Title: ‘Extract of a letter from St Petersburg’

Creator: Alexander Crichton, later Sir Alexander Crichton (1763-1856)

Description: First page of an ‘Extract of a letter from St Petersburg’ on a meteorite and a mammoth’, addressed to William Babington.


“We have lately had two remarkable phenomena in Natural History arrise [sic] in this capital; the one a meteorological stone weighing about 92 pounds weight, the other an entire mammoth of Siberia, the white skin of which is nearly preserved. The first I have seen the second I am tomorrow. The meteorological stone is in every respect like those which Sir Joseph Banks received from Benares. The same kind of black vitrified crust, and externally the same kind of appearance with the fragments of others you have so often seen. In one part however there is a kind of metallic vein runs thro’ this stone. It is exceedingly narrow or thin, & has the appearance of Pyrites. The Minister of the Interior promised me a piece of this stone, & the procés verbal to send to England, but altho’ I have called on him at least 12 times for that purpose, I have not been able to obtain either the one or the other. The stone is deposited in the academy and therefore will now be guarded with due care.-

I cannot as yet give you any satisfactory account of the mammoth. It had been preserved since the day of its death in a bed of ice & snow but during the heat of one of the late summers, either it became exposed or part of the mountain where it had died fell down, & rolled along with it. It’s [sic] grinders I am told are not pointed like those of the American Mammoth, but are like those of the elephant, & shew that it was not carnivorous, but the great singularity is the skin which is covered with hair. It is in fact a thick & long fur some of which I have seen, & this seems to prove that it may have been a natural inhabitant of cold climates. Dr C to Dr Babington. 20th August 1807.”

Crichton, who was elected to the Society on 4 January 1811, was a Scottish physician, appointed physician-in-ordinary to Tsar Alexander, September 1804. The above letter likely references the ‘Adams’ Mammoth and the ‘Timochin’ stone.

Date: 20 August 1807

Format: Letter

Archive reference: LDGSL/1/15

Image reference: 10-10

Recommended print size: Up to 16 x 12 inches (40 x 30cm)

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