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A grandson of Anna Kern, Pushkin's celebrated mistress, Shokalsky graduated from the Naval Academy in 1880 and made a career in the Imperial Russian Navy, helping establish the Sevastopol Marine Observatory and rising to the rank of Lieutenant-General in 1912. At the same time, he developed interest in limnology and meteorology and became the most prolific Russian author on the subjects. In the Marine Miscellanies alone, he published some 300 articles.
Shokalsky's most important monograph was Oceanography (1917), a collection of his lectures which examined connection between meteorology and hydrology and emphasized the importance of monitoring marine phenomena in order to understand global changes of climate. Shokalsky insisted on differentiating oceanography and hydrography and coined the term "World Ocean".
In 1904, Shokalsky was elected into the Royal Geographical Society. Ten years later, he was put in charge of the Russian Geographical Society and retained the post until 1931. His name is given to the Shokalsky Strait connecting the Laptev Sea and the Kara Sea, to the large Shokalsky Island in the Kara Sea, and to the ship Akademik Shokalskiy.
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