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Nikolay Boev

Nikolay Krumov Boev was born on 8 May 1922 in Aytos, Bourgas District. His father, Krum Boev, was a book merchant and his mother, Zlatka Georgieva Boeva, a teacher in French and Russian. One of his grandfathers, Nikola Boev, was a volunteer who participated in the Battle of Stara Zagora, and the other — the voivoda Diko Dzhelebov, was a Bulgarian revolutioner, the leader of the Inner Macedonian-Odrin Revolutionary Organization, the first flagsman of the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising. The family had three children — Nikolay had a brother and sister.

He graduated (primary and lower secondary school) in Aytos. As a pupil he was very interested in the animals. At that time he made his first systematic observations on the birds in Aytos and collected a large collection of insects. He obtained his high school education in 1941 in Varna. In the high school and later at the University of Sofia his main attraction is zoology and, in particular, the birds. His first article, ‘Cursed Birds’, published (1941) in the prestigious Bulgarian journal ‘Nature’ as a pupil at the age of 18. There also comes his second article (1944).

As a soldier in 1941—1943 in Shumen he collected fossils on the Shumen Plateau and read a number of works of Italian, French, German, Russian and English natural scientists. While in the army, he was briefly sent from Shumen in Sofia for a short time. He spent his holidays in the Royal Natural History Museum, where almost every Saturday and Sunday he tried to identify birds and mammals stored in the showcases using his books. There he met personally with Tsar Boris III, a prominent bird connoisseur. As a soldier, Nikolay Boev was in intense correspondence with one of the world’s leading ornithologists at the time — the Italian Edgardo Moltoni, who sent him all his scientific publications. After 1944, the contacts of N. Boev and E. Moltoni were no longer possible, and the dreams to continue his education in Italy were broken forever.

In 1943 he began his studies of natural history at the Faculty of Natural and Mathematical Sciences of the Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski (1943—1947). For this period, he writes: ‘… But the bombings started and we barely finished the first semester. For the entire second semester we were disbanded. During that time, I wrote an extensive letter to Pavel Patev (then Director of the Sofia Zoo and our only ornithologist) to send him a list of 30 species of birds, new for our fauna, according to the literature and my inquiry of birds in the museum (as a soldier).’. In his extensive letter of answer, P. Patev confirms his inquiries regarding the composition of our birds and thanks him for some new data that he had missed. Later, Patev included in his monograph ‘Birds in Bulgaria’ (1950) the data from his ‘List of 30 new bird species for our country’, which was Boev’s first serious scientific contribution in the study of the Bulgarian ornithofauna.

With P. Patev Nikolay was only introduced personally in 1945 as a second-year student. Later, he attracted him to assist him with arranging the ornithological collections. Boev is a volunteer associate of the Bulgarian Ornithological Centre at the Royal Natural History Museum in Sofia. As a student in the second course, Dr Ivan Buresch offered him to arrange the ornithological collections in the museum after the bombing in March 1944. And later as a laboratory technician, N. Boev voluntarily helped to organise the collections of vertebrates (especially birds). Initially, this was done under the leadership of Dr Ivan Buresh and Pavel Patev, whom he called ‘my teacher’.

The heavily damaged collections after air bombing needed restoration, cleaning and arrangement, which Boev did with zest and interest. This activity coincided with the complete renovation of the museum, organised and conducted by Dr Krastyu Tuleshkov and later completed by Dr Neno Atanasov. Because of the general political considerations after 9 September 1944 for Nikolay Boev started difficult years. Almost all of his professors, the prominent naturalists (Prof. Georgi Paspalev, Prof. Nikolay Stoyanov, Prof. Daki Yordanov, Assoc. Prof. Pencho Drenski, Assoc. Prof. Alexander Valkanov, Prof. Petar Bakalov), are delighted with Nikolay’s knowledge. His ability to draw was also appreciated by P. Patev, who offered him to draw the drawings in his monograph for the Bulgarian birds. As a student he prints 20 science-popular articles and by the age of 25 he had more than 40 articles in a dozen magazines and newspapers in Sofia.

In his letter Prof. Al. Valkanov, director of the Black Sea Biological Station (present-day Varna Aquarium), writes to Academician Iv. Buresh: ‘Nikolay Boev is one of the best and most reliable naturalists who have passed through the past twenty-five years at our university.’ Regarding his knowledge, I place him without hesitation in the line of our few fully-formed zoologists, a foundation that elevates it particularly high in my eyes and represents a surest pledge for its success and advances in science is its crystal clear love for science.’ In the beginning of June 1947 N. Boev graduated from the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. He was graduated in 1949.

On August 1, 1947 he was appointed as a laboratory technician at the Natural History Museum BAS of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) (now National Museum of Natural History) and as of 1 June 1949 as an assistant in the Zoo at BAS. Since 1 March 1950, he has been appointed a junior researcher at the Zoological Institute with a museum at BAS, but after November 31, 1951, he is transferred to the zoo again. In 1963 he returned to work at the Zoological Institute with a museum where he worked until 1969.

As a laboratory technician in the museum, Nikolay Boev sorts the scattered and damaged by bombs collection of birds, eggs and nests and helps Dr Neno Atanassov to arrange the collections of mammals, Dr Buresh — for reptiles and amphibians, and Assoc. Prof. Drenski — for the fish. He also provides support for and the provision of the necessary scientific literature on zoology for the institute’s library.

Since the first years of his scientific career, N. Boev is a zealous defender of nature. He became a member of the Union for the Protection of the Nature and drew his emblem — the profile image of a bearded vulture, which later became a symbol of Bulgarian nature conservation. Since May 1951 N. Boev is Secretary of the Union for the Protection of Nature, chaired by Dr Kiril Rizov. He later joined the Committee on Nature Protection at BAS until his transformation in 1967. He took part in the work of the Committee on Nature Conservation. The active popularisation of nature conservation ideas makes it one of the most prominent promoters of our natural science and nature conservation knowledge.

His 12-year activity at the Sofia Zoo at BAS is of utmost importance for the zoo that is too impoverished in species and specimens, after the war. N. Boev is also a consultant for the projects and designer of the zoos in Haskovo, Dimitrovgrad, Blagoevgrad, Gabrovo, Varna, etc., as well as to the new Sofia Zoo, from which only the first stage has been realised.

As a young specialist at BAS, he takes over the Bulgarian Ornithological Centre, he is responsible for the management of Mandra Lake, today Mandra Dam. During these years, he used the opportunity to get acquainted with the activity and structure of zoos in the capitals of most European countries. All this makes him one of the best specialists in the zoo management in Bulgaria.

The most fruitful period for Nikolay Boev as a field ornithologist is the decade 1955—1965, when he reported 4 new species (except for the 30 species of birds reported in 1944 by P. Patev) for the Bulgarian ornithofauna — European shag, Black-legged kittiwake, Slender-billed gull, Red-necked phalarope, studying with colleagues the composition and distribution of the birds in Thrace, published many new data on a number of poorly known species in the country and printed (1962) the most complete bird fauna in Bulgaria, on the base of many personal observations and illustrated by him with black-and-white line drawings.

In 1963 Boev was invited and for 5 years he read lectures on zoogeography and a special course in ornithology at the Faculty of Biology at Sofia University. Most actively, Boev participates in the preparation of the new Nature Protection Act and its Implementation Rules. Also at that time (1963—1965) as a curator in the museum, he prepared a plan for a ‘Gradual Modern Reorganisation’, introduced a new type of exposure to biogroups and ‘small model dioramas’, conducted inventory and significantly contributed to enriching museum collections with new preparations. His work on the compilation of the ‘Bulgarian Dictionary of Zoology’, which was intended to serve as the basis for the elaboration of the Bulgarian zoological nomenclature, has not yet been established. By 1968, he has collected over 2000 Bulgarian folk names of birds (average of 6 names/ species) and many more for the other animals. Like his work on the disappearance of the beaver in Bulgaria, Boev was almost ready to publish his work for the Aurochs and the Fallow deer in 1968. However, they remain unpublished.

On 13 December 1967, after his participating in a competition, N. Boev was appointed senior scientific associate in the Committee on Nature Protection at BAS, with Prof. G. Paspalev, Chairperson, where he was her Scientific Secretary. Latter, he became the head of the Department of ‘Protected Natural Areas and Protected Genetic Fund’ in the replaced Scientific Coordination Centre for Conservation and Reproduction of the Environment (SCCCRE) at BAS. At that time he was also a member of the scientific councils at the publishing houses ‘Science and Art’, ‘Zemizdat’ and ‘Varna’, in which he managed to offer for printing in Bulgaria dozens of useful and interesting popular books on the natural science and nature protection of famous foreign authors Such as Jean Dorst, Bernhard Grzimek, Joy Adamson, Maxim Zverev, Gerald Durrell, Boris Strelnikov, Nikolaas Tinbergen, Julius Komarek, Rachel Carlson, Jane Goodall, Evgeniy Spangenberg, etc. He knew most of them personally and was in excellent friendly and collegial relationship with them.

Boev also dreams of building of an Institute of Ecology and Nature Protection, similar to the analogous institutes in a number of Eastern European countries. He believes that SCCCRE could become a scientific institution at BAS. It prepares a concept and detailed plans with which it proposes its construction to the governors of the BAS higher state institutions. Unfortunately, this idea, though briefly, was realised only after his death. Subsequently, the Institute of Ecology at BAS was transformed into the Central Laboratory of General Ecology at BASs and in 2010 lost its autonomy.

In the period 1973—1976, N. Boev is again invited as a lecturer at the Faculty of Biology of Sofia University — this time on the ‘Fundamentals of the Protection of the Natural Environment’. In 1979—1981 he was often sent to a mission to Kotel, where he worked as a scientific consultant in the construction of the exhibition of the new Natural History Museum. At the same time, he worked (1979—1980) and in his part (for 16 species of birds) of the Red Book of the Republic of Bulgaria. In 1981, he plans to publish the books ‘Acclimatisation of wild mammals and birds’ and ‘Animals and toponymy’. He was planning to issue a second revised and supplemented edition of the ‘Fauna of Bulgaria — a Short Guide’ (part on the birds), and many others… Unfortunately, Boev fails to print these interesting works. He retired in 1984. He died on November 12, 1985, working on the proofs of his last book, ‘Ornamental Birds’.

His scientific heritage consists of 50 scientific papers, 4 textbooks, 29 popular books, and over 650 popular and publicistic articles. Among his most important works are those on the beaver, European shag, Steppe polecat, Collared dove, Black stork, on the birds of Thrace, the part about the birds in the ‘Fauna of Bulgaria — a short guide’, etc. Some of his scientifically popular books have been translated into foreign languages and issued several times in Germany, Turkey and Czechoslovakia. The most significant of his popular books, however, ‘Decorative Birds,’ comes out posthumously. Three years later (1988) the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds was created (on his idea).

N. Boev was the initiator of the first edition of the Red Book of the Republic of Bulgaria in 2 volumes, a co-author and one of its chief editors. He also authored more than 120 articles on birds in the 5-volume ‘Short Bulgarian Encyclopaedia’ (1963—1969) and articles on the animal world in the Encyclopaedia AZ (1974), published by the BAS, some of which are illustrated personally by him. As one of the most prominent promoters of natural science, Nikolay Boev was a member of the editorial boards of the magazines ‘Hunting and Fishing’, ‘Bodra Smyana’, ‘Nature Protection’, ‘Science and Technique for Youth’, ‘Tourist’, ‘Resorts’, ‘Our Country’, ‘Nature and Knowledge’, ‘Cosmos’, the tourist newspaper ‘Echo’ and the newspapers ‘Evening News’ and ‘Septemvriyche’.

With his scientific work and his huge contributions to the promotion of nature protection, Nikolay Boev is considered the founder of modern nature conservation in Bulgaria. For him the authoritative British ornithological magazine ‘The Ibis’ writes: ‘[Boev] is the father of modern ornithology and nature conservation in Bulgaria. It was a privilege to know him.’ Eighth of May (his birth date) is included in Bulgaria’s Nature Calendar.

Most recent publications

Боев, Н., 2002. Портрет на пъдпъдъка. — Лов и риболов, 8: 2—3.

Боев, Н., 1997. Вълкът (Canis lupus L., 1758) във вярванията, фолклора и бита на българина. — Historia naturalis bulgarica, 8: 51—68. [PDF]

Боев, Н., 1997. Вълкът (Canis lupus L., 1758) в България за 100 години (1878—1978). — Historia naturalis bulgarica, 8: 35—49. [PDF]

Боев, Н., 1996. Зимни сватби. Старите броеве разказват. — Лов и риболов, 1: 20—23. [PDF]

Боев, Н., 1992. Вълк. — Тетрадка. Български език за 3 клас. Просвета. С. [PDF]

Боев, Н., 1989. Богатствата на България. — в. АБВ, бр. 3/01.1989: 4.

Боев, Н., 1988. Предговор. — В: Маждракова, И., В. Нощев. 1988. Народни паркове в България. Земиздат, С., 5—7. [PDF]

Боев, Н., 1988. Изчезналите и редки наши бозайници. — В: Опазване и обогатяване на горите и генетичния фонд. С., Земиздат, 89—97. [PDF]

Боев, Н., 1988. Актуални проблеми по опазване на птиците в България. — В: Опазване на горите и генетичния фонд. С., Земиздат, 98—103. [PDF]

Боев, Н., 1987. За авторката. — В: Карсън, Р. 1987. Смълчана пролет, С. Земиздат, 233—234. [PDF]

More complete list of publications — section e-Natura | Staff publications