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PHENOMENON OF LOMONOSOV'S PERSONALITY

Дата публикации: 23 сентября 2021
Автор(ы): Anatoly UTKIN
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Рубрика: БИОГРАФИИ ЗНАМЕНИТОСТЕЙ
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №6, 2011, C.45-52
Номер публикации: №1632392014


Anatoly UTKIN, (c)

by Anatoly UTKIN, Dr. Sc. (Hist.), Advanced Training Institute of the Moscow State University

 

The creative work of the first Russian scientist and encyclopedist Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765) draws constant attention of the national and foreign scientists, representatives of art and religion. His manysided, single-minded and freedom-loving human nature reflected, as a mirror, variedness and contradictoriness of the national and European history of the 18th century, strong and weak features of the age of Enlightenment, a time of reason supremacy, impassioned scholarly disputes, worldly passions and deeds for the good of mankind.

 
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The notion of "personality" emerged and developed in our country only in the 17th-18th centuries. Until then, in the system of the Old Russian worldview there were such terms as "Christian", "orthodox believer", "peasant", "person", "personage", etc. to characterize an individual, which reflected not his "inward nature" but only the official standing. It is no mere chance that the genre of autobiography and that of portrait lacked in literature and painting respectively at that time.

 

Only in the conditions of forming bourgeois relations and changing from the Middle Ages to culture of the new time a personality became an object of close attention, i.e. a person having a pronounced conscientious attitude to life, a world outlook formed by immense creative work, a spirit and mental temper determined by interaction of such factors as heredity, the environment (family, friends, supporters, teachers), career, adaptation to a fast-paced world and, of course, the long arm of coincidence.

 

Vasily Tatishchev, historian, statesman and Lomonosov's contemporary identified in the evolution of personality (and even of the whole society) "the time of infancy, youth, courage and old age". Like many progressive-minded people of that time, he was convinced that on each stage of life man should study and develop tirelessly and consistently his creative abilities. They believed that infancy was a period of helplessness and, therefore, permanent perception and forming of psychic, physical, moral and mental qualities and origination of active socialization. "The will to well-being" of a child or a teenager is limited to his desire to eat, drink and play. But he is inquisitive: "he enquires about everything and wants to know everything." Such natural interest should be used "for study of easily available sciences needed not much to comprehend", for example, acquisition of languages and the basics of mathematics.

 

"The infancy" of Lomonosov's personality can be specified by the years 1711-1729. He was born on November 19, 1711 in the Mishaninskaya village, the Dvina county, the Kurostrovskaya district of the Arkhangelsk province in the family of a rich coast-dweller from among feudal tenants, who had a hideland and fishing vessels, a kind, bold, deft and, despite his illiteracy, a man of ideas. Mikhail assisted to his father in all domestic cares and in winter stayed often with his relatives, who worked in the Arkhangelsk customs, where he communicated with foreigners.

 

The way of life of the coast-dwellers was austere, temperate but stable and sound. The childhood and youthful years of the scientist gave rise to his powerful physical strength, patience, stamina, mother wit and determined character. As a teenager he went with his father to remote fishery, five times sailed out from the White Sea to the Barents Sea on fishing vessels and often faced danger and ordeals.

 

Mikhail was initiated into reading and writing by Ivan Shubnoy, a sixteen-year neighbor and Semyon Sabel-

 
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nikov, a clerk vicar attending a choir and clerk vicar school in the Kholmogory village (today in the Arkhangelsk Region). His first books, "the gates of learning", were the grammar of philologist and pedagogue Melenty Smotritsky (1578-1633) and the arithmetic of Leonty Magnitsky (1669-1739), a teacher of the School of Mathematical and Navigation Sciences*. Soon the investigative teenager, surprisingly to many people, became the best reader in a parish church, and he pronounced the lesson "with punctuation, intelligibly and also with a special pleasance and quiver". The countrymen started approaching him, when they needed a literate person. The investigative youth wondered, whether there were other religious and social books. He found out that to get acquainted with them one needed knowledge of the Latin language, but it could be studied only in major cities, in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev.

 

After the wife died Mikhail's father married again, what was not probably pleasant to his son, who lost her beloved mother already in the age of reason. Lomonosov remembered at a later date: "the malicious and envious stepmother strived in every way to anger my father showing that I was idling at books. Therefore, many times I had to read and study only in remote and vacant places and go hungry and feel cold."

 

The young man wished to take a closer look at the church and monastery life. Therefore, he visited the Solovetsky Islands**, the coastal Vygovskaya Old Believers Solitude (today in the Medvezhiegorsk district of Karelia), one of the major cultural centers of priestless schismatics*** with a well-run household, different schools, developed book printing and a large collection of early printed and manuscript books. It is just where he showed interest in properties of substances and materials and got a chance to deepen knowledge of the Old Russian written language and "the Slovenian books of the church style" (later Lomonosov called them "an enormous treasure, from which the Great Russian language borrows a substantial part of splendor, beauty and abundance").

 

Probably soon after the return of the 18-year Mikhail back to home and the Orthodox Church his father was going to marry him to the daughter of a rich person in the Kola village (today a town, the center of the Kola district, the Murmansk region), so that to send him there "for correction" rather far from his books and stepmother. It is no wonder that the future scientist did his utmost to avoid the marriage. He "pretended to be ill and thus escaped the marriage".

 

The decade of 1730-1740 filled with wandering, hard, all-round and sound studies became for the youth a time of a thorny way to maturity. By that time he already showed such personal characteristics as courage, industry, freethinking, independence in judgment and behavior, enormous thirst for knowledge, persistence and sense of purpose. It was truly stated to this effect in the early 20th century by Georgy Plekhanov, a philosopher and a notable figure of the Russian and international socialist movement: "Lomonosov's early travels, filled with hardships and adventures, strengthened his temper

 

* School of Mathematical and Navigation Sciences was an educational institution, which in 1701-1752 trained fleet specialists, shipbuilders, geodesists and other specialists. Up to 1715 it was located in Moscow, afterwards its navigation classes were transferred to Petersburg and transformed later to the Naval Academy.--Ed.

 

** See: V. Darkevich, '"Sovereign Stronghold' on the White Sea", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2000; O. Borisova, "Islands of Prayerand Labor", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2010.--Ed.

 

*** Priestless means Old Believers, who call themselves "Old Orthodox Christians, who do not recognize priesthood". This movement emerged in the late 17th century after the priests of the "old" ordainment died, i.e. those installed in the Russian Church before the reform of Patriarch Nikon (middle of the 17th century).--Ed.

 
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and imparted 'the noble stubbornness...' to him". The young man matured and gained experience in the fight against dull medieval habits, traditions and stereotypes of his contemporaries thinking, enormous obstacles, everyday and sociopolitical difficulties.

 

On December 9, 1730, Lomonosov started secretly for Moscow, where he arrived together with a fish transport in January of the next year. He had no familiar friends there, but he happened upon his townsman, who gave him a home. Shortly he enrolled in the Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy having identified himself as a nobleman's son as access there for peasant's children was denied.

 

But his age caused a specific complexity for the 19-year-old Mikhail. Though young people of up to 20-year-old were officially allowed for enrollment in the academy, the most of those enrolled were much younger him. Later in his letter to the known statesman Ivan Shuvalov, with whom they founded the Moscow University in 1755, Lomonosov remembered offendedly: "younger pupils pointed finger at me and cried: look what a blockhead of the 20-year age has come to study Latin." Naturally, the impressible and proud-hearted man was supersensitive to accusations of his classmates.

 

Lomonosov assimilated knowledge with a great interest devouring books from the monastery library including works of the old Greek and Roman philosophers, Christian church fathers, Russian and West-European writers of that time. He showed a special interest in works on natural science by Danish astronomer and astrologer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), Italian physicist, mechanic, astronomer, philosopher and mathematician Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), French mathematician, philosopher, physicist and physiologist René Descartes (1596-1650). It is no wonder that due to his diligence and abilities he stood out among other pupils, and after a half year he passed into the second form and after another half year into the third form. In a year the future scientist mastered Latin insomuch that wrote poems in Latin. Afterwards Latin became a language of his scientific papers. According to German historian and philologist August Schloser, who was at the Russian service in the 1760s, at the close of his days Lomonosov won fame of "the first Latinist not only in Russia". He mastered the Greek language insomuch that read works of classic writers in the original and made a critical assessment of the Slavic translation of the Greek Sacred Book.

 

However, the first delights of the read books passed away, and Lomonosov got convinced more and more that the Aristotelian * vision of the world did not conform to reality. There emerged questions, but he could not find answers to them either in the scientific literature or in fiction. Those years became for the young man a time of search and doubts in the choice of his career. In 1734 Ivan Kirillov, a natural scientist, traveler and author of the just published "Atlas of the All-Russian Empire" started preparations for the Orenburg expedition (to Bashkiria), which should include a scientist and a priest in one to preach the God's word to "Mahometan peoples".

 

Now a scandal broke out, when after an appropriate inspection the future scientist "was unmasked" as a peasant's son. He did not deny it and, what is more, confessed sincerely that since 1731 he was in hiding! Such delinquency required execution, sending to recruits and even penal servitude. There is no telling what saved the guilty person, whether it was his frankness and confession, his outstanding abilities or fear of publicity of the academy fathers, who for several years taught the plebian despite the very severe instructions of the Synod. This way or another, but the danger past, and Lomonosov remained among students. But he did not know himself, what to do thereafter.

 

In summer of 1735 Lomonosov went to Kiev to visit the Kiev-Mogilyanskaya Academy. He was acquainted not only with the local library, which struck him with its abundance, but also with the exceptional architecture of the city, the mosaic and picturesque masterpieces of the Saint Sophia Cathedral and other churches and monasteries. This trip enriched his views on the Russian and world culture and awoke the polyhistory of his aspirations.

 

At the end of that year the fate again afforded to Lomonosov a lucky circumstance. Among 12 best students he was sent to Petersburg for enrollment in the grammar school attached to the Academy of Sciences, where he set to study with verve mathematics, physics and foreign languages and achieved much progress. In 1736, the Academy of Sciences sent Lomonosov and two other students to study chemistry and metallurgy in the Marburg University (Germany). He improved his knowledge there not only in these fields but also in philosophy, physics, mathematics and foreign languages and learnt drawing and penciling.

 

However, the foreign life of Lomonosov was complicated by financial problems as he wished to buy books, have fun in a campus life and take lessons in fencing and dancing. Besides, Elizabeth Zilch, a 16-year-old daughter of a brewer took his fancy. In a short time she married the future Russian man of genius and in 1739 gave birth to daughter Yekaterina.

 

In that year the course of studies of professor Christian Wolf came to a close, and he taught the Russian lightheaded students a good lesson, when he settled their debts,

 

* Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) is an old Greek philosopher, creator of logic, a major dialectic philosopher of the antiquity and a founder of the formal logic. He developed an apparatus, which up to now passes through the philosophical lexicon and the very style of the scientific thinking.--Ed.

 
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and Lomonosov was grateful for that to him for the term of his life. Later on the Russian students were sent to mining physicist Johann Henkel, a scientist of the old views, who considered them, first of all, as cake-eaters.

 

Meanwhile, it is just when Lomonosov came into being as a researcher * after he wrote two theses in physics and papers in philology. He sent "Letter on rules of the Russian versification" to the Russian Assembly (special conference aimed at management of the Russian language and phraseology) attached to the Academy of Sciences, in which he proved that by our mighty and excellent language we could rhyme in choree, iambics, anapaest, dactyl and even a combination of different measures. He attached "Ode on seizure of Khotin" to

 

See: E. Tropp, "Along the Way to Universal Knowledge", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2011.--Ed.

 

Science in Russia, No.6, 2011

 
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this letter (victory of the Russian troops in 1739 in the battle for the Khotin fortress on the Dnieper river, which decided the war with Turkey in favor of Russia). It was like a bolt from the blue among the Russian learnt scholars, as it struck by its unprecedented so far beauty, harmony and made hearts thrill with delight.

 

But Lomonosov had to go down these summits of glory to the very dips, namely, to be bored at Henkel's lectures and suffer his mockery. In 1740 he left his mentor and started visiting of different German ore mines and laboratories, he met specialists and replenished his knowledge in different fields considering himself in full measure a representative of Russia and feeling his responsibility and duty to his country. In May 1741, he was ordered to return home and started for Petersburg.

 

However, on return Lomonosov faced a hostile opposition and misunderstanding of his colleagues. The point is that the 1740s are known as a great academic distemper, when the major scientists among foreigners left Russia, and management of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences was entrusted to librarian and councilor of the academy secretariat German Johann Schumacher. Under such conditions Lomonosov had to waste his talent of genius in vain and fight against intrigues and red tape for many a year. He learnt gradually the intricate art of diplomacy, started searching for like-minded persons and tried to get support among the enlightened and public-spirited dignitaries.

 

Just in 1741 - 1761 the scientist experienced a period of maturity, wisdom and all-round fruitful activity. At that time he wrote such works as "On air free movement observed in ore mines", "Physical reflections on causes of heat and cold", "On action of chemical solvents" and some others, which received world recognition. Natural scientist Johann Gmelin (academician of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1727) giving credit for Lomonosov's knowledge and with reference to his own illness gave up the chair of chemistry to him. Lomonosov went at work with spirit and started lecturing to students not in Latin but in Russian, what required certain courage, as it was unusual in the conditions of domination of foreign professors, and developed a massive program of becoming familiar with chemistry by including information on "invention of new chemical experi-

 
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merits". The lack of a special laboratory impeded the realization of his plans. But this problem was solved due to awarding him a rank of professor of chemistry (Fellow of the Academy of Sciences) in 1745 and also to his increasing diplomatic art, persistency, executive talent and skill in discovering of reliable close associates.

 

In 1749, at the solemn assembly of the Academy of Sciences Lomonosov read out his "Testimonial to Empress Yelizaveta Petrovna" proved very successful, and since then he came to be highly esteemed at court and became friends with the empress favorite Ivan Shuvalov. Together with the latter he prepared a project of opening in Moscow of the first Russian university and grammar schools attached to the latter and the Academy of Sciences and herewith asserted the right of the lower social classes for education. He substantiated: "Educated people are needed for the development of Siberia, for mining operations, factories, preservation and multiplication of people, correction of morals, improvement of public justice, architecture, military art and for other useful occupations for Russia."

 

Researchers were always astounded by the phenomenal breadth of Lomonosov's vision. His discoveries enriched physics, chemistry, physical chemistry, astronomy, geography, engineering, metallurgy, applied technologies and made an invaluable contribution to the development of mineralogy, geology, history, philology, oratory, demography and economy. He tried to use the achievements of science for the development of productive forces, improvement of people's welfare and prosperity of the country. Alexander Hertzen, a known public figure and writer of the middle of the 19th century noted: "Both in his encyclopedism and ease of perception this famous scientist was the Russian type of man... His lucid mind, full of restless desire to understand everything, set aside one subject so that to grip attention of another subject and conceive it with ease."

 

Lomonosov became a major specialist in the human and social sciences. Thus, when discussing with German historians Siegfried Bayer and Gerhard Miller* (fellows of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1725), supporters of "the Norman theory"**, our great compatriot developed a concept, in which he took into account a paramount importance of people, education and autocracy in the origin, formation and development of the old Russian state and, moreover, revealed the general features and differences in the ways passed by

 

Russia and the European countries. In other words, he developed the concepts of rationalism, characteristic of the ideology of the age of Enlightenment, by explaining the social phenomena, mainly, by ideological motives of people and actions of enlightened monarchs.

 

Great services of Lomonosov are in emergence and development of the mental and creative activity of contemporaries and descendants. It is just what Vissarion Belinsky (1811-1848), a literary critic, publicist and philosopher kept in mind, when he appreciated in value the philological studies of the great scientist, in particular, his reform of the literary language, and considered him a continuer of the lifework of the emperor and reformer Peter the Great.

 

Lomonosov recognized progress of the state in the development of science and education, industry, agriculture and trade and advocated social transformations and multiplication of population. He considered serving public welfare, love of country, free state of people and love matches to be demonstration of a natural law and disapproved slavery, wars, rush for profit and power, forced marriages and many church ceremonies as phenomena contradictory to it. The scientist had a lively faith in the creative abilities of people, he believed, that the state was

 

See: O. Bazanova, "True to History, Impartial, Modest", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2006.--Ed.

 

** Norman theory (Normanism) is a branch of historiography, which develops a concept, that the generation of the Rus people and tribe originates from Scandinavia in the period of the expansion by Vikings, who were called Normans in West Europe.--Ed.

 
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to serve its interests and ensure peace, and did not want to put up with many misfortunes of the Russian reality. For example, in his memorandum to Shuvalov "On preservation and multiplication of the Russian people" of 1761 he raised the question of the unjust and unreasonable "landlord burdening to peasants".

 

Lomonosov made scientific thinking a matter of his literary works, in which he reflected on natural phenomena and the God, advanced hypotheses, argued against faulty, in his opinion, judgments and theories. He was convinced that a poet was, first of all, a mentor of people, a citizen, whose thought "was born both of superior erudition and the added high spirit and fire". Being inspired by his mission of enlightener and propagator of science and art, he used a passionate, vigorous and monumentally pathetic written language. Belinsky noted: "Our literature begins with Lomonosov, who was its father and mentor..." We can add that he was a forerunner of such artists in words as Gavriil Derzhavin, Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Nikolai Gogol and the succeeding generations of writers.

 

Like Peter the Great and other geniuses of the 18th century, Lomonosov was a Christian and, for the most part, never backed out of the Russian Orthodox Church canons. At the same time, he was not fanatical, and his faith was always in the middle of his scientific doubts and deep and all-round reflections. Therefore, he could be in sympathy with Protestants, Old Believers and people of other world outlook and attitude, knew better and respected traditions and common values of mankind. But the scientist argued strongly against identification, mixing or opposition of science and religion: "A mathematician has no sound judgment, if he wants to measure the God's will with a pair of compasses. A teacher of theology is mistaken, if he believes that he can teach astronomy and chemistry by psalmbook."

 

His tireless and manysided activity not only brought awards, gains and world recognition to Lomonosov, but also caused, to a high degree, exhaustion of his powerful stamina. In 1762, a critical moment took place in his life, when his wife died and Catherine the Great came to the throne, and his affairs changed for the worse. His dignitary patrons Ivan Shuvalov and Mikhail Vorontsov left the country, and Lomonosov remained alone with his strengthening enemies. He wrote to the empress a petition for dismissal from the Academy of Sciences with life pension, but he was refused and at the end of 1763 obtained a rank of state counselor.

 

At that time the scientist started another and last in his life major undertaking. In his memorandum "Brief description of different voyages in the northern seas..." he voiced his long-appealing idea of searching for a route to the east along the Siberian coasts. Two sea expeditions equipped upon his application (in 1765 and 1766) tried to pass "the Siberian ocean" but could not penetrate the ice sheet. Lomonosov's ideas of making the Northern Sea Route navigable came to life only a hundred and fifty years later.

 

The great thinker and encyclopedist of the 18th century not only instructed and tutored his contemporaries, but also left legacy to his descendants, which preserved, in many ways, its importance up to date. At the close of his days he made an oracular utterance: "I do not feel sorry for death, as I lived, suffered and know, that the homeland children will remember me."

Опубликовано на Порталусе 23 сентября 2021 года

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