nevertheless-especially the Siberian reports – models of what reports of journeys ought to be for giving a general picture of the nature of the country visited, embodying its vegetation, its fauna, and the manner of life of its human inhabitants. The writer of these lines cannot recommend any better reading for young geographers than Radde's Siberian 'Reiseberichte'; and if some day a collection of the best geographical reports be made for the use of geographical students – which would be a most desirable enterprise – Radde's reports will surely occupy in such a collection an honourable place.

P. Kropotkin


A few days ago I received from Dr. Radde a volume, with a card, "Best greetings; suffering much, but hope to finish the Geology." Before it reached me, the announcement of his death had appeared in the newspapers. For old acquaintance sake, I should like to add a few words to the notice contributed by Prince Kropotkin.

I made Dr. Radde's acquaintance at Tiflis in June, 1868. He and Dr. Abich were then the representatives of science in the Caucasian capital. Caucasia had at that time its own Court and its own administration. Dr. Radde's scientific attainments and their European recognition placed him in the end in such a position that he was selected as the companion of Grand Duke Michael Nicholavich in his yacht voyage to India and Japan, and in 1895 and 1897 he was again selected to accompany members of the Imperial family on a visit to the North African coast-lands.

Time has only strengthened the first impression Dr. Radde made on me as a youth, that of a man with an extraordinarily wide interest and power of observation in various branches of Natural Science. Specialization is no doubt a quality, but it may also be a defect in a traveller. The man who has never made a mistake in life or science has lived and worked in a very narrow groove. Dr. Radde was well fitted to be a pioneer of knowledge in new regions. He was admirably qualified for the receipt of one of the gold medals of the Royal Geographical Society, which was bestowed on him in 1889--nine years before he received the chief medal of the Russian Geographical Society. The formal statement of the grounds of our Society's grant has recently been quoted in Germany as the most complete summary of Dr. Radde's claims, and may, I think, be appropriately repeated here: –

"The Patron's Medal to Dr. G. Radde (Director of the Natural History Museum, Tiflis), for a life devoted to the promotion of Scientific Geography, as a traveller, observer, and author, and particularly for his five years' travels in Eastern Siberia (1855-60), his persistent exploration of the Caucasian chain (1864-5 and 1876-85), Mingrelia, Abkhasia, Karatchai, Daghestan, and of the Armenian Highlands, and the Caspian coast (1875-80), and his services as chief of the Transcaspian Expedition in 1886. Also for the important works in which he has recorded the result of his explorations: (1) 'Reisen in Ost-Siberian, mit Karten,' 1862-4; (2) 'Die drei langen Hochthälern Imeritiens;' (3) 'Vier Vorträge über den Kaukasas,' 1874; (4) 'Aus den Hochalpen des Daghestan,' 1886; (5) 'Die Chewsuren und ihr Land,' 1878; (6) 'Reisen um die Persisch-Russischen Gränzen,' 1885; (7) 'Vorläufiger Bericht über die Expedition nach Manchurien und Khorassan,' 1887. And particularly for the talent with which, while paying special attention to various branches of natural history, especially ethnology, ornithology, and botany, he has kept in view their relations to Geography, and has made it his main object to set out in a clear and comprehensive manner the physical characteristics of the countries he has explored, with their causes and effects (see Nos. 1, 3, and 5). And finally, for the zeal, energy, and artistic intelligence he has exhibited in the arrangement on a Geographical basis of the Natural History Museum at Tiflis." 

Douglas W. Freshfield