ISRIC's ‘Glinka collection’ of remarkable historical value

The Russian soil scientist Konstantin Glinka with a Chernozem profile he collected
The World Soil Museum houses 90-year-old soil samples of remarkable historical value. They were collected under the supervision of one the most famous soil scientists in the world: the Russian professor Konstantin D. Glinka. The story of this ‘Glinka collection’ has now been unravelled by ISRIC’s guest researcher Cristine Muggler, professor at the Universidade Federal de Vicosa in Brazil. The story, as well as some of the ‘Glinka soil samples’, can be found at the Museum. Konstantin Glinka, born in 1867, was a student of Vasily Dokuchaev who is regarded as the founding father of soil science. Glinka made a great contribution to the dissemination of Russian soil science because he could speak English and German. His excellent knowledge about the different soil types in the former Soviet Union and his language skills contributed to the popularity of this director of the Leningrad Agricultural Institute among the international soil scientific community. It came as no surprise when, in 1927, he was invited to send samples of different Russian soils to the first congress of the newly founded International Soil Science Society in Washington. Glinka’s group collected more than fifty soil profiles and, after a long trip by rail and ship, they arrived. Unfortunately it was too late: the congress had already finished. So the samples went into storage at the US Conservation service where they remained untouched for years.. Thirty years ago, these historical boxes were shipped from Washington to Wageningen to become part of the World Soil Museum. In the 1990s ISRIC developed a project to revisit the sites where Glinka’s students had worked and to collect new samples. In fact, ISRIC is still extending its Russian acquisitions. The collection as a whole provides information on how Russian soils have changed over the last century as a result of pollution from heavy metals, radionuclides, acid rain and fertilizers ‘The Glinka memorial collection is a fine example of the “soil treasures” maintained by ISRIC’, concludes Cristine Muggler. That is why she carefully documented the origin and value of the collection.