Fedor Reimers: Plant Physiology as a Lifetime Project
© Photo: Key To Baikal
January, 19

Fedor Reimers: Plant Physiology as a Lifetime Project

The Professor of Irkutsk State University, Doctor of Biological Sciences Fedor Eduardovich Reimers spent his entire life working on plant physiology. He began as a simple teacher, later becoming a Director of the Siberian Institute of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry and a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.


Fedor Reimers was born in Yekaterinoslav (nowadays known as the Ukrainian city of the Dnipro) on July 12, 1904. His childhood passed at the Ingulets railway station (nowadays known as Kryvyi Rih). His father, Eduard Fedorovich Reimers was the head of the station, and his mother, Ekaterina Andreevna, was the daughter of a titular councillor Stefanovsky. His parents considered it their duty to give their son a good education, therefore Fedor first graduated from the pedagogical college and started to work as a teacher in a rural school, then he continued his studies at the Dnepropetrovsk Institute of Public Education where he entered in 1925. There, an apprentice scientist became seriously interested in the world of plants and realized that he was most attracted not to biology in general, but to botany in particular. As a result, the next stage in the education and formation of Reimers became the Odessa Agricultural Institute where he studied the subtleties of the work of an agronomist.

After graduating from an Agricultural Institute, Fedor Reimers was sent to Poltava where he worked in his degree field, applying the acquired knowledge in the real world. At the same time, he constantly improved himself, developing new techniques and methods that enabled him to do work in a more efficient way. As a result, the young specialist was soon appointed deputy director of the Uman College of Beet Sowing. This also meant that more knowledge was required.

In 1932, Reimers became a research student at the All-Union Institute of Plant Industry in Leningrad, where he already closely engaged in plant physiology. He defended his thesis on this subject and in 1935 was sent to work at the Moscow Scientific Research Institute of Vegetable Breeding as the Head of the Laboratory of Plant Physiology. Here he worked until 1950, studying the influence of environmental factors on individual development of vegetable plants.

Before the war began, Reimers published a number of scientific papers, and in 1941 he published a generalization of his many years’ research - the work titled “Vernalization and Staged Development of Vegetable Plants”.

When the war broke out, the scientist and his family with a young son Nikolai (who later became a famous Soviet scientist, one of the initiators of the establishment of reserve management in the USSR) was evacuated to Ashkhabad where many Russian institutions and enterprises were transferred from Moscow. There Reimers studied the problems of local vegetable breeding, advised agricultural institution on seed production of gourds and vegetables. Here in Ashkhabad in 1943 he published his scientific work titled “Growing the Seeds of Gourd and Vegetable Crops under the Conditions of Turkmenistan”.

After the war, the notorious persecution of genetic scientists began. It was becoming more and more difficult to stay in Moscow, moreover to continue to do his favorite work, so Reimers and his family left for Siberia. In 1949, the East Siberian branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences was opened in Irkutsk, and Fedor Reimers was offered to head the sector of biology, which was subsequently reorganized as the Department of Biology.

Under the supervision of F.E. Reimers, the Department of Biology began conducting research on the physiology and biochemistry of plants, as well as on seed production issues in the harsh Siberian climate. As a result of research activities, the following scientific works of the scientist were published in Irkutsk: “Basic Information on the Life of Plants” and “Growing Vegetables in the Greenhouses of Eastern Siberia”.

In 1955, Fedor Eduardovich defended his doctor’s thesis. The result of his research on the physiology and biochemistry of biennial plants was the work titled “Physiology of the Growth and Development of Common Onion”.

Fedor Reimers: Plant Physiology as a Lifetime Project

The Department of Biology was actively developed, and in 1961 it received the status of an independent institute - the East-Siberian Biological Institute of the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Five years later, it was renamed as Siberian Institute of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry of SB RAS, which is widely known today. The first director of the biological institute was F.E. Reimers who actively recruited young scientists. Reimers’s students studied plant hormones, conducted research on plant cloning, produced virus-free potatoes, and much more. The Institute created a unique “Fitotron” artificial weather station for scientific experiments. In addition, the institute actively conducted geobotanical studies with the neighbors in Buryatia and Mongolia. In late 1960s, F.E. Reimers traveled to the USA to develop international cooperation, later the USA recognized his contribution to science: in 1969 he was accepted into the American Society of Plant Physiologists.

Soon, Reimers was invited to work at the Novosibirsk Department of the Institute of Forest and Timber of the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences, where he headed the Laboratory of Heterotrophic Nutrition until 1981. Then he headed the Laboratory of Physiology of Plant Ontogenesis of the Biological Institute of the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences where he worked until the end of his life in 1988.

The main scientific result of long-term observations of Reimers was his book “Plant Infancy” which was published in Novosibirsk in 1983 and subsequently reissued several times.

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