The Academy of Sciences established in St. Petersburg

8 February 1724

On January 28 (February 8), 1724, by decree of the Governing Senate, the personal decree of Emperor Peter I of January 22 (February 2), 1724 on the establishment of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg was put into effect. At the same time, the Academic Gymnasium and the Academic University were founded at the Academy, which became the predecessor of St. Petersburg State University.

Initially, Peter I intended to create only a university in Russia, but by the beginning of the 18th century the Universities in Europe have lost their dominant position in scientific life. Scientific societies and academies began to play an increasingly important role. The tsar learned about their activities during his European travels. During the Great Embassy (1697–1698), Peter met the Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch, whose collection became part of the first Russian museum - the Kunstkamera - founded in 1714, and also met the outstanding mathematician Gottfried Leibniz. Historians of science believe that it was in conversations with Leibniz that Peter I formed the idea of creating an Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg.

An important role in the development of the organizational principles of the future Academy of Sciences was played by Peter I’s visit to the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1717, which elected him as a foreign member. Peter’s closest associates in organizing the Academy in Russia were his personal physician Lavrentiy Lavrentievich Blumentrost, who from 1719 headed the Kunstkamera and the public library created in 1714 (later the Library of the Academy of Sciences), as well as Blumentrost’s assistant, librarian Johann-Daniel Schumacher, a native of Alsace. In 1721, Schumacher, on behalf of Peter, went abroad to recruit scientific personnel.

By the beginning of 1724, Blumentrost and Schumacher prepared a draft regulation “On the Academy of Sciences and its University” which was approved at the Senate meeting held in St. Petersburg on January 22 (February 2), 1724, chaired by Peter I, and on January 28 ( February 8) 1724 The Senate published a personal decree establishing the Academy of Sciences. However, only in 1747, under Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, the “Regulations of the Academy of Sciences and Arts in St. Petersburg” were officially approved. Blumentrost became the first president of the Academy, and under his leadership, on December 27, 1725 (January 7, 1726), the grand opening of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences took place.

Three classes (departments) were established at the Academy: mathematics, physics and humanities. The first academicians were foreign scientists, many of whom came to Russia young and gained fame already working in St. Petersburg, like the Swiss mathematician Leonard Euler. The first Russian full member (adjunct) of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences in the department of higher mathematics in 1733 was Vasily Evdokimovich Adadurov. Among Adadurov’s students was Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov. Lomonosov and the poet Vasily Kirillovich Trediakovsky became the first Russian professors at the Academy.

According to the idea of Peter I, three scientific and educational institutions were united in one institution: the Academy, the University and the Gymnasium. A special role was assigned to the Academic University, which was supposed to train Russian scientists. Admission to the University took place through the Academic Gymnasium. Until 1747, there was no division into faculties and departments at the University, and classes were conducted irregularly. Then three classes (departments) were defined: mathematics, physics and humanities. Its rector Mikhail Lomonosov (1758–1765) devoted a lot of effort to the development of the University. Under him, the faculties of philosophy, law and medicine were organized, and ties with Moscow and a number of foreign universities were strengthened. At the same time, Lomonosov’s attempts to transform the Academic University into a full-fledged St. Petersburg University were not supported.

Since the 1770s the tradition of university training moved to the senior classes of the Academic Gymnasium. University (academic) professors took an active part in the preparation and implementation of the school reform of 1782–1786. One of the centers for training teachers was the Teachers' Seminary, established in 1782 in St. Petersburg, which in 1803 was transformed into the Teachers' Gymnasium, and in 1804 into the Pedagogical Institute, which was considered as a “Department of the University that was to be in St. Petersburg”. Thus, the university tradition founded by Peter I in 1724 was preserved at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries first within the walls of a gymnasium and seminary, and then an institute. In 1816, the Pedagogical Institute was transformed into the Main Pedagogical Institute, and in 1819 into St. Petersburg University. Throughout its history, the university has changed its name several times. Since 1991 it has been called St. Petersburg State University.

On November 21, 1991, by Decree № 228 of the President of the RSFSR, the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) was organized as the highest scientific institution in Russia. On June 7, 1999, Decree № 717 of the President of the Russian Federation established Russian Science Day, which is celebrated annually on February 8.

Лит.: История Санкт-Петербургского государственного университета: [электронный ресурс]. Режим доступа: https://spbu.ru/history; Книжные сокровища: К 275-летию Библиотеки АН СССР / Отв. ред. Л. И. Киселева, Н. П. Копанева. Л., 1990; Копелевич Ю. Х. Основание Петербургской Академии Наук. Л., 1977; Кропачев Н.М., Даудов А.Х., Тихонов И.Л., Ростовцев Е.А. Первый университет Российской империи // Вестник Санкт-Петербургского университета. История. 2019. Т. 64. Вып. 1. С. 5–23; Осипов Ю.С. Академия наук в истории Российского государства. М., 1999; Президенты Академии наук: [электронный ресурс]. Режим доступа: https://www.ras.ru/presidents/about.aspx; Российская академия наук // Большая российская энциклопедия. Электронная версия (2017). Режим доступа: https://old.bigenc.ru/education/text/3515322; Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет // Большая российская энциклопедия. Электронная версия (2017). Режим доступа: https://old.bigenc.ru/education/text/3533032; Указ Президента РСФСР от 21.11.1991 г. № 228 «Об организации Российской академии наук»: [электронный ресурс]. Режим доступа: http://www.kremlin.ru/acts/bank/458; Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 07.06.1999 г. № 717 «Об установлении Дня российской науки»: [электронный ресурс]. Режим доступа: http://kremlin.ru/acts/bank/13955; Устав федерального государственного бюджетного образовательного учреждения высшего профессионального образования «Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет», утверждённый Постановлением Правительства Российской Федерации от 31 декабря 2010 г. № 1241: [электронный ресурс]. Режим доступа: https://spbu.ru/sites/default/files/ustav_spbgu.pdf.

 

Based on the Presidential Library's materials:

Академия наук и становление российской науки: [цифровая коллекция];

Музей антропологии и этнографии им. Петра Великого (Кунсткамера) Российской академии наук: [цифровая коллекция];

Пётр I (1672–1725): [цифровая коллекция];

М. В. Ломоносов (1711–1765): [цифровая коллекция];

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