The Academy of Sciences was founded in St. Petersburg
by Peter the Great's Decree and by the Decree of the Governing Senate of
February 8, 1724.
According to the 1747 Rules the Academy was called the Emperial Academy of Sciences and Arts in St. Petersburg, between 1803 and 1836 it was called the Emperial Academy of Sciences, from 1836 till July 1917 it was the Emperial St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, in July 1917 it became the Russian Academy of Sciences, in July 1925 was renamed into the USSR Academy of Sciences and since December 1991 - the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS).
This was the time when science was gaining ground and rapidly accumulating the true knowledge about the nature based on the experiment and mathematical methods. It was the time when life itself demanded closer contacts between science and practice in Russia.
The creation of the Academy was one of the key elements of the Russia's deep-cutting transformations initiated by Peter the Great's (Picture at the right) reforms.
The developing industry, transport and trade needed scientific support and a higher cultural level to facilitate the nation to gain both domestic and international ground.
These tasks, and economy in the first place, required a thorough study and rapid development of Russia's natural resources. For this end The Emperor was making every efforts to involve the country into the European cultural stream.
It was Peter the Great's idea that the Russian Academy should differ from any of the West European academies. It was designed both as a research and an educational organization. It incorporated a university and a grammar school with the Academy's members as lecturers. Its other task was to provide all types of scientific and technical support to the state aimed at its strengthening and centralization.
Peter the Great planned the Academy to meet the modern scientific requirements and considered it necessary to invite prominent scientists from abroad: mathematicians Leonhard Euler, Nicholas and Daniel Bernoulli and Christian Golbach, astronomer and geographer Jean Delisle, physicist Georg Krafft and others. Many of them (D.Bernoulli and Euler among them) became world-famous while at Russian service. L. Bluementrost (of German origin) (Picture at the right) became the first President of the Academy.
The Academy started its sittings in 1725; while it was officially opened in December 1725 after the death of Peter the Great.
At first the Academy limited itself to three trends or classes: mathematics, physics and humanities. The mathematical class included four chairs: mathematics and astronomy; geography and navigation; two chairs of mechanics. The physical class included four chairs as well: theoretical and experimental physics, anatomy, chemistry and botany. The class of the humanities comprised the chairs of rhetorics and ancient monuments, ancient and modern history; and law, politics and ethics.
The Academy got a splendid collection of the Cabinet of Curiosities and a library that included both private collections and Peter the Great's books. The building of the Cabinet of Curiosities housed an anatomical theater, astronomical observatory and a unique globe with a diameter of more than three meters that served as a planetarium. In 1725 - 26 the Academy acquired a physical cabinet with top - class equipment. Little by little, it added a botanical garden, a mineralogical cabinet and instrumental shops to its research bodies. Within the first few years the Academy set up a printshop and in 1728 launched the first scientific journal in Latin: "Commentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae".
At that time the Academy was mostly concentrated on mathematics and natural sciences that was specified by the demands of practice: speedy industrial growth, prospec ting and exploitation of the natural resources, development of navigation, meteorology and cartography. Besides the Academy was carrying out the research in anatomy, physiology, geography, ethnography and history. The first scientifically substantiated geographical Atlas of Russia published in 1745 was the result of relevant geographic, geodetic and astronomic studies.
Starting from the 1820s the Academy organized numerous expeditions (headed by its members) to distant regions of the country.
Thus, for example, A.Krasilnikov and S.Krasheninnikov, one of the first Russian academicians, took an active part in Vitus Bering's Second Kamchatka Expedition in 1733 - 1743 and organized the first complex studies of this peninsula. The Academy launched the all-round studies of Siberia that included the researches of its natural conditions and resources, flora and fauna and indigenious population. New General Map of Russia (1776) crowned these efforts.
Leonard Euler (Picture at the left) contributed greatly to promote mathematics and mechanics at the outset of the Academy's activity. He began his career at the age of 20. Since that time his life was totally connected with the Russian Academy of Sciences. Between 1742 and 1766, while working at the Berlin Academy, he published 109 works in the Russian Academy's Commentaries. He made a fundamental contribution to the mathematical analysis, theory of numbers, theory of special functions and the calculus of variations. He always adapted his mathematical studies to the problems of mechanics, physics, ballistics, shipbuilding and navigation. He laid the foundations for analytical mechanics and, jointly with D.Bernoulli, for hydrodynamics.
Meanwhile the Russian scientists trained at the Academy, University started to gain ground in the Academy. Mikhail Lomonosov (Picture at the right) who was destined to shape an era in Russian science joined the Academy in 1742. In 1748 he suggested a principle of conservation of matter and motion. D.Bernoulli's kinetic theory of gases and Lomonosov's kinetic theory of heat made an important contribution into new atomistics. Their discoveries outst ripped contemporary physics by a hundred of years. Lomonosov recurred to atomistic ideas in his chemical research as well.
Observing the passage of Venus against the Solar disc Lomonosov discovered the planet's atmosphere. He also contributed to geology and geography, paid much attention to the development of mining, metallurgy and designing of navigational and other instruments.
Lomonosov tried his hand in the humanities as well: he transformed the Russian standard language and the rules of Russian poetry, wrote the first Russian grammar, the first course of Russian rhetorics, contributed to the studies in Russian stylistics and the history of the Russian state.
He paid mich attention to training young scientists and promotion of education in the country. He actively participated in organizing the Moscow University that was opened in 1755 and which is currently named after Lomonosov.
Since the very inception the Academy never neglected ties with foreign academies and scientists: it had many foreign honorary members, while Russian scientists (L.Euler, M.Lomonosov, I.Lepekhin, P.Pallas and others) were elected honorary members of the academies abroad.
In the 18th century the Russian Academy of Sciences became one of the leaders of the European science. As the center of learning and culture the Academy tilled the soil for further development of sciences outside it.
The beginning of the 19th century witnessed the dramatic changes in scientific developments in Russia caused by deep cutting social and economic processes and new political phenomena, i.e. the development of capitalism and growth of the national selfawareness became more evident after the war of 1812 in particular. It was the time when Russian literature and art - the public rostrum for progressive ideas - reached significant heights.
The growing industry, educational system and culture demanded the ever increasing number of trained specialists. New universities appeared over the country's European part - in Kazan, St.Petersburg, Tartu and Kharkov. Universities joined their forces with the Academy in scientific research.
In the late 18th and early 19th century the Academy transformed or ceased to accomplish some of its former functions, such as education. The arts were transferred under the supervision of the newly established Academy of Arts. The Academy's University was closed while the Academy itself concentrated on research. At the same time practically all its members continued their work at universities and scientific societies, the number of the corresponding members and honorary members living outside St.Petersburg became larger, the material basis improved. In the 1830s the Academy founded several museums (botanical, zoological, mineralogical, ethnographic and others) with varied collections. In 1839, an astronomic observatory was opened in Pulkovo, which dealt with the star astronomy studies and issued the star catalogues.
In the 19th and early 20th century the Academy noticeably extended the range of studies: humanities became more prominent than before. In 1841, some of the members of the Russian Academy for Linguistics that had been functioning for sixty years and was mainly engaged in the Russian language and literary monuments, joined the Academy. A department of the Russian language and literature was added to the already existent departments of physics - and - mathematics and history and philology. Prominent Russian writers like Vasily Zhukovsky, Ivan Krylov and, later, Lev Tolstoy, literature critics and linguists were the members of the new department.
Important discoveries were made at that time and new promising trends were formed.
Russian scientists influenced greatly the development of mathematics: Nikolai Lobachevsky of the Kazan University created non-Euclidean geometry, Pafnuty Chebyshev and members of the St.Petersburg Mathematical School created by him made a weighty contribution to the Numbers Theory , the Probability Theory, the Theory of Differential Equations and the Theory of Random Variables. Andrei Markov - Chebyshev's student, formulated Theory of Dependent Random Values. Alexander Lyapunov's works on mathematics and mechanics and, in particular, his Theory of Stability of Mechanical Systems with Finite Number of Degrees of Freedom became widely known. Sofia Kovalevskaya discovered a new, totally integrable, case of motion of solids. Nikolay Zhukovsky and his school of Aerodynamics were recognized throughout the world.
Vasily Struve's studies of the stars relative motion made valuable contribution to astronomy and astrophysics as well as the research of Fyodor Bredikhin on the theory of comet tails and the works of Aristarkh Belopolsky who was the first to apply the Doppler principle to studies of the stars motion.
Russian physicists scored no less spectacular successes. Early in the 19th century Vasily Petrov discovered Electric Arc. Emily Lentz became widely known for his works in electromagnetism, Boris Yakobi suggested a new method of galvanoplastics. With his invention of radio in 1895 Alexander Popov made another large step in the development of science in Russia and in the world. Late in the 19th century Evgraf Fedorov made a major contribution into crystallography and systematisation of crystallographic groups.
Chemistry was making no smaller strides: Herman Hess laid the foundations of Thermochemistry, Nikolay Zinin, Alexander Voskresensky and others reached significant results in the field of Organic Chemistry. Alexander Butlerov's Theory of Chemical Structure proped this field of knowledge up. Dmitry Mendeleyev's Periodic Table became the fundamental element of chemistry and proved to be an outstanding contribution to the world science.
No less spectacular were successes in biology; the Academy carried out the traditional studies of Russian flora and launched new trends of biological research. Karl Behr laid the foundations of Embriology. Ilya Mechnikov and Alexander Kovalevsky created Comparative and Evolutionary Embriology; Ivan Sechenov and Ivan Pavlov contributed to the Physiology of Higher Nervous Activity. In 1904 Pavlov was awarded a Nobel Prize for his works in the Physiology of Digestion.
Progress in geography and geology became particularly evident in the second half of the 19th century. Russian academicians continued their studies of Central Asia, Siberia and the Far North. Alexander Karpinsky and Feodosy Chernyshev were the pioneers of Stratigraphy and systematic studies of Russia's geological structure. There were noticeable successes in Petrography. Boris Golitsyn developed Seismometry. Vladimir Vernadsky, one of the founders of Geochemistry, started his successful career in science at the end of the 19th century.
Humanities were also in the focus of the Academy's activity: Sergey Solovyev and Vasily Klyuchevsky were outstanding historians of Russia; Izmail Sreznevsky, Fedor Buslaev, Vladimir Dal and Alexey Shakhmatov were prominent in Philology; Oriental Studies were developed by Vasily Radlov, Vasily Bartold, Sergey Oldenburg and others.
The revolution of February 1917 gave the Academy a chance to elect their president (before, the presidents of the Academy were appointed by the decrees of the tsar). Alexander Karpinsky became the first elected president. He remained at his post from May 1917 till his death in July 1936.
Lavrenty Bluementrost (1725 - 1733) was the first President of the Academy. Then the Presidents were Herman Karl von Keiserling (1733 - 1734), Johann Albrecht von Korff (1734 - 1740), Karl von Brevern (1740 - 1741), Kirill G. Razumovsky (1746 - 1798), Heinrich Ludwig von Nicolay (1798 - 1803), Alexey N.Novosiltsov (1803 - 1810), Sergei S.Uvarov (1818 - 1855), Dmitry N.Bludov (1855 - 1864), Friedrich Benjamin Lutke (1864 - 1882), Dmitry A. Tolstoy (1882 - 1889), and Konstantin K. Romanov (1889 - 1915).
With the Soviet power established, the attitude to science in the country has changed. The state took all the concern about science development upon itself. Thus, first in the world has been realized the state - governed organization of science, which was later accepted by the developed capitalist countries.
The Soviet Government paid great attention to the Academy of Sciences, which gathered the leading scholars of Russia. The Academy has been actively involved in the solution of major economic and technical problems of reconstruction and cultural evolution. In the severe years of the civil war, the Soviet Government procured the funds to finance investigations conducted in the Academy, and to help the scientists, creating the favorable conditions for their work. In the 20s the scientists of the Academy supervised the research of the Kursk magnetic anomaly, the geological surveys of the Kola Peninsula; a number of scientific expeditions exploring the natural resources of various regions of the country was growing. Greater attention was paid to the fundamental studies of the problems of natural sciences and humanities. New research institutes were set up, for instance, the Institute of Physics and Mathematics headed by Vladimir Steklov (later it split into the Lebedev Physical Institute and the Steklov Mathematical Institute),Institute of Optics, Institute of Radium, Institute of Physical-and-Chemical Analysis. Institute of Platinum with Dmitry Rozhdestvensky, Vladimir Vernadsky, Nikolai Kurnakov and Lev Chugaev, as their heads, respectively.
Since that time the academic science started to develop in the USSR national republics. In 1919 Vernadsky set up the Ukrainian Academy; in 1929 the Institute of Byelorussian culture gave birth to the Byelorussian Academy of Sciences.
In its decree of 1925 the government recognized the Academy as the "highest all - Union scientific institution" and gave it a new name - the USSR Academy of Sciences.
In the period of the 20s - 30s the scientists of the Academy actively participated in drawing up national economy development plans, established direct contacts with the enterprises and construction sites. Relevant research and consultations in sites assisted the solution of the urgent social and econo- mical problems. Besides, the Academy made a great contrtibution to training the specialists for the new branches of the economy and culture.
To strengthen the contacts with major state establishments and bodies and in compliance with the decree of the government in 1934 the Academy moved from Leningrad (currently St.Petersburg) to Moscow.
A number of the academic Institutes, its Presidium, many leading scientists including V.Vernadsky, I.Vinogradov, V.Obruchev, A.Fersman, moved to Moscow too. Leningrad (St.Petersburg) remained and is still remaining a large center of the academic science.
In 1935 a new Department of Technical Sciences was added to the existent Departments of Natural and Social Sciences. Later on, in 1938, the Academy comprised eight divisions: physics and mathematics, chemistry, biology, geology and geography, economy and law, history and phylosophy, literature and language.
The 30s witnessed a rapidly expanding network of the academic scientific institutions. The Institutes of Genetics and Physical Problems headed by Nikolai Vavilov and Pyotr Kapitza were founded. A number of scientific institutions dealing with the problems of social sciences and humanities joined the Academy. General-purpose scientific expeditions in different parts of the country laid the basis for the appearance of the academic centers in national republics and major regions of the Russian Federation.
The growth of the national economy, educational, scientific and cultural level in all union republics made it possible to gradually transform the branches and departments of the USSR Academy of Sciences into the republican academies. Thus, in 1941, the Georgian Academy of Sciences was organized.
Still, befort the Second World War the Academy set up an important material and technical bases of scientific research. New scientific officers joined its institutions and new scientific schools in a number of natural, technical and social sciences emerged. This allowed scholars to develop the wide-scale research in mathematics, mechanics, automatic control theory, theoretical physics, optics, radiophysics, nuclear physics, chemistry and metallurgy (in electric welding, in particular), in physiology and geology. Studies in the social sciences became more animated. The linguists, for instance, made a good deal of work to create the written languages for some of the peoples of the Soviet Union which nad never had them before.
During the Great Patriotic War of 1941 - 1945 the Academy strained its efforts to improve the country's defence potential. The hardships of war-time notwithstanding, the' scientists were working on new types of weaponry, development of the military production, prospecting for new resources, medical problems and so on. Mstislav Keldysh and Sergei Khristianovich became known for their works in aviation technology; Anatoli Alexandrov worked out new techniques for protection of the warship against magnetic mines; Aksel Berg made great advances in radiolocation. A.Blagonravov's works were aimed at creation of the scientific foundations of the small-arms design, while those of B.Petrov - on the work - out of the ammunition production automatic control equipment. Scientists were instrumental in improving artillery systems and tubeless weapons. Nikolai Burdenko, Alexei Speransky and their colleagues greatly contributed to treating wounds and illnesses. At the same time the fundamental studies glowed the scientists to make great strides in theoretical physics, astrophysics, chemistry and geology.
During the war the Academy's branches became more active too; new branches and republican academies were set up in Uzbekistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The postwar years opened up a new stage in the Academy's life that had to rehabilitate the national economy and accelerate the scientific and technical progress in the country.
The Academy's researchers solved many intricate scientific problems including the control over the atomic nuclear energy, space research and electronic means of information processing. These breakthroughs became possible due to the scientific potential created before the war and concentration of the best forces on the most important tasks whose solution was mostly important to improve the country's defence potential.
Igor Kurchatov and his team were working on the peaceful usage of nuclear energy - the first ever nuclear power station was brought into action in 1954; the Academy's scientists put forward an idea of a controlled thermo-nuclear fusion and launched the experiments in this field.
The Soviet Union was the first to start space research: the space era began in 1957 with the Earth's first artificial satellite (sputnik) and Yuri Gagarin's space flight. These advances became possible due to the efforts of numerous scientific collectives headed by Sergei Korolev, Mstislav Keldysh, Vladimir Barmin, Alexei Bogomolov, Valentin Glushko, Victor Kuznetsov, Nikolai Pilyugin.
The group headed by Sergei Lebedev created the first Soviet computers.
Advances in nuclear energy, space technology, aviation, computation and many other fields posed ever new and more complicated problems before the fundamental and applied science, technology and production. This demanded new research in many scientific fields, modem technologies and new technical and industrial branches.
The first postwar years saw the measures to speed up scientific research in the Academy and overall development of the academic science in the country. The academies were organized in the Baltic republics, Kazakhstan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, Kirghizia and Moldova. By the early sixties all the Union republics had already organized the academies of sciences.
The network of the academic research institutes was expanding and their material basis improved. Powerful experimental installations and computing centers appeared, new marine research vessels were constructed.