This article is about the Russian paleontologist. Vladimir Onufrievich Kovalevsky (August 2, 1842 – April 15, 1883) was a Russian academic and paleontologist. One of the first adopters of Charles Darwin in Russia, he is most notable for his early work on the evolution of the Hippomorpha family.
Brother of Alexander Kovalevsky.
After spending some years together as a couple, Vladimir, evidently in the middle of one of his frequent mood swings, committed suicide. His father, Onufry Osipovich Kovalevsky, was a Russianized Polish landowner and his mother, Polina Petrovna, was Russian.
He spent his entire childhood at the estate, and was tutored until the age of 16. He had a grounding in foreign languages, and during his last year at Imperial School of Jurisprudence he earned money by translating books
After graduating in 1861, he gained employment at the Department of Heraldry but asked to travel abroad for his health.
After traveling to Heidelberg, Tübingen, Paris, and Nice, he settled in London where he taught the daughter of exiled radical Alexander Herzen. This attracted the attention of the agents of the tzar. When he returned home, he published many scientific texts and, in 1866, Herzen"s "Who is to Blame" which the entire printing was burned by the order of the censors.
After his engagement to a young radical woman was broken, he met Sofia Kovalevskaya (née Korvin-Krukovskaya) and the two were "fictitiously" married September 27, 1868.
Kovalevsky edited many scientific books, and on February 27, 1867 he wrote to Charles Darwin about translating his latest book, The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication. His translation work was so fast that the Russian copy of Variation was published several months before the "original" English version.
He also translated The Descent of Manitoba, which he and Sofia had to carry through Prussian lines into besieged Paris during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, and The Expression of the Emotions in Manitoba and Animals. In his lifetime, his only original work was his thesis, On the Osteology of the Hyopotamidae, in which he "documented the most famous evolutionary story of all", the transformation of a small ancestor with many toes into the large, single toed modern horse.
He also identified the primary basis for this transformation, which was a shift in their environment from eating leaves in the woodlands and marshes to grazing grass on the open plains.