Eyewitnesses to the Phenomenon of Russian Cold: Robert Boyle and the Accounts of Early Travelers North


  • Maija Jansson




traveling around Russia, 17th century, Robert Boyle, Giles Fletcher, Muscovy Company, Royal Society, cold


This article examines the Russian cold as reflected in accounts of early travelers to the north. For his study of the phenomenon of cold in the early 1660s, Robert Boyle repurposed parts of Giles Fletcher’s travel account of Russia written seventy-seven years earlier. Inspired by Sir Francis Bacon’s work on heat, Boyle sought to understand the extremes of cold but found himself hampered by its absence in northern England. Consequently, he turned, among other sources, to the printed account of Ambassador Fletcher who, sailing north on a Muscovy Company ship, had kept a journal following the Instructions and Ordinances drafted for that Company by Sebastian Cabot. Boyle found verification of the accuracy of Fletcher’s eyewitness description of cold through his friends and compatriots in the Royal Society who had been to Russia. Ultimately, this is the story of the impact of England’s mid-sixteenth century navigational technology and commercial and diplomatic relations with Russia on Robert Boyle’s late seventeenth century early scientific study of cold which, according to the author’s conclusion, demonstrates how the study of the Russian north impacted the early development of natural science in England.

Author Biography

Maija Jansson

PhD, Director Emerita of the Yale Center for Parliamentary History, Yale University.

New Haven, CT 06520, USA.



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How to Cite

Jansson, M. (2022). Eyewitnesses to the Phenomenon of Russian Cold: Robert Boyle and the Accounts of Early Travelers North. Quaestio Rossica, 10(3), 1057–1083. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2022.3.716