MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of People
Twelve great Russian scientists
Authors: Pavel Yudin and Mark Rosenthal;
First published: 1954 in A Short Philosophical Dictionary, fifth edition;
Translated:by Anton P.
Lobachevsky, Nikolai Ivanovich (1792-1856)
Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky (1792-1856) – great Russian mathematician, the creator of non-Euclidean geometry, the exponent of materialistic views on mathematics and its foundations. In 1811, after completing his university course, Lobachevsky received the title of Master of Mathematics. At the age of twenty-three he was already a professor. Kazan University, of which he was 19 years old, Lobachevsky devoted his whole life. He was a conductor of advanced ideas in teaching youth. Lobachevsky is a prominent figure in university education. Lobachevsky’s merits in the field of public education in Russia are enormous, but he earned an immortal name with the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry. He not only pointed out the possibility of creating a geometry different from the usual geometry of Euclid, he was the first in the world to build a logically flawless system of such a new geometry.
For more than two millennia, the geometric representations of people have been based on the teachings expressed in the 3rd century. BC. in Euclid’s Elements.
According to this doctrine, all elementary geometry is based on a group of axioms – its starting points. Even in ancient times, mathematicians noticed that the axiom of parallel lines (called the eleventh axiom or the fifth postulate of Euclid) is not as obvious as other axioms. This axiom says: through a point lying outside a given straight line, only one straight line parallel to it passes in the same plane with it. Many scientists have tried to deduce this axiom from others, but to no avail. Lobachevsky expressed the bold idea that it is generally impossible to deduce this axiom from others – it is independent of them. In doing so, he proceeded from the desire to connect the basic provisions of geometry with the properties of the material bodies of nature. Accepting the assumption, that at least two parallel lines can be drawn to a given straight line through a given point in their common plane, he received, although a peculiar, but completely new harmonious geometric system, which does not contain any internal contradictions. This system is called Lobachevsky geometry.
The fact that in Lobachevsky’s geometry the sum of the angles of a triangle is not 180°, as in Euclidean, but always less, that through a point several parallel lines can be drawn to a given straight line that does not contain this point, was so unusual at that time that it seemed paradoxical. However, the novelty and uncommonness of the discovery, breaking centuries-old scientific traditions, did not frighten Lobachevsky. He boldly expressed his views orally in 1826, and published them in 1829 and in the following years, having won the indisputable priority of the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry. Lobachevsky’s deep ideas were not understood by his contemporaries. It took about half a century for his ideas to enter mathematics as an integral part of it and to become a turning point in the field of mathematics in the next era. During the life of Lobachevsky, only the Russian professor of Kazan PI Kotelnikov publicly appreciated his immortal discovery, who in 1842 in his speech “On prejudices against mathematics” said that Lobachevsky’s great work will sooner or later find its connoisseurs. Already some 10 years after the death of Lobachevsky, it was proved that the positions of Lobachevsky’s planimetry are realized on some curved surfaces (the so-called pseudo spherical).
Lobachevsky’s assumption that Euclid’s geometry is by no means the only one in the space around us was justified. It even turned out that Lobachevsky’s geometry is not the only non-Euclidean geometry, if we do not limit ourselves only to considering a rigid body in infinite space. Thus, as a result of Lobachevsky’s discovery, it turned out that Euclid’s geometry is only one of the possible geometries, correct as long as we operate within the limits of our usual extensions. Non-Euclidean geometry has found numerous applications in other branches of mathematics; it plays an important role in modern physics; the theory of relativity would not have been possible without non-Euclidean geometry.
Lobachevsky’s worldview was materialistic. In his mathematical works and in the teaching of mathematics, he was constantly concerned with elucidating the real nature of the concepts underlying science. Lobachevsky firmly and consistently carried out the idea that “the first data will undoubtedly always be those concepts that we acquire in nature through our senses,” that “the first concepts from which any science begins ... are acquired by the senses; congenital – should not be believed. “ This sensationalism of Lobachevsky has a pronounced materialistic character. For Lobachevsky, the external world is objective, and our ideas about it are the result of the impact of the real world on human consciousness through sensations, feelings. That is why “all concepts, whatever they may be, acquired from nature, can be taken as the basis of the mathematical sciences.”
Lobachevsky’s views on the relationship between theory and practice have a pronounced materialistic orientation. Experience and practice serve as the criterion of truth for him. Lobachevsky believed that the logical consistency of geometry was still insufficient to recognize it as true. He demanded a practical confirmation of its correspondence with the real relation of physical space. Having shaken the “inviolability” of the foundations of Euclidean geometry, Lobachevsky dealt a heavy blow to the philosophy of Kant, who in this “inviolability” tried to find support for his philosophy and considered the truths of geometry not as a result of the experience of mankind, but as innate (a priori) forms of human consciousness.
Lobachevsky constantly emphasized the futility of attempts to derive all mathematics from mere constructions of reason. “... All mathematical principles,” he said, “which they think to produce from the mind itself, regardless of the things of the world, will remain useless for mathematics ...” Lobachevsky fought just as passionately against formalism in mathematics, emasculating from mathematics and its concepts their real content and seeing in mathematical signs and operations on them is only a simple play of symbols. This struggle of Lobachevsky has not lost its relevance to this day, when formalism is flourishing in Western science.
Lobachevsky was a great patriot of his homeland. He demanded from the student who came to the university, first of all, that he be a citizen who “by his high knowledge constitutes the honor and glory of his Motherland.” The progressive significance of Lobachevsky’s great ideas lies in the fact that his discovery expanded the boundaries of geometry and led it onto the path of new development. The materialistic nature of Lobachevsky’s initial attitudes, his desire to clarify the materialistic content of mathematical concepts, to reveal the connections between geometry and the properties of the real world make him one of the brightest thinkers of the 19th century.
Mendeleev, Dmitry Ivanovich (1834-1907)
Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev (1834-1907) – great Russian chemist, the creator of the periodic table of chemical elements. He did a lot for the development of industry in Russia, for the first time he put forward the idea of underground gasification of coal, which was later highly appreciated by Lenin. A revolutionary in science, Mendeleev fought for the connection of theory with practice, for the application of science to the needs of the industrial development of Russia. In philosophy Mendeleev considered himself a “realist.” Mendeleev’s “realism” is basically materialism combined with spontaneous dialectics. “... Nowadays, not a single fraction of matter is unthinkable without an original movement ... movement has become a concept inextricably linked with the concept of matter ...” (Mendeleev). Mendeleev fought against spiritualism and energetism.
On February 19, 1869, Mendeleev discovered the periodic law of chemical elements, which formed the basis of his periodic system.
This law states that the properties of simple bodies, as well as the shape and properties of compounds of elements, are periodically dependent on the magnitude of the atomic weights of the elements. Establishing a connection between the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of elements, between the chemistry of their atomic weight, Mendeleev developed the chemical atomistics of Lomonosov and actually applied to the chemical elements the law on the transition of quantitative changes to qualitative ones. Arranging the elements in ascending order of atomic weights, Mendeleev noticed that after a certain number of elements the properties are repeated. Therefore, Mendeleev placed similar elements one under the other. The system of Mendeleev reveals a universal lawful connection between all elements and their interdependence. There were empty spaces in the table of elements compiled by Mendeleev; they should have been filled with elements that were not yet open.
Mendeleev theoretically calculated the most important properties of the latter, deriving them as averages from the properties of neighboring elements. The elements predicted by Mendeleev were discovered by Lecoq de Boisbaudran (1875), Nilsson (1880), Whipclair (1886) and named gallium, scandium and germanium. Their properties almost exactly coincided with those predicted by Mendeleev: for example, the atomic weight of germanium is 72.6, and it was assumed equal to 72. Mendeleev, unconsciously applying the dialectical law on the transition of quantitative changes into qualitative ones, accomplished a scientific feat.
Having proved in practice the reliability of human knowledge about the laws of the objective world, Mendeleev dealt a crushing blow to agnosticism; at the same time, the disclosure of the objective laws of chemical elements contributed to the expulsion of chance from chemistry. Without a periodic law, Mendeleev writes, the discovery of new elements “... was a matter of one observation ... And that is why only blind chance and special insight and observation led to the discovery of new elements.
The law of periodicity opens a new path in this last relation ... “. Mendeleev’s priority in the discovery of the periodic law was unreasonably disputed by a number of foreign chemists. Defending the role of Russian science in this great discovery, Mendeleev showed that all these chemists came forward later. For example, L. Meyer, who claimed this discovery, generally did not consider the periodic law to be an objective law of nature and did not risk making theoretical predictions and conclusions based on it; moreover, being a mechanist, L. Meyer considered only the external, purely quantitative side of the relationships between elements, ignoring their qualitative side, therefore, the very essence of the periodic law.
In the field of physics, Mendeleev discovered the “critical temperature,” which eliminated the former metaphysical gap between liquids and gases, and introduced amendments to the Boyle-Mariotte law, showing the relative nature of this law. These discoveries of Mendeleev were evaluated by Engels in his work “Anti-Dühring.”
In the 20th century. the development of views on the structure of matter, primarily the theory of the electronic structure of atoms, was based entirely on the periodic system of Mendeleev. If we renumber consecutively the elements located in the Mendeleev system, then the serial number of each element will be equal to the positive charge of the nucleus of its atom; chemical properties depend mainly on the grouping of electrons around the nucleus. With an increase in the nuclear charge by one and a corresponding increase in the number of electrons in the shell of an atom, the types of electronic groupings are repeated, causing periodicity in the change in the properties of atoms. Therefore, in the latest formulation, Mendeleev’s law states that the properties of elements are periodically dependent on the ordinal number or charge of the atomic nucleus. The mass of an atom is closely related to the charge of the nucleus; that’s why Mendeleev was able to discover his law, using atomic weights. Mendeleev’s system reflects not only connections, but also real processes of transformation of chemical elements and their compounds.
Nuclear reactions and radioactive decay of atoms are expressed as shifts (from place to place) in the Mendeleev system (“shift law”). The fission of the nuclei of heavy elements (uranium, etc.) also occurs in accordance with the periodic law of Mendeleev; this law is currently helping to master the ways of using atomic energy. Evolution, matter on stars and the distribution of chemical compounds in the process of the development of the Earth are expressed by the Mendeleev system. Mendeleev’s law, being, thus, the law of the development of matter in the field of inorganic nature, plays a huge role in substantiating the “ever-moving” (dialectical) and “realistic” (materialist) view of nature. Mendeleev is rightfully considered the founder of the modern doctrine of matter, atoms and elements. The main work of Mendeleev is “Fundamentals of Chemistry.”
Mechnikov, Ilya Ilyich (1845-1916)
Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (1845-1916) – an outstanding Russian biologist, one of the founders of microbiology, comparative embryology and pathology; the theorist of Darwinism, who creatively developed this doctrine. Mechnikov’s worldview was formed under the influence of revolutionary, anti-serfdom sentiments and advanced ideas of the great revolutionary democrats of the 1860s. Mechnikov was one of the progressive leaders of Russian materialistic science and a fighter against ideological reaction in science.
He made a huge contribution to the development of zoology, embryology, microbiology, pathology, anthropology, Darwinism, etc., in the field of zoology, he described new species of annelids and sucking ciliates, and also developed biological methods to combat insects harmful to agriculture (bread beetles), which was carried out by infecting their larvae with a fungus (green muscardine). Together with A.O. Kovalevsky, Mechnikov is the founder of evolutionary embryology.
He is the author of remarkable works on the study of the embryonic development of various groups of animals (sponges, hydromedusa), insects, etc. As a result of these studies, general patterns of embryonic development of various groups of animals were established, their genetic relationship and unity of origin were proved. Thus, a great contribution was made to the creative development of Darwin’s teachings. Mechnikov also creatively developed Darwin’s theory on the issue of inflammation and immunity. Based on twenty years of research, Xi created a coherent phagocytic theory of inflammation and immunity. Before Mechnikov, the phenomena of inflammation were explained through Virchow’s metaphysical theory of cellular pathology. Virchow was an enemy of Darwinism and fought against its spread in science.
Mechnikov, on the contrary, proved the fruitfulness of the ideas of Darwinism and its historical method in the development of problems of pathology. Ardently promoting and defending Darwinism, Mechnikov, however, did not approach it dogmatically. He criticized the reactionary Malthusian idea of overpopulation, adopted by Darwin to explain the reasons for the struggle for existence and selection. On questions of the theory of knowledge, Mechnikov opposed idealism and metaphysics. He rejected the religious-priestly teaching about the soul and its immortality. “Science,” he wrote, “cannot admit the immortality of the conscious soul, since consciousness is the result of the activity of the elements of our body that do not possess immortality.” Mechnikov criticized various forays of obscurantists in science: vitalists, spiritualists, teleo-iatics like Gustave Le Bon, Oliver Lodge and other mystics.
He passionately fought against the “fashionable” reactionary philosophers – James, Bergson, Hartmann, Nietzsche, considering them the most harmful ideologists of unscientific reaction. The difficult working conditions resulting from constant persecution by the ruling circles of Tsarist Russia forced Mechnikov to emigrate abroad. He lived in a foreign land for 28 years. However, living far from his homeland, he remained its ardent patriot and did not break close ties with his friends who were in Russia. He was an ardent champion of the emancipation of women, advocated for women’s education, for the social rights of women.
Mechnikov covered socio-political issues from the wrong positions. He mistakenly believed that only science is the decisive force for eliminating social evil and injustice. Fighting against political and ideological reaction, he did not see the real forces of social development and did not understand the laws of society. He approached the interpretation of social problems from idealistic and positivist positions. The main works of Mechnikov: “Studies on the nature of man” (1903), “Studies of optimism” (1907), “Forty years of searching for a rational worldview” (1912), the collection “On Darwinism.”
Sechenov, Ivan Mikhailovich (1829-1905)
Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov (1829-1905) – great Russian scientist, materialist thinker, founder of Russian physiology. Sechenov’s advanced materialistic views in the field of philosophy and natural science, closely related to his progressive social and political convictions, were formed under the direct influence of the revolutionary liberation movement in Russia in the 1840s and 1860s. and the acute ideological struggle that was taking place in the country at that time. Sechenov was the successor of the democratic and materialist traditions in Russian science, laid down by M.V. Lomonosov and A.N. Radishchev. The name of Sechenov is associated with the birth of Russian physiology, the development of which he directed along a new, independent path.
K.A.Timiryazev and I.P. Pavlov rightly called Sechenov the father of Russian physiology.
Sechenov was the first in the history of physiology to begin an experimental study of the activity of the brain, aiming to reveal the physiological mechanisms of the so-called “mental,” mental activity, which before HIM was considered unknowable. Contrary to idealistic, anti-scientific statements about the allegedly unknowable nature of mental phenomena, Sechenov irrefutably proved that the phenomena of consciousness, will, etc. – the so-called spiritual activity of a person is completely cognizable and its laws can be explained and studied with the help of a strictly scientific objective method. how bodily activity has been studied so far.
For the first time in the history of physiological science, Sechenov began to consider the activity of the human brain as reflex, while before him, only those types of vital activity of the organism that were associated with the spinal cord were considered reflex. This consideration of the activity of the brain radically changed the idea of the nature of human mental activity and allowed Sechenov to irrefutably prove that the human psyche is a product of the material organ of mental activity – the brain, which functions due to the influences of the external world on the senses. Resolutely rejecting idealistic statements about the special nature of human mental activity, Sechenov boldly asserted that there is nothing in consciousness that is not in reality, that the so-called “free will” itself is only the result of those external conditions in which a person lives and acts and which, reflected in his brain, cause certain actions.
Sechenov wrote that the assertion of the idealists that the reason for any human action lies allegedly in the person himself, in his “inner world,” his consciousness, and not in the concrete conditions of life and activity that exist outside him and are independent of him, is “the greatest False.” “The original reason for every act lies always in external sensory excitement, because without it, no thought is possible.” With this, Sechenov dealt a crushing blow to the reactionary idealist views about the “immortality of the soul,” “free will,” etc., which dominated science at that time and is still widely advocated by reactionary idealist philosophy.
Sechenov’s works in the field of brain physiology played a huge role in the scientific work of I.P. Pavlov, who considered Sechenov his teacher and ideological inspirer, tirelessly emphasized the close successive connection between menads with his doctrine of conditioned reflexes and Sechenov’s doctrine of the reflex nature of the activity of the brain. Sechenov’s works in the field of physiology are a valuable contribution to the materialistic theory of the development of living nature. They played an essential role in preparing the ideological and theoretical ground for the triumph of Michurin biological science.
Through all of Sechenov’s scientific research, the idea of evolution, the progressive development of living nature, runs like a red thread. Investigating the problem of thinking, Sechenov repeatedly said that the solution to this problem will be successful only if the process of thinking is considered historically, in its origin and development. Through his works, Sechenov contributed a lot of value to the understanding of the essence of thinking, its connection with language, speech, and human activity.
In his research, Sechenov proceeded from a firm conviction in the objective existence of the external world, independent of man. “The basis of all reasoning was put by me,” Sechenov wrote, “the immutable conviction inherent in every person in the existence of the external world..” In the theory of knowledge, Sechenov also unswervingly adhered to the materialist line. Sechenov considered the objective material world existing outside of consciousness to be completely cognizable. Sechenov argued and experimentally proved that the objects of the external world and the impressions of them in the mind of a person are similar to each other.
The cognizability of the world and the reliability of our knowledge about it are confirmed, Sechenov wrote, “by the tremendous successes of natural science, thanks to which man conquers more and more of his power of the forces of nature,” as well as “brilliant applications in practice, that is, the successes of technology.” Sechenov sharply criticized idealism in the question of the knowability of the world and especially the idealistic doctrine of Kant, which asserted the dependence of the object of cognition on the cognizing subject, on a priori, supposedly innate to man, forms of reason that he introduces into the object under study. Experience, practice Sechenov considered the basis of the theory of knowledge, the criterion of the truth of any positive knowledge.
Sechenov’s materialism is not devoid of shortcomings. So, correctly rejecting the idealistic interpretation of the issue of free will, proving the dependence of a person’s will on objective, external causes, Sechenov did not reveal its conditionality by social, social relations in which a person lives and acts. The same deficiency is inherent in his understanding of the essence of thinking, of human consciousness.
Sechenov was the foremost scientist of his time. According to K. A. Timiryazev, he was one of the most colorful figures in the social movement of the 1860s. Being in direct communication and friendship with the leader of Russian revolutionary democracy N.G. Chernyshevsky, Sechenov adopted his worldview. In turn, Chernyshevsky highly appreciated Sechenov’s scientific achievements and relied on them in his philosophical generalizations. The works of I. M. Sechenov on physiology were one of the natural scientific foundations of Chernyshevsky’s philosophical materialism. As we know, the remarkable image of Sechenov was reflected by Chernyshevsky in his novel “What is to be done?” represented by Kirsanov.
Sechenov brilliantly exposed the idealism and mysticism of the enemy of the revolutionary democrats, Kavelin, whom Lenin called one of the most disgusting types of liberal rudeness. As a passionate patriot of his country and a fighter for advanced national science, Sechenov incurred “disgrace” and persecution from the Tsarist autocracy, which considered him “politically unreliable.”
Without separating the interests of science from the interests of his people, Sechenov, already at an advanced age, read lectures with great enthusiasm to Moscow workers at the Prechistenskiye workers’ courses. But the Tsarist authorities soon banned Sechenov from giving lectures to workers. Sechenov welcomed the revolution of 1905 “And now ...” he said to K. A. Timiryazev, “we have to work, work, work.” This, – writes K. A. Timiryazev, – were the last words that I happened to hear from him – that was the testament of a mighty generation, descending from the scene, to the future.”
The main works of Sechenov: “Reflexes of the Brain,” “Impressions and Reality,” “Who and How to Develop Psychology?,” “Elements of Thought.”
Dokuchaev, Vasily Vasilievich (1846-1903)
Vasily Vasilievich Dokuchaev (1846-1903) – a great Russian scientist, geologist, founder of soil science, one of the founders of scientific agronomy, public figure and democrat. Dokuchaev was the successor of the best materialistic and democratic traditions in Russian science, laid down by Lomonosov and Radishchev. Dokuchaev, as a major naturalist, approached the problems of soil science of materialistic positions, considering nature as a whole, and individual phenomena and processes as organically interconnected and arising from one another.
Dokuchaev considered soil science to be a synthetic science, since soils, being the result of an extremely complex interaction of factors, “require their researcher to constantly excursions to the field of a wide variety of specialties ....” Being an encyclopedically educated scientist, Dokuchaev appeared in natural science as a revolutionary; he established the general principles and laws of the genesis, evolution and geographical distribution of soils, outlined the ways of their study and rational use for the needs of agriculture. Already at the beginning of his scientific career, Dokuchaev moved from purely geological work to extensive physical and geographical studies of soils, which allowed him to accumulate experimental material of a large volume and significance.
Dokuchaev created the classical theory of the origin of rivers and river valleys, substantiating the nature of the development of erosion processes. Dokuchaev for the first time undertook a grandiose expeditionary study of the chernozem soils of the East European Plain, the Caucasus and the Crimea, precisely “that fertile soil that constitutes the indigenous, incomparable wealth of Russia ....” The result of these works was the first ever soil map of European Russia and the work “Russian Chernozem” (1883) – the true basis of genetic soil science, which should rightfully be placed alongside Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.”
Dokuchaev’s doctrine of the genesis and evolution of soils is one of the greatest achievements of materialistic natural science. He created a harmonious “doctrine about those polysyllabic and diverse relationships and interactions, as well as about the laws governing their secular changes, which exist between the so-called living and dead nature ....” Dokuchaev proved that the soil is a kind of the fourth kingdom of nature, a special natural-historical body that arises as a result of the interaction of the parent rock and a complex of soil-forming factors: climate, plant and animal organisms, ground and ground waters, the relief and age of the country and human impact. Dokuchaev considered the soil-forming process dialectically as “eternally changing functions” that is soil-forming in space and time.
The creation of an independent soil science was of great importance in the field of theory and practice, since it made it possible to objectively study the soil cover of various zones, and also opened up the possibility of systematically managing the soil-forming process and continuously improving the agronomic properties of soils. Dokuchaev brilliantly substantiated the theory of soil zones and types of soil formation, gave the scientific basis for the genetic classification of soils; he established “a connection that lives and functions between soils and precisely whole plant and animal associations ...” (podzolic soils – taiga, gray forest soils – forest-steppe, chernozems – meadow steppe, chestnut-brown – semi-desert steppe, gray soils – desert steppe) ...
Dokuchaev was the first to establish a dialectical connection between soil and landscape, considering the soil to be not only an essential part, but also a mirror of the landscape, a complex set of surrounding natural conditions. The interests of Dokuchaev, a great scientist and patriot, were very broad and inextricably linked with the practice of agriculture. He believed that only on the right natural-historical scientific basis can various kinds of really practical measures be built to raise agriculture.”
To this end, he studied ravines and floodplains of rivers, the reasons for their shallowing, established the causes and outlined measures to combat drought and soil erosion, and approached the problems of reclamation and reclamation of bog soils. Dokuchaev at the same time substantiated a zonal, differentiated choice of agronomic measures (crop rotation, grass sowing, tillage, fertilization, irrigation, etc.). He demanded the study of all the conditions of agriculture “comprehensively and without fail in their mutual connection.” Dokuchaev believed that science in the hands of the people is a powerful transformative force. In his opinion, the forces of nature unfavorable for agriculture are terrible only when they are not known; “We just need to study them and learn how to manage them, and then they will work for our benefit.”
In his work “Our steppes before and now” (1892) Dokuchaev outlined a set of measures to transform the nature of the arid steppe landscape and turn it into a blossoming forest-steppe: field-protective afforestation, afforestation of rivers, ravines, ravines, sands and wastelands; the creation of structural soils and the improvement of their physical properties through grass cultivation; introduction of correct tillage, moisture conservation, snow retention, retention of melt and rainwater, regulation of river levels, construction of ponds and reservoirs, irrigation of estuary and local runoff, application of fertilizers, selection of crops and varieties appropriate to local conditions, etc. In this respect, Dokuchaev “outgrew his time for an entire epoch” (Williams).
Dokuchaev’s ideas entered the golden fund of agronomic science; they gave a powerful impetus to the development of related branches of natural science: biogeochemistry, dynamic geology, hydrogeology, etc., thereby laying the foundation for progressive Russian schools in the field of a whole range of sciences. According to Williams’ just assertion, Dokuchaev “belongs to the most outstanding scientists of the late 19th century, scientists of world significance,” whose name is “deservedly in the forefront of the classics of natural science.”
Dokuchaev was an outstanding teacher and public figure, a patriotic scientist, an ardent champion of the development of Russian science.
He organized the Soil Committee, the scientific journal “Soil Science,” created the first Department of Soil Science, did a lot for the development of higher agronomic education in Russia, the training of scientific personnel and the spread of the influence of advanced Russian science abroad. He considered it his duty to work for science and write for the people. At the world exhibitions in Paris and Chicago, Dokuchaev received the highest awards, and his ideas, further developed by his students, were universally recognized by the scientists of the world.
Dokuchaev, along with the correct materialistic interpretation of the basic provisions of geology, soil science and agriculture, made some sociological and philosophical mistakes. Thus, Dokuchaev overestimated the role of geographical conditions in the development of human society. Standing on the positions of Darwin’s evolutionary theory, Dokuchaev argued that nature does not make leaps in its development. Dokuchaev’s big mistake was the recognition of the “absolute laws” of the constancy of the relationship between the country’s climate, natural zones, soil and plant and animal organisms inhabiting it, etc. Dokuchaev underestimated the leading role of the biological factor in the genesis and evolution of soils.
Dokuchaev’s progressive teaching on transforming the nature of the steppe landscape and raising soil fertility could not be realized under the conditions of Tsarist Russia. After the 1917 Revolution, Dokuchaev’s soil science, enriched and developed by V.R. Williams) and other Soviet scientists, turned into an important branch of natural science, fruitfully serving socialist agriculture.
Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich (1849-1936)
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936) – a great Russian physiologist and thinker, an ardent patriot of the Motherland. Pavlov’s scientific activity for more than sixty years was marked by a number of remarkable discoveries in the field of physiology of blood circulation, digestion, trophic functions of the nervous system, the opening of a new chapter in the science of brain physiology. Successor of the progressive traditions of Russian materialist philosophy and natural science of the 19th century, especially the teachings of Sechenov, whom he called the father of Russian physiology, Pavlov made a real revolution in natural science, creating the doctrine of the higher nervous activity of animals and humans. With his teaching, Pavlov dealt a crushing blow to idealist psychology and laid the foundation for the construction of a genuinely different, materialistic psychology. Investigating the essence of “mental salivation,” he established an extremely important fact. Along with the release of saliva in response to irritation of the oral cavity with food, it is possible to achieve the release of saliva in an animal to any stimulus of the outside world – light, sound, skin irritation, if this stimulus is reinforced by subsequent feeding of the animal. Accordingly, Pavlov called reflexes of the first kind unconditioned, reflexes of the second kind – conditioned.
Experiments have shown that conditioned reflexes, both positive and negative, are formed on the basis of unconditioned reflexes, ensuring the best adaptability of the animal to constantly changing environmental conditions. The objective method of developing conditioned reflexes, as well as their destruction, allowed Pavlov and his students to find out the basic laws of higher nervous activity in animals. Pavlov showed that the formation and destruction of temporary connections, that is, conditioned reflexes, in the cortex of the cerebral hemispheres of animals, as well as the analytical and synthetic activity of the nervous system, enable the animal to navigate a complex reality.
External, as well as internal irritations coming from internal organs, muscles, bones, ligamentous apparatus, signal the animal about favorable or unfavorable conditions for him in a biological sense, thereby causing objectively expedient actions on his part. The cerebral cortex is that wonderful device where all these signals are projected and responses are generated. According to Pavlov’s teachings, in addition to the first signaling system (reaction to the direct impact of the external world) in humans, a second signaling system, speech, has developed, which has made significant changes in the higher nervous activity of a person. Pavlov’s doctrine of the second signaling system is important for all theory of knowledge. It reveals the physiological basis of specific human thinking.
Due to the action of various stimuli that are objectively positive or negative for the animal, excitation or inhibition of certain areas occurs in the cerebral cortex. Each of these processes spreads throughout the entire cortex, and then concentrates in its original areas. The interaction of the processes of excitation and inhibition determines the normal functioning of the brain. Pavlov explained the essence of sleep in higher animals, proving that sleep is nothing more than complete inhibition of the cerebral cortex. At the same time, Pavlov explained the mechanism of hypnosis and revealed the essence of dreams.
The last years of his life Pavlov devoted to the elucidation of diseases of the nervous system, creating the doctrine of experimental neuroses in animals. Pavlov made a great and valuable contribution to the clinic of nervous and mental diseases of a person. Of great scientific importance are the scientific classification of the types of the nervous system of animals created by Pavlov, as well as the work begun by him to study the evolution of the nervous system of animals and the inheritance of conditioned reflexes.
Pavlov’s scientific heritage, developed in numerous laboratories by his students and followers, fertilizes a number of important areas of practice. The significance of Pavlov’s teachings for many other sciences, and especially for medicine, is unusually great. Pavlov’s doctrine of higher nervous activity is one of the natural scientific foundations of all modern psychology.
It gave a strictly scientific basis for the materialist theory of reflection. With his doctrine of higher nervous activity, Pavlov proved that without the influence of the external world on the sensory organs of animals, on their brains, no mental activity is possible, that the psyche of animals is a reflection of the external objective world. Pavlov’s doctrine is imbued with the idea of development, change, it destroys metaphysical ideas about the laws of mental activity. Pavlov considers the reflex activity of animals dialectically, as a continuous replacement of some reflexes by others, as a struggle of opposite processes – excitation and inhibition, manipulation and concentration, etc. nature.
Pavlov’s works reached extraordinary proportions and flourished during the 1920s due to Lenin’s active patronage of the scientist (even though Pavlov was personally not a communist). Pavlov highly appreciated the concern of the Soviet government for the development of science in Russia. In his speeches, in a letter – the will of the youth – he called for giving all his strength and knowledge for the good of the Motherland. He was a true patriot and was proud of the great successes of his Motherland. A scientific session of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences (1950), devoted to the problems of the physiological doctrine of Academician I.P. Pavlov, noted further successes in the development of Pavlov’s doctrine.
However, what has been done in this direction, the session pointed out, is far from “the tasks set for the students and followers of the great scientist, and the conditions created for this purpose by the Soviet state and the party.” On the part of a number of opponents of Pavlov’s teachings, the development of his ideas and their introduction into medicine, biology and other fields of science met with fierce resistance (Stern and his “schoolboy,” academician Beritashvili, etc.). Academician L.A. Orbeli and the troupe of his students knocked researchers off the correct Pavlovian positions and proceeded in a number of questions from the idealist theory of psycho-physical parallelism, etc. The session criticized these and other attempts to distort the ideas of the great scientist. It outlined the ways for the further development of Pavlov’s teaching.
Pavlov’s works were published in the Collected Works, vol. I-VI, ed. Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1951-1952). Also published were “Pavlov’s Wednesdays,” vol. I-III, 1949, containing the minutes and transcripts of Ivan Pavlov’s conversations with his students.
Popov, Alexander Stepanovich (1859-1905)
Alexander Stepanovich Popov (1859-1905), Russian scientist, inventor of the radio. Born into the family of a priest. Studied at the Perm Theological Seminary. Graduated from the Physics and Mathematics Faculty of St. Petersburg University (1882). From the beginning of the 1880s, he began the study of electromagnetic waves, culminating in the invention of radio in 1895 . From 1901 he headed the Department of Physics at the St. Petersburg Electrotechnical Institute, in 1905 became the director of this institute.
In January 1896, in the Journal of the Russian Physicochemical Society, Popov published an article “A device for detecting and registering electrical oscillations,” in which he gave a diagram and a detailed description of the principle of operation of the world’s first radio receiver.” The successful practical operation of the device has proven its ability to capture electromagnetic vibrations in the atmosphere. On March 12/24, the scientist, on an experimental device, clearly demonstrated the transmission of signals without wires at a distance of 250 meters.
In June 1896, the Italian G. Marconi patented an invention in England that repeated the scheme of the device previously published in Popov’s publication. This fact prompted the Russian scientist to make special statements about his priority in the domestic and foreign press. Popov’s merits in the invention of the radio were recognized by being awarded a gold medal at the Paris Electrotechnical Congress in 1900.
By the summer of 1897, as a result of numerous experiments, the problem of increasing the transmission distance was solved, new devices were manufactured at the expense of the Ministry of the Navy and a communication range of up to 5 km was achieved. The experiments of radio communication, as having military significance, were not made public, but the phenomenon of radio waves reflection from objects (in particular, ships), noticed in the course of them, formed the basis of radar.
In 1898-99 Popov continued experimental work in the Baltic and Black Seas, during which he developed a device for receiving telegraph signals by ear. In 1900, radio communication was established for 50 km, after which the Ministry of the Navy introduced a wireless telegraph on the ships of the fleet.
Timiryazev Kliment Arkadievich (1843 – 1920)
Kliment Arkadievich Timiryazev (1843 – 1920) – great Russian scientist, biologist, fighter for Darwinism, the founder of the modern doctrine of photosynthesis. Imbued in his youth with the revolutionary democratic ideas of the great Russian thinkers of the middle of the 19th century, Timiryazev devoted all his scientific and social activities to serving advanced science and the working people.
For his progressive convictions, Timiryazev was persecuted by the Tsarist government. Beginning in 1894, he was under constant surveillance by the secret police. Under the influence of revolutionary ideas and the ever-growing labor movement, Timiryazev, even under Tsarism, came close to the ideas of socialism. While he was never a member of any party, his reputation as a sympathizer with revolutionary ideas was such that in 1917 workers of the Moscow-Kursk railway elected the 75-year old Timiryazev as their deputy to the Moscow Soviet, and in 1918 fellow revolutionary-minded scientists made him a member of the Socialist Academy. The People’s Commissariat of Education appointed Timiryazev a member of the State Scientific Council.
Timiryazev appeared in the press exposing the insolent slander of the Anglo-American imperialists against the Russian people, and exposed the imperialist, predatory goals of the campaign of “14 states” against the young Soviet Republic. On April 27, 1920, VI Lenin wrote to Timiryazev: “I was delighted to read your remarks against the bourgeoisie and for Soviet power.” Lenin had in mind Timiryazev’s book Science and Democracy, in which the scientist called people of science to unity with the working people. The last words of Timiryazev, uttered by him a few hours before his death, show that the great scientist had come to the conclusion that, of all sides fighting in the Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks were the only one with a definite program for the improvement of the lives of the Soviet peoples: “The Bolsheviks pursuing Leninism, I believe and am convinced, are working for the happiness of the people and will lead them to happiness ... Convey to Vladimir Ilyich my admiration for his ingenious solution of world problems in theory and in practice. I consider it a pleasure to be a contemporary of his and a witness to his glorious work. I bow to him and want everyone to know about it.”
In his philosophical views, Timiryazev was a staunch materialist, waging an irreconcilable struggle against idealism. In his writings, he subjected to devastating criticism the line of idealism in philosophy, starting with Plato and ending with the philosophizing squires of imperialism (Bergson, Mach, James and others). In his research, Timiryazev was guided by the “historical method” containing a number of elements of materialist dialectics – the recognition of the universal connection and development of phenomena in nature, the struggle of opposites, causality, necessity, etc. Timiryazev was a remarkable popularizer of science. His books “Charles Darwin and His Teachings,” “Historical Method in Biology” and others are still the best presentation of Darwin’s theory. Timiryazev’s book “The Life of a Plant” is also very popular. Timiryazev made a significant step forward in comparison with Darwin with his truly materialistic interpretation of the development of the organic world.
Unlike the so-called “orthodox” Darwinists, Timiryazev considered the most important factors of evolution not to be intraspecific struggle, but to the external environment, which changes the organism, heredity, which reinforces these changes, and selection, which gives the organisms an expedient form. The organism and the environment are considered by him in an indissoluble unity. In this regard, he highly appreciates the positive side of Lamarck’s teachings – about the dependence of organic forms on the environment. “Only the combination of this side of Lamarckism with Darwinism promises a complete solution of the biological problem,” Timiryazev wrote.
He recognized that the variability of organisms is due to their adaptation to environmental conditions. He was the first to put forward a provision on the body’s requirements for environmental conditions. By his indication of the alternation of stages of development in plants, Timiryazev emphasized the presence of qualitative transformations in the ontogenetic development of the organism. This position was subsequently developed by I.V. Michurin, who created the theory of staged development of plants. Timiryazev recognized the possibility of not only sexual, but also vegetative hybridization, and also pointed out the great importance of cross-pollination of plants. He sharply criticized Weissmannism and Mendelism for recognizing the existence of a special substance of heredity, allegedly not amenable to the influence of the environment. The works of Timiryazev in the field of the study of photosynthesis were of great importance for the development of biology.
Timiryazev proved that this phenomenon, like the phenomena of inorganic nature, is subject to the law of conservation of energy. Thus, he dealt a crushing blow to the “vitalistic” doctrine of a special “vital force” allegedly inherent in animals and plants. Timiryazev does not limit the task of biology to the knowledge of the laws of development of animals and plants, but raises the question of a conscious change in organic forms. He argues that science should teach the farmer how to grow two ears where one used to grow. Timiryazev wrote the work “Agriculture and Plant Physiology,” in which important provisions of agronomic science were developed.
Before the Revolution, Timiryazev was able not only to defend the materialistic core of Darwinism, but also to develop it further, preparing a qualitatively new stage in the development of biology – the Michurin doctrine.
This is an outstanding achievement of the great Russian biologist and thinker. For many decades Timiryazev stood at the head of the advanced materialist biology in its struggle against the reactionary, idealistic direction represented by all kinds of anti-Darwinists, Weissmannists, vitalists and other “ists” and “logs,” as Timiryazev himself called them. Timiryazev sharply condemned the vulgar transfer of biological laws to the field of social phenomena. In 1937-1940. The Works of KA Timiryazev were published, vols. 1-10; in 1948-1949 Selected Works were published.
Williams, Vasily Robertovich (1863-1939)
Vasily Robertovich Williams (1863-1939) – an outstanding Russian geologist, soil scientist, agronomist and public figure. The beginning of Williams’ scientific activity coincided with the period when Dokuchaev’s genetic soil science was created, the basic laws of soil genesis and evolution were established. Dokuchaevsk’s soil science took only the first steps to meet the needs of agriculture. However, Dokuchaev’s direct students later moved away from the problems of Fertility and, under the influence of metaphysical views, tried to develop soil science in isolation from the practice of agriculture. The merit of Williams was that he defended and creatively developed Dokuchaev’s genetic soil science, created a new biological trend in soil science, inextricably linked with the needs of agriculture, allowing to purposefully increase soil fertility in order to obtain increasing yields of agricultural crops. Williams’ motto has always been Dokuchaev’s instruction that the earth is constantly improving when handled correctly.
Proceeding from Dokuchaev’s factors of soil formation (parent rocks, climate, plant and animal organisms, relief and age of the country), Williams was the first to substantiate the leading role of a biological factor (higher and lower plants and microorganisms) in the genesis and evolution of soils, and also pointed out the enormous transformative role the agricultural practice of a person creating cultural varieties of soils. Williams characterizes soil formation as “a single, grandiose in terms of time and space, the process of influencing the parent rock of biological elements of the land, in the correct rhythmic repetition, passing through the entire territory of the earth’s land from pole to pole.”
The modern theory of Williams on a single soil-forming process is understood as a change in the periods and stages of soil formation in connection with a consistent and regular change of plant formations and changes in climate and geological conditions in the Quaternary. Williams gave scientific justification for the passage of separate natural periods of a single soil-forming process (podzolic, soddy, steppe, desert). Williams masterfully used the achievements of soil microbiology to explain the dynamics of soil processes, showing the decisive influence of biochemical reactions on soil fertility and plant nutrition.
Williams enriched Dokuchaev’s doctrine of soil zones with new scientific content, showed the continuity of the process of soil formation in time and space, and thus gave the concept of the absolute and relative ages of soils. At the same time, Williams characterized the genesis and evolution of soil types on the territory of the USSR, especially in the non-chernozem zone. Williams considered the essence of the soil-forming process to be a dialectically unified and contradictory process of continuous synthesis and destruction of organic matter, which determines the rate of soil formation and the dynamics of soil fertility, soil is a derivative of the biosphere, and there is no soil outside of life.
Williams created the doctrine of the biological cycle of chemical elements against the background of a large geological cycle. The expansion of the biological cycle of substances and an increase in the mass of the biosphere lead to an increase in the soil-forming process, an increase in the accumulation of elements and an increase in soil fertility.
Williams was the first to scientifically substantiate soil fertility as “... the ability to simultaneously satisfy both different and irreplaceable factors of plant life in the maximum required quantities ...,” the most favorable combination of which takes place in structural soil. For the progressive growth of soil fertility and plant productivity, it is necessary to influence the entire sum of terrestrial and cosmic factors, for this complex of conditions represents one organic whole, all elements of which are inextricably linked.
Williams substantiated the agronomic significance of the soil structure, which is practically the most important soil property, which determines the strength and stability of crops and the absence of their spontaneous fluctuations. Williams connected the natural soil-forming process with the problem of soil fertility, and the problems of soil science – with the problems of agriculture. He pointed out the enormous agrotechnical importance of perennial grasses in crop rotation, enhancing the sod process, leading to the creation of a structure, the accumulation of humus, and an improvement in the physical and agrochemical properties of the soil.
Williams developed the agronomic views of Dokuchaev, Sovetov, Sibirtsev, Kostychev, Izmailsky; he substantiated the grass-field farming system as “a historical necessity for Soviet agriculture.”
It provides for the correct scientific organization of the territory with the placement of field and fodder crop rotations, meadow lands and field-protective afforestation. For grass crop rotations, Williams developed crop rotation schemes with the sowing of cereal-legume herbal mixtures, with a progressive system of tillage, the use of organic and mineral fertilizers and irrigation of agricultural plants. Williams’ scientific ideas as one of the creators of the grass-field farming system will be widely used in agricultural practice. Williams was the first to establish a dialectical relationship between soil fertility and plant productivity; he showed that the only way to obtain high yields of agricultural crops and the development of animal husbandry is by progressively improving the conditions of soil fertility.
Williams’ scientific work was multifaceted. Under his leadership, extensive studies of the soils of Mugan, Kara Kumov, the foothills of the Pamirs, Western Siberia, Altai, the Volga region and the non-chernozem zone were carried out, which made it possible to create the world’s largest soil-agronomic museum – a true treasury of scientific agronomy. Williams was a pioneer of the tea industry in the subtropics, the organizer of the field! irrigation, basic MTS and a number of scientific institutions, a permanent consultant and mentor of a large army of scientists, agronomists and collective farmers. He considered it necessary to correctly combine three branches of agricultural production: crop production, animal husbandry and agriculture, which, according to Williams, follow from one another and are inextricably linked. The people deservedly called Williams the chief agronomist of the Soviet Union.
He tried to revise not only soil science, but also a number of branches of agronomy, defended the principle of partisanship in science and fought for the unity of theory and practice. “The powerful influence of materialistic dialectics,” he wrote, “allowed our agricultural science to shake off the age-old chains of slave traditions and to destroy the cult of extreme theories.” As a convinced Russian patriot (despite his American descent from his father’s side), he waged an irreconcilable struggle against cosmopolitanism, for the priority of national science, exposing reactionary Western theories in agriculture (the “law of diminishing soil fertility,” metaphysical theories of Mendelism-Morganism, the theory of “eternal” soil zones, “ultimate” theories, the theory of “full return” and shallow plowing, monoculture, etc.).
It should be noted that Williams made significant mistakes in his scientific activities. Thus, Williams recommended his schemes of grass field crop rotations without taking due account of the zonal soil and climatic conditions, underestimating winter crops and a steam wedge, and misinterpreted a number of issues of agrochemistry and melioration (drainage, the use of mineral fertilizers, etc.).
Some Soviet scientists and agronomists dogmatically interpreted certain provisions of Williams’ teachings, seeking their stereotyped introduction into agricultural production; others showed an unacceptable underestimation of the outstanding works of Williams, not seeing the progressive foundations of his doctrine as a whole behind individual errors. The task is to creatively develop Williams’ rich scientific heritage, included in the golden fund of Soviet agronomy, to discard a number of erroneous propositions that do not correspond to the modern level of Soviet science.
Michurin, Ivan Vladimirovich (1855-1935)
Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin (1855-1935) – a great biologist who raised Darwinian scientific biology to a new, higher level. A new, higher stage in the development of the materialistic science of living nature is associated with the name of Michurin. Michurin’s life is divided into two sharply different periods – pre-revolutionary and Soviet.
Before the 1917 Revolution Michurin lived and worked, conducting all the experiments at his own expense, without any encouragement. His deeply popular business – the development of new varieties of plants – he spent on a tiny personal plot at his own risk and fear. His ingenious ideas were not recognized under Tsarism. American businessmen, having found out about the wonderful new varieties of fruit plants he had bred, offered him to move to America. But the great patriot refused this offer.
The Revolution gave him the opportunity to develop his scientific and practical work. Michurin’s site was transformed into a huge nursery. Scientific research institutes were created that developed and introduced Michurin’s ideas into agricultural practice. In 1934 Michurin wrote: “The dream of my whole life is coming true: the new valuable varieties of fruit plants that I have bred have moved from the experimental plots not to individual rich kulaks, but to the massifs of collective and state farm orchards, replacing low-yielding, bad, old varieties.”
If Darwin only explained the laws of the organic world, Michurin created a scientific theory about the ways of changing this living world. In his scientific work and worldview until 1917 Michurin directly developed the militant materialism and democracy of the great Russian scientists and revolutionary democrats of the mid-19th century. After 1917 he illuminated and solved the problems of agrobiology.
Michurin said that the roots of natural science lie in nature, that natural science is spontaneously attracted to dialectics. In the preface to the third edition of the book “Principles and Methods of Work” Michurin wrote: “For dialectics there is nothing final, absolute, sacred once and for all. On everything and in everything it reveals the stamp of inevitable disappearance, and nothing can resist it, except for the Continuous process of becoming and destruction, endless ascent from the lowest to the highest.” This principle is always the basic principle in my work, passing like a red thread through all my numerous experiments, which I put in the improvement of existing and in the breeding of new varieties of fruit and berry plants.” Always and in everything Michurin was guided by the idea of development. Each individual, he wrote, develops to the fullness of its specific properties, and then gradually loses them, grows old and, finally, dies. The species changes in the same way as everything in nature – “everything flows, everything changes.”
Michurin was convinced of the omnipotence of science and practice, of the possibility of knowing nature and mastering all the secrets of the formation of species. He constructed his theory as a consistently scientific theory, but reconciled with no concessions to idealism. Michurin considered the organism in close connection with the conditions of its existence, recognizing the decisive importance of the exchange of substances between the organism and nature. He contemptuously rejected the idealistic intricacies of the Weissmannists, Mendelists and Morganists with their unknowable “things in themselves,” with mysterious mystical genes, with the exaltation of randomness in science and practice, and with all his work he refuted these ideas. As a true revolutionary in science, he was not afraid to point out the weak and erroneous sides of Darwin’s teachings. Michurin creatively developed the biology of Darwinism.
The greatest experimenter, Michurin created and developed scientific methods for the conscious management of plant life and the practical transformation of living nature. The teaching created by Michurin includes:
1) the theory and methods of artificial hybridization (sexual and vegetative, intraspecific and distant),
2) the theory and methods of directed education of organisms,
3) the theory and methods of artificial selection. All these three aspects of Michurin’s doctrine constitute an indissoluble unity and are an example of the creative application of dialectics to understanding the essence of heredity and the variability of organic forms, to the practice of breeding new varieties of plants in the interests of socialist society.
Michurin devoted his whole life to the working people. He considered his nursery a workshop for the creation of new varieties that would more fully meet the “needs of the working people.” “My achievements are in a classless socialist society,” Michurin wrote in 1932. Our goal, he said, “is to alter the properties of plants in a direction desirable for working people.” Michurin formulated the task of biological science: “We cannot wait for favors from nature; it is our task to take them from her. “
Implementing this revolutionary principle, Michurin devoted his entire life to reworking the nature of plants. The creation of new varieties cost Michurin decades of hard and systematic work. His main method, as he himself wrote, consisted in a constant “striving forward, in strict verification and restructuring of experiments.” More than 300 new varieties of fruit and berry plants were developed by the great scientist. But his most valuable legacy is his theory, Michurinist biology.
He was not a communist, yet he was grateful to the Soviets for the conditions they created for his work. He always wanted to see his work become accessible to the people, and since this happened only in his old age under the public education system established in the USSR, he thanked the Soviets for this. “The Bolshevik Party and the Soviet government,” he wrote, “did everything for the prosperity of the work I had begun.”
Michurin was a patriot of his homeland. Even before the revolution, he condemned those scientists and leaders who pinned all their hopes in improving Russian gardening with help from abroad. “It’s a shame,” he wrote, “to think that all the best can be obtained only from abroad.”
Stoletov, Alexander Grigorievich (1839-1896)
Alexander Grigorievich Stoletov (1839-1896) – an outstanding Russian physicist, one of the founders of Russian physics and modern electrical engineering. He was the first to establish a number of the most important regularities of the photoelectric effect (the effect of light on electrical discharges in gases), developed a method for its study and built the world’s first photocell, which, with further improvement, found great application in modern technology. Stoletov established a special regularity of the discharge processes in gases (“Stoletov’s law”).
These studies by Stoletov prepared the way for the discoveries of the electron, radioactive phenomena, X-rays and led to the need to introduce the concept of a quantum of light into physics. Of particular importance were his studies of the dependence of the magnetic susceptibility on the magnitude of the magnetizing field, for which Stoletov developed an original method that is now widely used in electrical engineering. Stoletov found experimentally that the ratio of electromagnetic and electrostatic units in magnitude is close to the speed of light, which confirmed the correctness of the electromagnetic theory of Faraday and Maxwell and prepared the discovery of electromagnetic waves by Hertz. Stoletov took part in many international scientific congresses and exhibitions. At his suggestion, the first International Congress of Electricians (1881) took Ohm as the unit of current resistance.
Stoletov fought for a scientific, materialistic interpretation of natural phenomena. He was the first Russian physicist to speak out (in the article “Helmholtz and Modern Physics,” 1894) against the philosophy of Machism, describing it as decadent. Stoletov correctly criticizes Mach and Ostwald for their departure from materialism. From the standpoint of materialism, Stoletov also criticizes the German idealistic philosophy of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Stoletov invariably adhered to the materialist theory of knowledge / In the first period of his activity, he strove, in his own words, “to reduce all physical phenomena to the basic principles of mechanics.” But under the influence of the latest discoveries of natural science, he gradually overcame the limitations of mechanistic materialism, moving along the path to dialectical materialism.
Under the banner of “mechanism,” he was essentially fighting for materialism in natural science. Stoletov’s worldview was formed under the influence of the works of the classics of Russian materialist philosophy. He was a brilliant popularizer of natural science for his advanced ideas. Stoletov was persecuted by the tsarist government. He was repeatedly accused of inciting student anti-government unrest like Timiryazev, Sechenov and other progressive people of his time, Stoletov opposed the tyranny of the Tsarist officials and government circles. The Tsarist government did not allow Stoletov to be elected an academician, not considering the fact that his scientific merits were recognized by all the greatest Russian and foreign scientists. Stoletov’s works were published – Collected Works, Vol. I-III (1939-1947).
Umov, Nikolai Alekseevich (1846-1915)
Nikolai Alekseevich Umov (1846-1915) – an outstanding Russian physicist. He owns a number of major works on electrodynamics, terrestrial magnetism, theory of oscillations, optics. Continuing and developing the ideas of MV Lomonosov about the indestructibility and inconceivability of motion and matter, Umov was the first in science to develop a materialistic concept of the movement of energy. This plays an important role in modern physics and in particular in the theory of the electromagnetic field. Considering the transformation of energy as an objective process, Umov linked the concept of energy with the movement of material particles. In contrast to idealistic physicists who sought to refute the law of conservation of energy, Umov argued that this law is the basic vakona of natural science.
The discovery of the law of conservation of energy, he pointed out, dealt a crushing blow to the metaphysical theories of weightless liquids, caloric, etc. Umov criticized individual erroneous positions of R. Mayer about the unknowability of the mutual transformability of various forms of energy. Unlike a number of scientists, Umov did not ignore the qualitative uniqueness of the higher forms of movement, did not reduce them to a lower, mechanical form. He decisively opposed the idealistic theory of the “thermal death” of the world, arguing that the discoveries of radium, electrons, transmutability of elements, etc. “lead us to a restructuring of our usual concept of matter.” In contrast to the statements of “physical” idealists about the “collapse” of science, Umov argued that the discoveries of new physics are a huge step forward along the path of knowing the secrets of nature and using them for the benefit of mankind. Opposing idealists who denied the existence of objective reality, Umov wrote that “the sensation of materiality, materiality remains old, and novelty appears only in the field of understanding.” Umov rejected the assertions of the Machian physicists that man “creates” the laws of nature, that matter has disappeared and only equations remain.
As a patriot of his homeland, Umov resolutely fought for the priority of advanced Russian science. He highly raised the importance of the scientific merits of Lomonosov, Lobachevsky, Mendeleev, Stoletov, Sechenov, Pavlov, Timiryazev. Brought up on the ideas of revolutionary democrats, Umov was indignant at the mockery of the landlords over the peasants, the brutal punishments used in the army, the persecution of high school students. He boldly opposed the tyranny of the Tsarist authorities, in defense of revolutionary-minded students, whom the administration brutally persecuted and expelled from universities, condemned the Stolypin land reform. In 1911, in protest against the reactionary actions of the Tsarist minister Kasso, Umov left Moscow University. Selected works of Umov were published in 1950.