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On 12 July, the Royal Geographical Society hosted the launch of 'Thomas, Lucy and Alatau: the Atkinsons' Adventures in Siberia and the Kazakh Steppe'. The book is the biographical account of Thomas Witlam Atkinson (1799-1861), an English architect, artist and ethnographer, who travelled through Siberia and Kazakhstan for several years in the 19th century.
The launch was attended by the management and fellows of the Royal Geographical Society and representatives from the UK's business and academic community. Guests included the descendants of the English travelers – Steve Brown and Pippa Smith.
Mr Erlan Idrissov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the UK, who delivered the event's welcoming remarks, stressed the important contribution made by Thomas and Lucy Atkinson to the study of the history and culture of the Kazakh people of the 19th century.
“Numerous diaries and paintings of the British travelers describe the lives and traditions of our ancestors and reveal the images of the pristine natural beauty of the Great Steppe", Ambassador Idrissov told the audience. The Ambassador also noted that the Atkinsons became a cultural bridge connecting the peoples of Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom.
Introducing his new book, writer John Stewart noted that the biographical account details the life of Thomas Atkinson and his creative works. The book places a special emphasis on the journey of the Atkinsons in the territory of modern Kazakhstan. In his book, Mr. Stewart describes in detail the events that took place as the British travelers made their way along the route.
Pippa Smith, the great-great-great granddaughter of Thomas Atkinson, speaking on behalf of the descendants of the famous British researcher, noted the growing interest in her ancestor both from British researchers and from their Kazakh counterparts. She thanked John Stewart for the new book and expressed her gratitude to Kazakhstan for bringing attention to the life and works of Thomas Atkinson.
As part of the presentation, guests learned about the creative achievements of the British researcher. They were presented with books and diaries of Thomas Atkinson, his paintings, maps of the areas to which he traveled, along with various archival documents.
Alongside the launch event, the Royal Geographical Society hosted a photo exhibition entitled 'The Undiscovered Kazakhstan', presented by the Fund of the First President of Kazakhstan. Guests of the event had an opportunity to view the unique natural beauty of Kazakhstan and architectural sketches of the capital Astana.
Note to editors
Thomas and Lucy Atkinson were well-known 19th century British researchers, who travelled through Siberia and Central Asia. They witnessed many important historical events that took place in the mid-19th century in Kazakhstan. The diaries, letters and paintings of Thomas Atkinson are regarded as unique historical documents about the political and social system of Kazakh society of the 19th century.
John Massey Stewart is a British writer, photographer and traveler who has authored several historical and ecological works.