Mikhail Mikhailovich Gerasimov. September 2 (15), 1907 – July 21, 1970. Soviet anthropologist, archaeologist, and sculptor, doctor of Historical Sciences. The author of the technique for restoring the external appearance of a person based on their skeletal remains – the so-called “Gerasimov’s method”.
Life and Work:
1. Have you seen the face of Ivan the Terrible? Not how Repin depicted him at the moment of killing his son, but his actual face? How could you? In those days, the painting technique did not allow to achieve portrait similarity. Until the middle of the last century, it was believed that it was possible to recreate a generalized type, but not a portrait of a particular person. The anthropologist Gerasimov proved the opposite.
2. Mikhail Gerasimov was born in the Silver Age, in 1907, in St. Petersburg, but spent his childhood in Irkutsk – his father, a doctor, went to Siberia to treat the settlers.
3. In early childhood, Mikhail Gerasimov got interested in archeology: as a nine-year-old boy, he frequented the excavation site near Irkutsk – a prehistoric settlement had been found there.
4. His father had an extensive library, and Mikhail was fascinated by the works by Georges Cuvier and his experiments on reconstructing the appearance of extinct animals.
5. From the age of 13, Gerasimov’s favorite hobby was visiting the anatomical museum. At the age of 18, he published his first scientific article about the excavation of the Paleolithic site. And three years later, Gerasimov, an employee of the local history museum, discovered the world-famous Mal’ta, a 20,000-year-old settlement.
6. That was when Gerasimov started trying to reconstruct the face based on the skull. “The idea of being able to restore the appearance of ancient man arose in my mind a very long time ago,” Gerasimov wrote later, “... In parallel with my archaeological work, I studied anthropological material, dissected heads, measuring the thickness of the muscle cover... It was a long time before I ventured to offer my work to the anthropologists.”
7. Now Mikhail Mikhailovich Gerasimov is considered the author of the plastic portrait reconstruction method. Due to Gerasimov, we can study the appearance of not only the terrible tsar of all Russia, but also of Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons, Yaroslav the Wise, Andrei Bogolyubsky, Admiral Ushakov, Ulugbek, Friedrich Schiller, Tamerlane. etc.
8. There is an interesting story about Gerasimov and Tamerlane Iron Timur-Tamerlane, the vanquisher of the Golden Horde, the destroyer of countries and the bane of peoples, was buried in the Gur-e-Amir mausoleum in Samarkand. For many centuries, the legend was passed down from generation to generation in the East that the opening of the tomb of the commander Timur would awaken his spirit and entail a great war. In early February 1941, Gerasimov did not fear the myth and started to excavate the tomb. It is hard to believe, but he reached Tamerlane’s resting place on the night of June 22.
9. Mikhail Mikhailovich dreamed of making a portrait of Ivan the Terrible for many years. He asked Stalin, but he said that it was not the time – the war was raging on. And after “Father of Peoples” died in the Kremlin, they started building the Palace of Congresses and disrupted the water regime of the Kremlin Hill. Reinforcing the Archangel Cathedral was required, and the scientist was allowed to open Ivan the Terrible’s tomb along the way. The sculpture shows a characteristic bloatedness: Gerasimov found that the deceased tsar had edema.
10. In addition to historical figures, Mikhail Gerasimov restored the appearance of a late Neanderthal from the grotto of La Chapelle-aux-Saints in France and Cro-Magnons from the Sungir site near Vladimir.
11. Once Mikhail Gerasimov was asked how he could tell a male skull from a female one at a glance. “It is obvious,” replied the cheerful and witty wise man. “The females are just more beautiful.”