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Gerhard Friedrich Mueller: Encyclopedia Arctica 15: Biographies
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Gerhard Friedrich Mueller

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(Felizia Seyd)


Gerhard Friedrich Mueller (1705-1783), German linguist and historian and
member of the Academy Section of Bering's Second Kamchatka Expedition (Great
Northern Expedition 1734-43), was born October 18, 1705, at Herford, Westphalia.
He was graduated from the University of Leipzig in 1724, and in the winter of
1725 went to St. Petersburg to trach Latin and geography to students of the newly
founded Imperial Academy of Sciences. His erudition and capacity for work brought
him quickly into prominence, and almost from the start resulted in his active
participation in the affairs of the Academy. He also became editor of a news–
paper, the St. Petersburg News . In 1730-31, he went to Germany, Holland, and
England in search of promising young scientists for the Academy, and, while in
London, was elected a member of the Royal Society. On his return to St. Peters–
burg he was made a regular professor, and in 1732, he published Volume One of his
Sammlung Russischer Geschichte (9 vol., 1732-65), the first publication of its
kind to acquaint foreigners with Russian history. In 1733, Mueller left for
Siberia as a member of Bering's Second Kamchatka Expedition, scheduled to survey
and map all of northern Asiatic Russia and adjacent parts on the American coast.
All the Siberian archives were to be searched, and all the native races and tribes
were to be described. Mueller, as head of the Academy Section of the expedition,
was in charge of historical, geographic, linguistic, and ethnographical research.
Mueller spent nearly ten years in Siberia, covering large parts of the Irtysh,
Ob, and Lena regions as well as portions of Transbaikalia and of the Russian-

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EA-Biography. Seyd: Gerhard Friedrich Mueller

Manchurian broder. Long sojourns were made in the cities Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk,
Yeniseisk and Yakutsk, and others, an an immense collection of documents was
accumulated. While in Yakutsk, Mueller found the reports Dezhnev had written
to the Voyevoda I, Akinfiev in 1655, which established beyond doubt that Dezhnev
had rounded the northeast extremity of Asia in 1648. Mueller also discovered
the Siberian Annals of S. Remezov, Siberian cartographer, and his Siberian map
of 1697.
In 1748, Mueller became a Russian subject and, appointed historiographer
of the Academy, began work on a history of Siberia, Description of the Siberian
, the first volume of which appeared in 1750. That same year, however,
he suffered a temporary demotuon to adjunct and a reduction in salary from 1,000
to 360 rubles a year, due, apparently, to an attack upon him by the Academicians
M. Lomonosov, St. Krasheninnikov, and F. Popov, who had denounced an address of
his, Origin of the Russian People and their Name , as derogatory to Russia. The
speech, although already in print, was destroyed, but later appeared in Volume IV
of the Allgemeine Historische Bibliothek under the title of Origines Rossicae .
Mueller, meanwhile, continued work on his Siberian history but was slow in
producing a second volume, although excerpts of it appeared in the Sammlung Russi–
scher Geschichte.
The delay caused another "incident" in Mueller's career, that
is, the Academy entrusted the continuation of the work to Academician J. E. Fischer,
whose Sibirische Geschichte finally appeared in 1768. It gained considerable
credit for its author but has since proved to be merely a summarized version, if
not a complete plagiarism of Mueller's original work.
From 1755 to 1765, Mueller was editor of the Academy's first popular publica–
tion, called Monthly Issues for Edification and Enjoyment (in Russian), which con–
tained a number of articles on Siberia, preparing between times Volume III of his

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EA-Biography. Seyd: Gerhard Friedrich Mueller

Sammlung Russischer Geschichte , dealing with a series of Russian sea voyages,
including Bering's expedition to America. (See: Bibliography .) He also supplied
Voltaire with extensive data for the latter's Histoire de l'Empire de Russie sous
Pierre le Grand
After the mid-sixties, Mueller spent several years in Moscow, Appointed
chief supervisor of the Moscow House of Education in 1765, and head of the Moscow
Archives of the Foreign Affairs College (Ministry) in 1766, he superintended the
publication of numerous geographical and historical works, including Polunin's
Geographical Dictionary and Krashininnikov's History of Kamchatka , and compiled
a Collection of Russian diplomatic Documents . He died in St. Petersburg October
11, 1783. Paralyzed during the last ten years of his life, he nevertheless re–
mained mentally active until the day of his death, at work to the last on his
innumerable projects, including a history of the reign of Peter the Great.
By all accounts, Mueller was difficult to get along with, uncontrolled in
his temper, and inconsiderate in his dealings with others. However, his achieve–
ments in the field of history cannot be contested. Probably few men of his time
were equal to him in learning and capacity for work, linked to which was an extra–
ordinary sense of detail. Known primarily as the author of Sammlung Russischer
, which has become a classic, he deserves equal if not greater credit
as a collector of a vast amount of vital source material, for which scholars and
institutions all over the world are grateful to him to this day. Apart from his
books and articles, all of which are extremely well documented, he left a large
manuscript dealing with the history of the Academy (published in extenso in St.
Petersburg, 1890), and 258 folders containing valuable documents for the study
of the history, ethnography, statistics, and trade of Russia and Siberia.

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EA-Biography. Seyd: Gerhard Friedrich Mueller


Mueller, G. F. "Nachrichten von Scoreisen, und zur See gemachten Entdeckungen,
die von Ruszland aus laengstden Kuesten des Eiszmeeres und
auf dem oestlichen Weltmeere gegen Japon und Amerika geschehen
sind." Sammlung Ruszischer Geschichte , Vol. 3, parts 1, 2, 4.
Academy of Sciences. St. Petersburg, 1758.

----. Voyages from Asia to America, for Completing the Discoveries
of the North West Coast of America
. To which is prefixed a
Summary of the Voyages made by the Russians on the Frozen Sea,
Im search of a Northeast Passage. Transl. from the German.
London, 1761.

----. Voyages et D e é couvertes Faites par les Russes le long des c o ô tes
de la Mer Glaciale et sur l'Oc e é an Oriental, tant vers le Japon
que vers l'Am e é rique. On y a joint l'histoire du Fleuve Amur...

Transl. from the German. Amsterdam, 1766.

----. Same in Danish. Copenhagen, 1784.

----. "Auszug aus den Reisen und Entdeckungen laenge den Kuesten des
Eismeeres und auf dem morgenlaendischen Meere, so wohl gegen
Japon als Jegen America zu." []
[] Allgemeine Historie der Reisen , vol. 20, 1771. Excerpt
from Mueller's Sammlung Russischer Geschichte , Vol. III.

----. "On the first Russian voyages and Missions to China," (in Russian),
Monthly Issues for Edification and Enjoyment . St. Petersburg,

----. "On Siberian Fairs. Monthly Issues .... 1756.

----. "History of the Amur River Countries," Monthly Issues ... 1757.

----. "Explanation of Misunderstandings between the Russian and Chinese
States." Monthly Issues ... 1757.

----. "Description of Sea Voyages across the Arctic and Eastern Oceans,
effected from the Russian side." Monthly Issues .... 1758.

Steller, G. W. "Geographic und Verfassung von Kamtschatka aus verschiedenen
schriftlichenund muendlichen Nachrichten gesammelt zu Jakuzk,
1737." Beschreibung von dem Lande Kamtschatka . St. Petersburg,

Vize, V., Semen Dezhnev. Izvestia of all the All Union Geographic Society,
Vol. 80, Issue 6. Nov.-Dec. 1948, p. 565.

Stejneger, L. Georg Wilhelm Steller . Cambridge, 1936.

Gmelin, O. Johann Georg Gmelin 1700-1755 . Muenchen, 1911.
Efron and Brokhaus Encyclopedia . St. Petersburg 1896. vol. 37.

Felizia Seyd
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