Maria Klenova

Maria Vasilyevna Klenova (1898 – 1976)

Maria Klenova was a Russian and Soviet marine geologist and one of the founders of Russian marine science. Klenova spent nearly 30 years researching the polar regions. She was the first woman scientist to do research in Antarctica and was a contributor to the first Soviet Antarctic atlas.

Early Life and Career

Maria Klenova was born in 1898 in Irkutsk, one of the largest cities in Siberia. She first studied medicine, but soon discovered her true vocation—geology.

Klenova began her marine geology career in 1925 as a researcher in the Barents Sea and the archipelagos of Novaya Zemlya, Spitsbergen, and Franz Josef Land. In 1933 she produced the first complete seabed map of the Barents Sea. During World War II, Klenova was appointed head of the Department of Marine Geology of the Hydrographic Institute and her lab produced hundreds of maps to support Soviet military operations.

Antarctic Research

In 1952, planning began for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) to be held from July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958. Over the course of the IGY thousands of scientists from 12 nations would conduct Antarctic research related to the atmosphere, the earth’s surface and the oceans. However, the USSR was the only one to include a woman in their program.

Klenova participated in the First Soviet Antarctic Expedition in 1955-57, which established Mirny station in preparation for the IGY. After leaving Mirny aboard the icebreaker Ob, Klenova led oceanographic work around the Antarctic coast and Macquarie Island. Klenova became the first female scientist to conduct research in Antarctica and her contributions helped to create the first Antarctic atlas, a groundbreaking four-volume work published in the Soviet Union.


Marian Klenova died in 1976 after a lifetime dedicated to making maps of the seabed from the North Pole to the South Pole. Several geographic features bear her name, including Klenova Peak (7546 ft/2300 m) located 7.5 miles (12 km) SW of Mount Vinson, Antarctica; an oceanographic valley north of Greenland; a seamount 280 miles (450 km) east of Brazil; and a crater on Venus.

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