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Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in the Presidential Library's collections: "His thought was ahead of the public consciousness of his time"

17 September 2018

September 17, 2018 marks the 161st birth anniversary of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the founder of modern astronautics, a philosopher who laid the foundations of Russian cosmism. These two vectors, which determined the movement of thought of a modest teacher of mathematics from Kaluga, fully reflect both the research papers of Tsiolkovsky, and various materials about him, presented in the collection of the Presidential Library "K. E. Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935)", consisting of sections "On the life and work of K. E. Tsiolkovsky", "Perpetuation of Memory" and "Works of K. E. Tsiolkovsky".   

Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was the first ideologist of active space exploration by man and expressed the idea of ​​creating near-Earth stations as artificial settlements and bases for interplanetary communications. He made a significant contribution to the theory of rocket motion and put forward a number of ideas that have found application in rocket engineering.

Familiarity with the facts from the life of the scholar, drawn from the electronic collections of the library, helps to understand and appreciate the importance of this powerful scholar and personality’s morals, many of the postulates of which acquire special relevance today.

The book of Y. Perelman "Tsiolkovsky" (1932) covers the main stages of the scholar's activity and comprehends the origins of his genius. As you know, at the age of ten, Konstantin fell ill with scarlet fever and lost his hearing, as a result of which he was unable to attend school and was forced to study independently. "As a child deafness caused me inexpressible agony ... although I clearly realized that the originality of my work I owe to it", - we read the recognition of the scholar in the above-mentioned book.

Hearing loss prevented Konstantin Eduardovich from fully communicating with the outside world, but "did not cause the decline of moral strength", O. Kechejyants writes in his book Tsiolkovsky (1940). Being still quite a young man, Tsiolkovsky wrote three works: "Theory of gases", "Mechanics of the animal organism" and "Duration of the radiation of stars". These works he sent to the Petersburg Physico-Chemical Society, which unanimously chose him as his member. The great Russian physiologist Professor Sechenov gave a good review about "Mechanics ...". In 1895 Tsiolkovsky published the book "Airplane", in which he, anticipating eight years of the Americans' work of the Wright brothers in the field of aviation, expounded the theory of the aircraft; this work was highly appreciated by the brilliant Russian scientist N. E. Zhukovsky. 

The whole life of Konstantin Eduardovich was subordinated to the solution of the "true facts of the matter" on earth and beyond. The collection of the Presidential Library is widely represented in his research papers: "Exploration of the world spaces with jet devices" (1903), "The Future of the Earth and Mankind" (1928), "Project of a metal airship for 40 people" (1930), "Jet airplane" (1930) , "Space rocket. Experimental training" (1927), "New airplane" (1929) and others. No less attention than the "cosmic" series deserves the philosophical works of Konstantin Eduardovich, who made him a classic of Russian cosmism. However, in the world view of the scholar, both these spheres of science are inseparable, which can be traced in the works The Will of the Universe (1928), Nirvana (1914), The Cause of the Cosmos (1925), Science-based ethics   (1930). 

"The population of the universe is absolute, although not factual truth", - Tsiolkovsky writes in the last of these works. - To say that the universe is empty, devoid of life on the grounds that we do not see it, is a gross error. <...> Materialism in me co-existed with the belief in some inconceivable forces connected with Christ and the First Cause. I longed for this mysterious, but all the symbols common in all religions ("soul", "other world", "heaven", "hell") should be thoroughly worked out, decipher them from the cosmic point of view". His stubborn desire to "decipher" the system of biblical truths grew with time, he was even told that he placed himself above God. But this is not like that: "I always remembered that there was something unsolved, that the Galilean teacher still lives now, and has significance, and still has influence". 

From the electronic copy of the book "Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky" (1935) one can understand how far his thought was ahead of the public consciousness of his time: "1895. 38 years old. The first dreams of capturing solar energy and life on the air. The book "Dreams about the Earth and the sky". We laughed at this book in the magazine "Week". Now the third edition has been released. "N. Rynin in the publication "Russian inventor and scholar Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky" (1931) emphasizes the independence of the scholar’s thought: "Everywhere, in all his works, K. Tsiolkovsky shows originality and although the conditions of work in Kaluga, the city in which he spent almost his entire life, did not give him the opportunity to follow the literature of the issues that interested him, nevertheless, he was ahead of many European scientists on various issues".

However, his foreign colleagues did not even try to challenge this. At the end of K. Tsiolkovsky's book "Mind and Passion" (1928) is presented correspondence of two German young scholars A.Shershevsky (shortly A. Sh.) and R. Lademan (briefly R. L.) translated from German:

"The aged Russian scholar, K. E. Tsiolkovsky is the first maestro, scientifically substantiated the problem of a spaceship. His first essay on this appeared in 1903, and in 1924 there was a reprint of this work. Then the continuation of work in the Russian "Bulletin of Aeronautics", which was the first of the special magazines in the world to unveil the classic substantiation of the problem of a space rocket. In it, the theory astoundingly prefigured the practice.

The Presidential Library collection also includes a set of 12 digitized photo cards "K. E. Tsiolkovsky" (2017), where, along with the pictures, statements of specialists about Tsiolkovsky are added related to the aerospace industry. "We - the students of Tsiolkovsky and the continuers of his great cause", - writes Academician V. P. Glushko. "Mankind is only taking initial steps along the path indicated by Tsiolkovsky, the way into the boundless expanses of the world space around us, and this path has no end, as his progress does not have mankind".