The Counts Perovski

In the May 30th Economist, in a “Technology Quarterly” section, an article on work on transparent solar cells, including proposals to use

a family of crystalline materials called perovskites, which could allow semi-transparent solar cells to be made relatively cheaply in large rolls.

Ah, the minerals called perovskites, which reminded me of the garden plant called perovskia, which I grew in my Ohio garden. Turns out there are two different (and apparent unrelated) Russian counts named Perovski here, who lived and flourished at almost the exactly same time.

The mineral count. From Wikipedia:

Perovskite … is a calcium titanium oxide mineral composed of calcium titanate, with the chemical formula CaTiO3. The mineral was discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia by Gustav Rose in 1839 and is named after Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski (1792–1856).

It lends its name to the class of compounds which have the same type of crystal structure as CaTiO3 … known as the perovskite structure.

Unlike the flower, the mineral is not particularly photogenic, but here’s a chunk:


Makes sense to name a mineral after a mineralogist.

The flower count. From Wikipedia:

Perovskia atriplicifolia, Russian sage, is a flowering herbaceous perennial plant or subshrub that is native to central Asia in an area that includes Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Tibet. Despite its common name, Russian sage is not in the same genus as other Salvias, which are commonly called “sage”.

The specific epithet atriplicifolia means “with leaves like Atriplex“. [the saltbush or orach(e)]

The intense fragrance of Russian sage is similar to some of the true sages. It was a relatively unknown landscaping plant until the 1990s, despite being mentioned by well known landscape authors such as Gertrude Jekyll and Russell Page.


Perovskia (a lovely labiate plant) was named for General Vasily Alekseevich Perovski (1794-1857), a 19th century imperial Russian general and statesman. Here, a plant was named to honor a public figure of political significance.

Note the dates: 1792-1856 for the mineralogist, 1794-1857 for the general,

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