1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Prjevalsky, Nikolai Mikhailovich
PRJEVALSKY [Przhevalsky], NIKOLAI MIKHAILOVICH (1839-1888), Russian traveller, born at Kimbory, in the government of Smolensk, on the 31st of March 1839, was descended from a noble Cossack family. He was educated at the Smolensk gymnasium, and in 1855 entered an infantry regiment as a subaltern. In November 1856 he became an officer, and four years later he entered the academy of the general staff. From 1864 to 1866 he taught geography at the military school at Warsaw, and in 1867 he was admitted to the general staff and sent to Irkutsk, where he started to explore the highlands on the banks of the Usuri, the great southern tributary of the Amur. This occupied him until 1869, when he published a book on the Usuri region, partly ethnographical in character.
Between November 1870 and September 1873, accompanied by only three men and with ridiculously small pecuniary resources, he crossed the Gobi desert, reached Peking, and, pushing westwards and south-westwards, explored the Ordos and the Ala-shan, as well as the upper part of the Yangtsze-kiang. He also penetrated into Tibet, reaching the banks of the Di Chu river. By this remarkable journey he proved that, for resolute and enduring men, travelling in the central Asian plateaus was easier than had been supposed. The Russian Geographical Society presented him with the great Constantine medal, and from all parts of Europe he received medals and honorary diplomas. The work in which he embodied his researches was immediately translated into all civilized languages, the English version, Mongolia, the Tangut Country, and the Solitudes of Northern Tibet (1876), being edited by Sir Henry Yule. On his second journey in 1877, while endeavouring to reach Lhasa through east Turkestan, he re-discovered the great lake Lop-nor (q.v.), which had not been visited by any European since Marco Polo. On his third expedition in 1879-1880 he penetrated, by Hami, the Tsai-dam and the great valley of the Tibetan river Kara-su, to Napchu, 170 m. from Lhasa, when he was turned back by order of the Dalai Lama. In 1883-1885 he undertook a fourth journey of exploration in the wild mountain regions between Mongolia and Tibet. On these four expeditions he made collections of plants and animals of inestimable value, including nearly twenty thousand zoological and sixteen thousand botanical specimens. Among other remarkable discoveries were those of the wild camel, ancestor of the domesticated species, and of the early type of horse, now known by his name (Equus prjewalskii). Prjevalsky's account of this second journey, From Kulja, across the Tian-Shan, to Lop-nor, was translated into English in 1879. In September 1888 he started on a fifth expedition, intending to reach Lhasa, but on the 1st of November he died at Karakol on Lake Issyk-kul. A monument was erected to his memory on the shores of the lake, and the Russian government changed the name of the town of Karakol to Przhevalsk (q.v.) in his honour.