By Academician Zhores ALFEROV, Nobel Prize Winner, RAS Vice-President and President of the St. Petersburg Scientific Center; Edouard TROPP, Dr. Sc. (Phys. & Math.), its Chief Scientific Secretary
In 2003 St. Petersburg is celebrating its tricentennial. The history of Russian science is just as old. The founder of our northern capital and the father of academic institutions of Russia is one and the same-Czar Peter I (Peter the Great).
The success of Peter's tireless efforts in overcoming Russia's age-long backwardness is largely due to his understanding of the important role of science and education in the development of productive forces, for economic and cultural headway of the state. During the 171 Os this country opened nautical and technical schools, and launched publication of textbooks, technical manuals and educational literature. It was then that the first Russian newspaper, journals and calendars were off the press. In all his deeds Peter relied on his close associates: Ya. Bruce, an astronomer and mathematician, the high artillery commander; P. Postnikov, Russia's first Doctor of Medicine and author of Russia's first manual on medicine; L. Magnitsky, the author of Russia's first textbook in mathematics and navigation; A. Matveyev, a highly educated diplomat; the talented turner and mechanic A. Nartov; the mining expert and prominent historian V. Tatishchev, and many others. St. Petersburg was chosen as the training ground for the army, naval and industrial personnel. In 1715 the new capital received from Moscow, Narva and Novgorod senior students of mathematical and navigation schools to form the core of the Maritime Academy. The first Russian technical intellectuals were recruited from its graduates as well as the graduates from the Artillery School founded in 1712 and the Engineering School opened in 1719.
Another landmark was the creation in St. Petersburg in 1714 of Russia's first state library directed by I. Schumacher. Its initial stock was contributed by the Moscow collections of the Board of Pharmacy and the Royal Court. The same year of 1714 saw the founding of the first Russian museum, the Kunstkamera. The core of its exhibits was formed by the nat-
ural science collections which Peter I had acquired abroad. Some of the collections were placed in the house of physician in ordinary R. Areskin, the rest were left in the Servants' Rooms. In 1718 the library and the collections were transferred to the Kikiny Palaty (the Kikin Palace), presently known as the Admiralty House on the Neva bank which used to belong to Counsellor Kikin. It was at the same time that a new Kunstkamera and library building was laid in the Vasilyevsky island. Presently it houses the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (RAS) and the Lomonosov Museum.
For many years Peter was nursing the idea to institute a Russian university and a scientific body. At first he confided this idea in 1698 to Patriarch Adrian soon after his "Great Embassy" had returned from abroad. In the course of a quarter of the century before it came to be realized, the Czar received several appeals from the shipbuilders F. Saltykov, G. Fick and P. Kurbatov. Prominent among Peter's counsellors was the mathematician, logician and philosopher G. Leibniz, the founder of the Austrian and the Prussian Academies of Sciences. After the great scientist's death his disciple H. Wolf, an idealistic philosopher, mathematician and physicist, took over as the Czar's chief scientific advisor.
The project was commenced after the victory in the Northern War (1721). Peter charged the details to his physician in ordinary L. Blumentrost. While Leibniz's grandiose if not Utopian project envisaged some kind of scientific ministry, "the learned collegium" which, along with other top state administrations, was to be vested broad powers, Blumentrost's plan was more down-to-earth. For the model of the future top Russian academic establishment he chose the Paris Academy of Sciences which in 1717 had elected Peter its member. This Academy was conceived in 1666 by J. Colbert, a minister to Louis XIV. To be true, as distinct from Russia, in France the creation of the Academy was preceded by the activities of numerous academic circles.
Since Russia had no higher or secondary schools then, Blumentrost had to combine in his project an Academy of Sciences, a University and a Gymnasium. As he wrote in a letter to Wolf in February 1724, "Please, find enclosed a resume about the foundation of the Academy, wherefrom you will see that what is intended is not really a university or an 'academia de sciences'." Hence, the filling of the project was no wishful thinking, rather it presented the only possible tradeoff between the state of Russian education and Peter's course of crash modernization.
Neither Peter's "triad" nor Blumentrost's project was implemented in full. Throughout the 18th century both the academic university and the gymnasium had a rough going. Periods of flourishing under the rectors, Academicians Miller and Lomonosov, and under the directorship of Princess Ye. Dashkova were followed by hard times. The key problem that V. Tatishchev had warned about in 1724 was the enrollment of students: the Academy's University and the Gymnasium conferred no ranks so that parents would rather enlist their children in cadet corps. Incidentally, the Academy's members held no ranks either-the low social status of scientists in Russia is thus a holdover from the 18th century. Scientific personnel could also be replenished by sending undergraduates abroad, to Western Europe, but they were given poor subsistence which, to add to their troubles, was often delayed-another sad tradition in Russia.
In the early 19th century "the Academic School" (the term "university" is not to be found in official documents since 1767) was closed, and in 1819 the St. Petersburg University was resumed on the basis of the Teachers' Seminary transformed into the Pedagogical Institute. But, failing in "the education of the young" (although "the magnificent four"- that is the founder of electricity studies in Russia calorimetrist G. Richman; M. Lomonosov, an encyclopedist and poet who laid the basis of the Modern Russian Literary Language; S. Krasheninnikov, a Kamchatka explorer; the astronomer N. Popov, to name just a few who made all the
way up from undergraduate and graduate classes to professorship and membership in the Academy-offsets such a harsh verdict), scientists excelled in "their studies and new discoveries securing for us the honors and respect of Europe". The St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences became the first professional academic community whose members engaged in research activities full time.
In its green years the Academy badly needed skilled personnel who, incidentally, were not readily available in Russia at the time. All of them (Senator and General Field Marshal Ya. Bruce, the historian and politician D. Kantemir and A. Kantemir, the father of Russian classicism, V Tatishchev, a historian, ethnographer and geographer, diplomat B. Kurakin and others) held prominent posts in the army and the navy, in the diplomatic corps or domestic civil service. That was why Blumentrost and Schumacher were charged with the task of recruiting foreigners to the newly- created Academy. They sent their first invitation to H. Wolf, but the amount of remuneration he quoted was prohibitive for the academic budget. Nevertheless, he gave substantial assistance in forming the initial membership of the Academy, and in 1725 became its first honorable foreign member. Great as Wolfs role was in the Academy's inception, it is outweighed by the role he played in educating and upbringing Mikhailo Lomonosov sent to him in Marburg in 1736. Yet many prominent European scientists would not risk their well-established positions for insecurity in Russia. It was only the French astronomer J. De Lille and J. Hermann, a mathematician from Frankfurt on the Oder, who accepted the invitation from St. Petersburg. Still it was a native Petersburger, botanist I. Buxbaum, who became the first academician, having worked with the Medical Collegium since 1721.
That was followed in May 1724 by a second round of invitations from Blumentrost supported by W)lf s recommendations. Now they were sent to younger and promising scientists. That was, no doubt, a brilliant decision. Suffice it to say that it secured for St. Petersburg the young Swiss savants, L. Euler and the Bernulli brothers.
L. Euler, the greatest scientist of the 18th century, has made an enormous contribution to mathematics, mechanics, physics, astronomy and applied sciences. He set a high standard for the Petersburg school of mathematics, which throughout the 19th century was maintained by academicians M. Ostrogradsky V Bunyakovsky and P. Chebyshev, and in the 20th century, by academicians V. Steklov, S. Sobolev, Yu. Linnik, L. Kantorovich (1975 Nobel Prize winner) and many others-from the old-timers to our contemporaries. Young age was a distinctive feature of the Academy members in the first century of its activity: out of its 70 full members in the 18th century, just 9 received this honor being over 40 years. Thirty-six were between 30 and 40, and 25 under 30 (e.g., L. Euler became an academician at the age of 23, while the chemist and physician I. Gmelin made it at 20).
The St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences dispatched expeditions all over the country, although it had no special mandate. For example, in 1733 it sent a team to participate in the Second Kamchatka Expedition of Vitus Bering*. In 13 years its members crossed tens of thousands of miles compiling 62 maps of Siberia and Kamchatka.
Academician G. Miller retrieved from local archives and brought to St. Petersburg many unique manuscripts on the history of Siberia and Russian geographic discoveries. Taking part in the expedition were a group of Academy students, among them the naturalist S. Krasheninnikov and the astronomer and surveyor A. Krasilnikov elected full members in 1745 and 1753, respectively. In 1735 the Academy set up a Geographic Department which compiled the Atlas of Russia including one "general" and 19 "particular" charts.
The activities of foreign scientists invited by the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences were never limited to fundamental or applied studies, "the fame and fortune of Russia", as Peter I put it. European savants brought to this country international ties and "cut a window" into world science. A most important role in this respect was played by First Conference-Secretary of the Academy, mathematician Ch. Goldbach, "a wandering scholar" from Konigsberg. Other academicians too, both from St. Petersburg and those who returned to Russia on the expiration of their contracts abroad, became parties to the information exchange. Many prominent scholars from other countries made up the corps of foreign members of the St. Petersburg Academy. In turn, the Russians: botanist I. Lepekhin, M. Lomonosov, L. Euler, his son (mathematician, physicist and astronomer) I. Euler and others were elected members of foreign academies.
The founding of the Academy of Sciences was the last link in the chain of Peter's reforms. The new capital of Russia produced a professional academic institution which had close ties with the state and was part and parcel of the world scientific community. However, the problem of personnel defied the will of the autocratic reformer and came to be resolved but a century later when the systems of higher and secondary education were established in this country.
The 19th century, "the Golden Age" of Russian science, was marked by an expansion of academic institutions' network. It started with "the epoch of museums". In 1818 the young Count S. Uvarov, still free from the ill fame of being Pushkin's persecutor and authorship of the notorious theory of official "national dignity" (narodnosi), was appointed President of the Academy and founded the Asian Museum. It was followed by the Botanic Museum organized by Academician K. Trinius; then V Severgin created the Mi-neralogical Museum and F Brandt -the Zoological Museum. Next came the "era of observatories". The Academic Observatory was transferred from the Vasilyevsky Island to the Pulkovo Hill. Under the guidance of its first Director Academician V. Struve it became the leading European observatory in instrumentation and soon won the title of "the world's astronomic capital". In the 1830s the Mining Engineers Corps Institute (the Mining Institute) inaugurated the central observatory for meteorological and magnetic observations. Transformed in 1849 into the Head Physi-
* See: A. Shumilov, "On the Way to the Pacific", Science in Russia, No. 3, 1995.-Ed.
cal Observatory, in 1866 it passed to the Academy of Sciences.
Throughout the 19th century a string of scientific societies, combining research and educational objectives, appeared in the northern capital. Here is their chronological record: 1817-the Mineralogical Society; 1845-the Russian Geographical Society; 1866 -the Russian Technological and the Russian Historical Societies; 1868-the Natural Sciences Society and the Russian Chemical Society; 1869-the Forestry Society; 1890-the Russian Astronomical Society. Within the Academy of Sciences universities and higher technical colleges came to be formed, while academic societies gave birth to different scientific schools which were quick to get world recognition: mathematical, astronomical, chemical, physiological and electrical schools, as well as the clinical school of Academician N. Pirogov, and so forth. The universal recognition of Russian science culminated in the award of the Nobel Prize to I. Pavlov (1904) and I. Mechnikov(1908).
However, despite this period of bloom in the 19th century, the general situation of the St. Petersburg and Russian science remained precarious. M. Rostovtsev, a prominent scholar of Roman literature and archeologist, an active politician of the Constitutional Democratic Party, described it in the following words in 1917: "I must admit that science in Russia resembled a flower that blossomed in the greenhouses of universities and academies, having no organic ties even with intellectuals, not to mention the general public.
"In Russia science, real science, the basis of intellectual progress, depended on the state for existence, it could survive only as long as the state supported and reared it.
"...But what kind of support was that? The Russian establishment sustained science by way of decorum only, not as a body vital to its existence; the miserable condition of universities ... is a clear indicator of the consistent striving to maintain a semblance of science, preventing it from consolidating and shooting roots among the people."
Flaws in the development of Russian science and in the level of knowledge about this country in general became conspicuous at the time of World War I. That was why in 1915 the Academy organized a Commission for studying the natural
productive forces of Russia chaired by Academician V. Vernadsky. It launched broad studies of Russia's natural resources, prepared a plan for setting up "a series of research institutions". But then came the revolution of October 1917.
The Academy of Sciences reacted to the October Revolution as to "a great disaster". Seven of its 45 members starved to death in 1918 - 1919, and some were repressed. Many eminent scientists, who could not put up with the revolution or endure deprivations, emigrated from Russia, among them the Academy's members: the chemist P. Valden, the historians P. Vinogradov, N. Kondakov, M. Rostovtsev, the engineer S. Timoshenko, the aircraft designer I. Sikorsky and the TV inventor V. Zvorykin. Those who stayed chose to cooperate with the regime in the cause of new, socialist modernization.
Since the time the Academy moved to Moscow in 1934, Leningrad (formerly, St. Petersburg) continued as the second largest scientific center of Russia. Its scientists played a major role in setting up new academic institutions. The Institute of Physics and Technology created in 1918 by a corresponding member and then a full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, A. Joffe, branched out into the Siberian Institute of Physics and Technology in Tomsk (1928), the Ukrainian Institute of Physics and Technology in Kharkov (1930), the Urals Institute of Physics and Technology in Sverdlovsk (1932) and others.
At the time of World War II and the blockade of Leningrad, its scientists lived up to the glorious record of their city. Many went to the front line: volunteers were the histologist D. Nasonov (remarkably, elected to the Academy as corresponding member just in 1943), the astronomer K. Ogorodnikov, Yu. Polyansky researching in the zoology of invertebrates (corresponding member since 1979), the philosopher M. Lobashev, the geneticist B. Chagin (corresponding member since 1960).
Researchers had to stop their studies in basic science and switch to defense projects. Since the pre-war time the laboratory of A. Alexandrov (elected to the Academy as corresponding member in 1943, and full member in 1953) had been involved with the protection of ships against magnetic mines. At the start of the war Igor Kurchatov chose to suspend his research in nuclear physics to join Alexandrov's laboratory. Pretty soon large groups of Leningrad physicists turned to demagnetizing battleships of the Black Sea, Baltic, Northern and Pacific Fleets, as well as those in the Volga and Caspian. "The blockade director" of the Institute of Physics and Technology P. Kobeko (elected corresponding member in 1943) led research related to the "Road of Life" operation on ice-bound Lake Ladoga via which the sieged Leningrad received military and food supplies from the "mainland" and evacuated people suffering from wounds, starvation and cold.
The staff of the All-Union Plant-Breeding Institute, starved, preserved the unique collection of agricultural plants and seeds gathered back in the 20 - 30s by Academician Nikolai Vavilov during his field parties. The Soviet years did not resolve any of the contradictions of Russian science. "The infringement on the freedom of scientific work and academic education, which had been choking the Russian thought," in the words of M. Rostovtsev, became even tighter. The so-called "Tagantsev conspiracy", "the Academic case", "sabotages of astronomers and theoretical physicists", "case No. 555"-an alleged conspiracy charged to the mathematician and geophysicist, and a creator of the modern turbulence theory A. Friedman 17 years after his death in 1925 (a frame-up which resulted in the arrest of his pupils and fellow-workers at the blockade time)- these are just the most glaring episodes out of the endless chain of reprisals against St. Petersburg scientists. Not to speak of the ideological campaigns, such as the struggle against "physical idealism", genetics and cybernetics, and so forth.
In spite of all that the USSR has managed to create a research and scientific complex of global significance. The USSR and the USA were the only two countries of the world to conduct fundamental studies within the entire spectrum of science. Far from feeling any sympathy for the "real socialism", experts of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in their report of 1994 termed Soviet science "one of the greatest creations and values of civilization".
So, scientists who worked in St. Petersburg-Petrograd- Leningrad have made a weighty contribution to shaping the world scientific landscape over the last three centuries. Its "Petersburg fragments", the fundamental findings making up the basis of modern knowledge entered in encyclopedias and textbooks, form an impressive list. These are the Mendeleyev Periodic Law, the teachings on conditioned reflexes by I. Sechenov and I. Pavlov, the phagocyte immunity theory of I. Mechnikov, the theories of an expanding universe of A. Friedman and of relict radiation of G. Gamov; A. Popov's radio and V. Zvorykin's television, numerous theorems, formulas and equations of L. Euler, N. Semenov's chain reactions; N. Vavilov's homologous series law, P. Chebyshev's law of distribution of prime numbers, the linear programming by L. Kantorovich, the Venus atmosphere of M. Lomonosov, A. Nartov's support, the exciton of Ya. Frenkel and E. Gross, B. Jakobi's electric engine and galvanoplastics; semiconductor properties of compounds by N. Goryunova and A. Regel, M. Wolkenstein's isometric model of polymer chains, sonic measurement of arterial pressure of N. Korotkov and global warming by M. Budyko. These are many discovered phenomena and effects, heavenly bodies and chemical reactions, new substances, technologies and industries, deciphered writings and documents now in scientific use, books written and read.
The tricentennial history of St. Petersburg science leaves its imprint on contemporary research activities creating a special Petersburg spirit of scientific community. Thus, the characteristic feature of our academic schools in the humanities, the schools which have been formed around the unique museum collections, is to give priority to the document, the source.
Lesser role is attached to historiosophic, ideologically charged concepts. The scientific schools in physics and mathematics, making good headway in St. Petersburg, are multidimensional in their character and comprehensive in their approach to the subject-matter. Despite the development of communications resulting in a rapid change of research methods and objects, many scientists working in our city are committed to classic academic schools, such as the mathematical school of R Chebyshev - A. Lyapunov - V. Steklov or "the nursery school" of physicist A. Joffe.
These and other scientific schools have survived the hard political and socio- economic trials of the 20th century passing to posterity their viability and creativity. In the recent decades alone, including the depressive 1990s, they have yielded such impressive scientific results as the solution of the tenth, twenty-first and twenty- second Hilbert problems; the discovery of quantum groups; the creation of quantum dimensioned semiconductor heterostructures; the proof of the uniformity of fundamental physical constants in the process of the evolution of the universe; the development of plasma decontamination technologies; the launching of the "Globus" tokamak and the interferential telescope; the development of new drugs and blood substitutes; the creation of radiation-resistant materials, ceramic and organic silicate coatings; the discovery of oil fields on the Arctic Ocean shelf; the creation of vibration mechanics; the "Lake Ladoga - the Neva - the Gulf of Finland" model and the prion model of "cows' madness"; the deciphering of "cohau-rong-rong" letters; the discovery of the equation of the vacuum state and the prediction of exponential expansion of the universe; the excavations at Old Ladoga (an ancient Russian town in Leningrad region); the rediscovery of Byzantine humanism and the Russian medieval culture of laughter; the publication of the "Lay of Igor's Host" Encyclopedia and of the facsimile reproduction of Pushkin's manuscripts*.
A. Poincare once wrote that science has no resolved problems, it has just more or less resolved ones. This thought of the great French mathematician also holds true for the problems of scientific organization and management. Moving into the fourth centenary, the science of Petersburg and Russia has again encountered indifference on the part of the establishment and the personnel problems. In the new conditions it had to revive "Peter's triad" or Blumentrost's "composition". The RAS Institute of Physics and Technology (IPT) named after A. Joffe has recreated it in the system "lyceum of physics and technology-basic faculty-academic institute". The name of this complex is "The Academic and Educational Center of RAS IPT named after A. Joffe". On the eve of the jubilee year of 2003 the old Academic University likewise had its comeback; its candidates for a master's degree and post-graduate students (those who will not walk the way of Euler and the Bernulli brothers in reverse) will be shaping the St. Petersburg science of the 21st century.
* See: S. Fomichev, "A Facsimile Edition of Pushkin's Writing-Books", Science in Russia, No. 2, 1997. -Ed.
Опубликовано 07 сентября 2018 года
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