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"GOLDEN AGE OF SCIENCES..."

Дата публикации: 02 октября 2018
Автор: Lyubov MANKOVA
Публикатор: Александр Павлович Шиманский
Рубрика: ВОПРОСЫ НАУКИ
Номер публикации: №1538501390 / Жалобы? Ошибка? Выделите проблемный текст и нажмите CTRL+ENTER!


Lyubov MANKOVA, (c)

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The reign of Catherine II (1729 - 1796) whose 275th anniversary is celebrated in 2004 is indissolubly tied with the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.

Set up as a state institution, it fostered the growth and prosperity of this land being the only source of not just knowledge but culture at large.

Our learned estate takes a great deal of credit for the Empress' reign being referred to as "the Golden Age". By the same token, the monarchess made a substantial contribution to the activities of the Academy, contrary to the well- established literary tradition that during the first years of her rule she ostensibly paid little attention to the Academy of Sciences.

That opinion is refuted by her decrees, orders and deeds.

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by Lyubov MANKOVA, Cand. Sc. (PM.)

The close liaison between Catherine II and the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences dates back to her enthronement. An active role in the coup d'etat was played by the Academy President Count Razumovsky (1746 - 1798). Having taken command of the Izmail Life Guards, he gradually purged them of officers committed to Peter III, so it is there that the monarchess arrived in the morning of June 28,1762 from Peterhof (her country seat). And the President of the Academy was the first to take the oath of loyalty to the new Empress and escorted her to the Kazansky Cathedral where the former Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst was solemnly proclaimed the Empress of Russia.

Besides, on the night of coup d'etat the manifesto of the new reign and the texts of oath in the French, German, Latin, Finnish and Swedish languages were printed in the Academy printing shop. A Schloezer, an honorary foreign member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, wrote about an associate: "Taubert (academician since 1738. -L.M.) took an active part in the great deed: in the vaults of the academic house where he lived the manifesto was printed overnight to be distributed till dawn..." The manifesto itself was drafted by the Academy Secretary G. Teplov.

By the way, brought up in the spirit of great Enlighteners, Catherine II always held scholars in great esteem. As early as two months after the enthronement she became aware that the famous French Encyclopedia (35 volumes, 1751 - 1780) had been condemned by the Paris Parliament and discontinued. The Empress invited writers and Enlighteners Francois Voltaire and Denis Diderot to publish it in Riga. This gesture stirred a great sympathy for her among the European academic elite who molded the public opinion of the continent.

The great Russian scholar Academician Mikhail Lomonosov dedicated an Ode to Catherine II (1762) expressing hope that the monarchess will "herald agolden age of sciences and rid her beloved Russian folk of contempt". But the Academy itself was ravaged by chaos, arbitrariness and embezzlement. Painstaking work was required to get things straight. The monarchess got down to business in her usual manner, without publicity or fuss. On the one hand she supported prominent scientists, on the other - got rid of superfluous people.

Thus, for services in the days of the coup d'etat Taubert was promoted to state councilor and librarian to the Empress with the salary of 15 thousand rubles a year. But his reign over the Chancellery that administered the Academy was not long- Catherine would not tolerate the embezzler.

June 2,1763 saw the first during the reign of Catherine II ceremonial session of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences held in her presence. The next day the Czarina received the academicians in her palace. On July 14 the Chancellery received an imperial order to immediately have compiled by the Academy charts depicting all productions in Russia to be amended annually. The assignment was commissioned to Lomonosov. On August 11 the Empress requested different public offices to submit data required to compile land charts of Russian productions.

The same year she ordered Taubert to collect data about all officials in the state down to secretaries inclusive. It was not before December 31,1764 that she received the bluebook. In the cover letter the librarian took credit for the work and expressed hope that the Monarchess "will not choose to overslaugh him". But she endorsed laconically: "deny".

On December 20,1763 Lomonosov published "Note about Russian mineralogy in writing" asking to provide him with samples of ore from mines complete with geographical descriptions. Catherine II noted the initiative and directed the State Secretary A Olsufyev to make available to the Academician the required information kept at the Imperial Office.

On May 14, 1764 the Monarchess ordered to rig out an expedition to Spitzbergen long pressed for by Lomonosov. For scientific equipment she allocated funds enormous for those times-20 thousand rubles. The officers participating in the expedition got promotion. The next promotion was promised on reaching the destination, others were paid double salaries. In case of an expedition member's death his dependants were provided with pension. The Royal Decree was concluded with the words: "We cause State Councilor Mikhail Lomonosov to take charge of the enterprise. The enterprise shall be kept secret, and, pending our special order, not disclosed even to the Senate". On June 7 the Empress visited the great scholar at home and spent two hours inquiring about his new inventions and watching experiments. In the same year under the impression of his work "On northern way to East India via the Siberian Ocean" she rigged out an expedition to Siberia.

Lomonosov nourished the idea to compile the Russian Atlas ever since the reign of Empress Yelizaveta Petrovna (1741 - 1761/62). In 1764 he decided that "in five years a Russian atlas should be conceived and written

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to be a challenge to entire Europe..." So in September he submitted to KG. Razumovsky a plan of two geographical expeditions over Russia, but his dreams came true only a few years later due to an Older of Catherine II.

In the same 1764 she became aware of the persecution of A Schloezer, a prominent historian, statistician and student of old Russian history, and offered him her personal patronage.

And on June 5, 1766 the Monarchess demanded that Taubert submit a report of "how much money was collected in book revenues last year, what it was used for, is two thousand the guaranteed annual amount allocated for library and Kunstkammer replenishment, how many officers serve with the Academy in excess of the staffing schedule and, conversely, is there any staff shortage?". On October 5, 1766 she signed a decree reading: "Her Majesty is utterly regretful to see the Academy of Sciences in great disorder and almost complete decay. In order to promptly restore it to its former prosperity we wish to take it under our own jurisdiction to make a reform for a better and more effective administration..."

In 1766 Catherine II introduced the position of Chief Director of the Academy appointing her confidant, Count V. Orlov*. Thus, the Chancellery was liquidated, and Taubert lost his office. Next the Empress set up a commission which included Academicians a. Shtelin (connoisseur of arts and etcher, conference secretary), I. Leman (chemist and geologist), S. Kotelnikov (mathematician), S. Rumovsky (astronomer), L. and I. Euler (father and son, mathematicians and physicists). "The commission of them all is to sort out all departments in order to improve the situation".

The Empress' vast schemes required a great number of specialists, and those were in disastrously short supply. So, she would invite prominent European scientists. Thus, in 1766 the famous anatomist and physiologist K. Wolf arrived, in 1767 - the famous natural scientist and traveler P. Pallas, the astronomer and geographer G. Lowitz. Incidentally, the latter repeatedly traveled in Southern Russia observing the passage of Venus in front of the solar disk in Guriev at the Ural River. In 1771 came the remarkable teologian and writer E. Bulgaris from Corfu (Greece).

At that time, under the reign of Catherine the Great, a whole constellation of prominent Russian scientists came to the fore: the first Russian astronomer S. Rumovsky (would - be


* See: L. Mankova, "First Director of the Academy", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2002. -Ed.

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Academy Vice-President), the mathematician S. Kotelnikov, natural scientists and travelers S. Krasheninnikov, I. Lepyokhin and V. Zuev, the natural scientist and medical man N. Ozeretskovsky, P. Inokhodtsev, the chemist and physicist Ya. Zakharov, the mineralogist and chemist V. Seveigin and others. Most of them got their Academician titles under the age of 40 and about a third under 30. Their fast academic progress was fostered by their work being closely tied to practical tasks.

It should be noted that the above mentioned Russian and European scientists got the title of full members of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences under the reign of Catherine II.

And here is another significant detail: as distinct from other European Academies of Sciences formed earlier, the Russian Academy of Sciences was created not as a voluntary academic society but as a public institution pari passu with central administrative bodies-collegiums and chancelleries. It is this feature that the Empress took the maximum advantage of.

At the ceremonial session of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences on June 2, 1763 the physicist F. U. T. Epinus (academician since 1756) delivered a speech. In 1765 he, a German, was appointed a tutor to the Great Duke Pavel, the son of the Emperor Peter III and Catherine II. The latter further charged the scientist with duties of national importance. Thus, in 1780 he prepared a plan of Armed Neutrality. Its declaration protected the global interests of neutral trade damaged by hostilities at the time of the American Revolution (1775 - 1783). The union was joined by Denmark, Sweden, Prussia, Austria, Portugal, Kingdom of Two Sicilies. The Declaration principles were recognized by France, Spain and the United States of America. Later Epinus prepared a memorandum about the organization in Russia of elementary and secondary school education. His draft was accepted, and in September 1782 a commission was set up for the foundation of schools, which he joined as a member.

hi preparation for the passage of Venus in front of the sun the Empress allocated big funds for the study of the phenomenon, the construction of observatories and the acquisition of state-of-the-art instruments in England. The Academy of Sciences rigged out 5 expeditions (1768 - 1774) which made an epoch in the history of geographic science in Russia and brought it a European renown. Scientists were set a colossal task: apart from astronomic observations to conduct a comprehensive study of the vast terri-

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tory of Russia. They were to survey the landscape, soil, water and minerals; they were to find out the locations of mineral resources: salt, black coal, peat and all types of ores; they were to identify techniques of tilling steppes, various diseases, their cures and preventive measures; bee-farming, silk farming and stockbreeding. The expeditions also collected ethnographic data: morals, traditions, languages, religions and historic monuments; they were also to collect exhibits for the Kunstkammer established by Peter I in the City on the Neva in 1714. Besides, the researchers were to identify the most convenient locations of observations where new observatories were to be erected later. A great contribution to science was made by unique in accuracy position fixing of many towns and townships in the country performed by the researchers.

The five expeditions were headed by above mentioned P. Pallas and I. Lepyokhin, as well as academicians: the botanist and traveler S. Gmelin, natural scientists and medical men I. Gildenstedt and I. Falk, the latter was Director of the Botanic Garden with the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Each team included 5 or 6 students seconded for research work, a stuffer, a painter, hunters and guards.

Mlas led the expedition to the central part of the country, Lower Volga Regions, Caspian Lowlands, Middle and South Urals and later to South Siberia (Altai, Baikal and Transbaikal Region). He assembled and processed geographical, geological, botanical, zoological, ethnographic and other materials, discovered and described many new species of mammals, birds, fish, insects and other animals. The expedition results were published by the scientist in his works: "Travel Over arious Provinces of the Russian State" (parts 1 - 3, 1773 - 1788), "Russian Flora" (parts 1 - 2, 1784 - 88) and some monographs.

Also important were expeditions of the geodesist I. Islenyev (Academician since 1771) to Yakutsk and the southwestern region of the land. On the basis of his drawings maps of the Irtysh were compiled (a major Siberian river). To set up a water route between the Black, Caspian and Baltic Seas, P. Inokhodtsev and G. Lowitz in 1771 - 1774 com-

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piled charts of the lands in the watershed of Volga and Don.

In 1778 - 1779 the natural scientist, chemist and traveler Academician E. Laksman conducted physico-topographical and economical research in the basins of the Ilmen and Onega Lakes, northern areas of Valdai and Karelia and the western coast of the Ladoga Lake. In 1781 V. Zuev surveyed the territory between Bug and Dnestr annexed by Russia. In 1785 two more Academic expeditions took place. The survey project culminated in the General Chart of Russia.

In 1793 - 1794 Pallas makes new trips to the Volga Region, Northern Caucasus and Crimea, hi 1792 - 1794 Laksman initiated an overture to strike up trade relations with Japan. Next, in 1795, the mineralogist, mining engineer and statistician I. Herman (Academician since 1790) launched expeditions to Altai, in particular, the Kolyvano- Voskresensk ore mines, fields and plants, including those of Urals and Siberia, compiled their maps and charts, amassed a richest collection of ores and minerals.

Based on the data obtained in late 1700s numerous maps were published. Besides, an enormous volume of linguistic, ethnographical and statistical materials was amassed, invaluable for scientific work throughout 1800s.

Catherine II was keen on arts too. The preserved papers of Her Office Secretary G. Kozitsky suggest that back in 1767 "a few persons got together" to review "the Regulation on the Russian Dictionary". They discussed the issues of its word stock and spelling. By the Empress' decree, to elaborate the language and word use on October 21,

1783 the Russian Academy was established in St. Petersburg under the helm of her associate Princess E. Dashkova (with its irreplaceable secretary Academician I. Lepyokhin). In 1700s its membership included playwright, poets and essayists D. Fonvisin, G. Derzhavin, Ya. Knyazhnin and others, academicians S. Rumovsky, A Protasov (a medical man, writer and translator), S. Kotelnikov, etc.; in 1800s - poets P. Vyazemsky, V. Zhukovsky, I. Krylov, A. Pushkin.

It was the key objective of the Academy to purify and enrich the language, establish the common use of words, promote eloquence and poetry. That called for the creation of grammar, dictionaries, rhetoric and rules of versification. To support the project the czarina ordered annual allocation of 6,250 rubles and 1,000 silver token

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coins (80 kopecks each) to be distributed among Academy members the way it was done in France. In 1789 - 1794 the Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language was published (its second supplemented edition came out in 1806 - 1822 and included over 51,000 words).

Catherine the Great in earnest took to history and acquired a number of libraries abroad and in Russia. Among those were the libraries of Voltaire, Diderot, J. d'Alamber, mathematician, philosopher and enlightener, an honorary foreign member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences; A Busching, the founder of new geography and theologist from Berlin; books of the salesman Nikolai, Surgeon in Ordinary to the King of England I. Zimmerman, historian I. Muller, historian and writer Count M. Shcherbatov, statesman and historian Baron Korf and others, thus laying the foundation of the Hermitage library in St. Petersburg. Its collection features richest materials on arts and unique manuscripts. Thus, the archives of Diderot after his death was acquired by the Empress. Incidentally, his daughter made copies from the archives later destroyed by successors. The publication of full collected works by the great encyclopedist in 1800 became possible thanks to Catherine II only.

The Empress was concerned about the library of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences too. In 1772 she substantially replenished it by contributing a part of the rich book collection of Radzivill princes (from the 1300s-Great Principality of Lithuania, then Rzecz pospolita, later - Koenigsberg and from the 1700s on - Russia), particularly, close in contents Lavrentyevskaya and some other old Russian chronicles dated before 1206 which belonged to Prince B. Radzivill. In 1776, at the time the 50th Anniversary of the Academy of Sciences was celebrated, the library totaled already about 40,000 volumes; by that time a rather rich collection of precious manuscripts had been formed. Remarkably, emulating Catherine the Great many Russian noblemen took to book collection. Later they passed their unique collections to state depositories, including the Academic one.

In the twilight of her life Catherine II devised an ambitious plan of creating the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg. When in 1794 Prince Suvorov occupied Warsaw, ceded to Russia under the peace treaty was one of the richest libraries in Europe - the library of Zalussky brothers. 250,000 books were delivered to St. Petersburg under the administration of the Imperial Office. As they were sorted out, Catherine II ordered a huge new building designed to house not only the library, but all kinds of scientific laboratories, an observatory, etc. Via galleries the building was to be linked with the Anichkov Palace (architect B. Rastrelli). But due to Catherine's death in 1796 the plan was never implemented.

The reign of Catherine the Great has not only revived national spirit and shot deep roots of humanitarian ideals, but has raised the prestige of science and given birth to a learned estate of itself. The works of academicians have brought about economic and cultural revival of Russia, their achievements have elevated its prestige to an incredible height.

Опубликовано 02 октября 2018 года




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