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The Day of Russian Science at the Presidential Library

8 February
Source: The Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library

Timed to the Day of Russian Science celebrated in Russia February 8, 2013 the Presidential Library has made broadly available rare and little known to the general public editions on the activity of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Presidential Library’s web site provides open access to unique “Materials for the history of the Imperial Academy of Sciences” published in the late 19th century. Ten volumes contain documents covering the period of 1716 to 1750. They disclose information retrieved from decrees, reports, agreements, as well as correspondence of leaders and employees of the Imperial Academy in Russian and German.

The Russian Academy of Sciences established upon an order of the Emperor Peter I and by the decree of the governing Senate of January 28 (February 8), 1724 considerably differed from all related foreign organizations. It was a public institution and integrated the duties of scientific research and education since it included a university and a classical school.

The preface to the edition says: “Manuscripts held in the Academy’s archives contain a lot of curious data not only for the history of the Academy of Sciences but also for the history of scholarship and spread of knowledge in Russia as well as for description of everyday life and social morals and manners of the time.” Since the establishment of the academy was related to the reformatory activities of Peter I seeking to strengthen the state, its economical and political independence, the book “also contains some papers related to the time of Peter the Great who is fairly considered the true founder of the academy.”

“The history of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Petersburg” by Peter Petrovich Pekarsky, an academician of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences (in 1864) is of special interest. The work had been created on the basis of handwritten sources held in the archives of the Academy of Sciences. The first volume tells about the establishment of the Academy of Sciences under Peter the Great and its first presidents and members in the period of 1725–1742. Among them were a naturalist Johann Georg Gmelin, a poet Yakov Shtelin, a mathematician V. E. Adodurov, etc.

The second volume of the book had been prepared for printing but was issued only after the death of the scholar. Having described the management of the Academy of Sciences and its state in 1742–1766, the author presents the biographies of V. K. Trediakovsky and M. V. Lomonosov. There is an interesting selection of documentary materials covering both men. For example, there are opinions of Trediakovsky and Lomonosov on the speech of Miller “Origin of the Russian people and name”, their authographs on the shrine for the relics of Saint Alexander Nevsky, description of illumination composed by Lomonosov, his proposal to establish an inlaid work in Russia.

Scientific, educational and organizational activities of the great polymath Mikhail V. Lomonosov represent an entire epoch in the history of the Academy and Russian science. He had enriched it with fundamental discoveries in chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, geography; made a great contribution to the development of history, linguistics and poetics; organized the first chemical laboratory in 1748; actively participated in the foundation of the Moscow University in 1755 which today by right is bearing his name.

“The list of the members of the Imperial Academy of Sciences” by Boris L. Modzalevsky, bibliographer and literary critic, corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences (in 1918) provides information on the academicians for the period of 1725 to 1907 according to the following categories: “Presidents; Directors and Vice-presidents; Secretaries, conference secretaries and permanent secretaries; Chairmen of the Russian Language and Literature Department; Domestic and foreign corresponding members; Treasurers.”

The first president of the Academy was appointed a medic, Laurentius Blumentrost. Concerned about the compliance of the academy’s activities with the international level Peter I invited there leading foreign scholars. Among the first ones were mathematicians Nikolai and Daniel Bernoulli, Christian Goldbach, physician Georg Bilfinger, astronomer and geographer Joseph De L’Isle, historian Gerhard Müller. In 1727 Leonhard Euler joined the Academy. Fruitful and really titanic scientific activities of the great scholar Leonhard Euler began at the Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Mathematical research of L. Euler symbolized the most significant stage after Newton and Leibniz in the development of mathematical analysis and its applications. L. Euler obtained significant results in the theory of numbers, laid foundations for the complex analysis, calculus of variations, analytical mechanics and jointly with Daniel Bernoulli – of hydrodynamics. His mathematical research was closely related to practical problems of mechanics, ballistics, cartography, shipbuilding, navigation. Euler educated first Russian mathematicians who later became academicians.

Currently the Presidential Library’s web site is featuring over 40 digitized copies of editions covering the activities of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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