VINCAS BŪDA and ALGIMANTAS JAKIMAVIČIUS
Nature Research Centre, Vilnius (Lithuania)
Jurgis Elisonas (1889–1946): Fosterer of Lithuanian Natural and Educational Sciences and Culture
This year we celebrate the 130th birth anniversary of Jurgis Elisonas (1889–1946), a prominent teacher, zoologist, ethnographer and public figure in Lithuania.
In 1919–1944, Elisonas worked as a teacher at the Panevėžys and Kėdainiai gymnasiums, delivered lectures at the Panevėžys Teachers Seminary and Academy of Agriculture, lectured at the University of Lithuania, and prepared textbooks. His main textbooks include: Zoology of Vertebrate Animals (1920), Textbook of Zoology for Vocational Schools (1925), Mammals of Our Country (3 parts, 1932), Dictionary of Systematic Zoology (1920), Zoology for Secondary Schools (1938) and others (all in Lithuanian). In 1925, Elisonas was awarded the academic title of Docent (Associate Professor) at the Lithuanian University in Kaunas.
Elisonas wrote over 200 articles on zoology and biology (including ornithology, entomology and parasitology). He collected bibliographical materials on forestry, bee-keeping, veterinary, fishery, and animal folklore. Elisonas left a large collection of zoological manuscripts, such as dictionaries of anatomical terms, zoology, vertebrate animals and comparative anatomy and fishing (all in Lithuanian), which are now stored at the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences (F–95).
Elisonas was born on 4 August 1889 in Aukštadvaris, presently Kupiškis district. His family history is interesting. His grandfather was of Swedish descent and lived in tsarist Russia. His father was born in Latvia, then moved to Lithuania and married there. Elisonas was a big patriot, undoubtedly the influence of his mother Elžbieta Vyšniauskaitė, whose grandfather Mykolas Vyšniauskas participated in the 1863 Uprising of Poland and Lithuania against Russian rule. After graduating from the Saint Petersburg University in 1915–1917, Elisonas served in the tsarist army. In 1918–1919, he volunteered for the Lithuanian armed forces. Elisonas took an active part in the Lithuanian national movement. He received a number of awards.
In 1944, he attempted to escape from the USSR by a small boat to Sweden, but was caught by the Germans and taken into custody in Riga (Latvia) prison. After his release, he moved to Germany and died in Wiesbaden on 4 January 1946. He is buried there.
Jurgis Elisonas’s contributions to science have not yet been fully assessed.