Global Soil Partnership

Celebrating the 175th anniversary of Vasily Dokuchaev, the father of soil science

Born in Russia on 1st March 1846, Vasily Vasilyevich Dokuchaev is a very well-known figure to all soil scientists worldwide. 


As a Professor of Mineralogy and Geology at the St. Petersburg University, his work laid the scientific basis of soil science as a biological science. Indeed, he was the first scientist to consider soil as a living system having its own genesis and own history of development.

He introduced the idea that geographical variations in soil type could be explained in relation not only to geological factors (parent material), but also to climatic, biological and topographic factors, and the time available for pedogenesis to operate. Using these ideas as a basis, he created the first genetic soil classification. He also proved that living organisms form an integral part of the soil and discovered the basic laws of the origin and geographical distribution of soils.

Before starting his scientific career, Dokuchaev shortly enrolled at the St Petersburg Theological Academy and successively joined the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of the Imperial St Petersburg University, where he took lectures on dynamic geology and petrography. A few years later, Vasily Dokuchaev became head of the department of mineralogy and crystallography at the St. Petersburg University.

During the summer months from 1877 to 1881, Dokuchaev travelled over the chernozem zone of European Russia. The knowledge he gathered during these expeditions evolved into his doctoral thesis entitled "The Russian Chernozem", his most famous work, where he developed a classification scheme describing the five factors of soil formation. Vasily Dokuchaev also engaged in the development of agricultural education in Russia under the Ministry of Public Education and the Department of Agriculture.


Dokuchaev regularly raised the issue of the need for a soil science museum in Russia, but this dream came true only after his death. The official opening was held on 6 of November 1904, and the museum was named after him. The exhibition was based on a collection of soil samples and monoliths collected by Vasily Dokuchaev and his students during expeditions.

The museum still exists until today, and is known as the Central Soil Museum of Soil by V.V. Dokuchaev.

Discover more about Dokuchaev’s life!