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Russian Science of the 18th Century
August 21, 2014 16:57

The 18th century became the epoch of creating the system of secular education and science, which were practically absent earlier in Russia.

Deep transformations in all the areas of public life issued the challenge of raising the cultural and educational level of the population. The task could not be solved without an extensive network of new educational institutions. The year 1701 saw the opening of the Navigation School in the Sukhareva Tower in Moscow; in 1715 it was moved to St. Petersburg, where it became the foundation for the Navy Academy. A bit later it was followed with Engineering, Artillery and Medical schools.

E. Gluck's private grammar school was opened in Moscow in 1703 for personnel training in scientific activities. Primary education was based on elementary schools in provincial towns. All sorts of functionaries were trained in special clerk schools. Vocational schools sprang up under large-scale manufactories in the Urals and other regions of Russia. The very first commercial school was opened in 1722.

The St. Petersburg Academy opened on the initiative of Peter I in 1725 played a great role in formation and development of the Russian science.  Originally the Academy was mostly based on foreign scientists who were willing to work in Russia.

Unlike western educational institutions, the Russian Academy did not go in for theology and was an entirely secular public institution. At the same time it was closely connected with Russian art. Its Art Department was founded in 1732. Enjoying strong support of the state, the St. Petersburg Academy created works of world level in the very first decades of its existence.

An outstanding role in the development of the Russian and world science was played by the great Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765), who became the first Russian member of the St. Petersburg Academy in 1745. He was not only a great scientist, but also a poet, a philologist, an artist, and a historian. The scale of his personality was second to none of the Titans of the European Renaissance. Emphasizing the all-pervading character of Lomonosov’s personality, Alexander Pushkin pointed out that “Lomonosov embraced all the branches of Enlightenment” and “tested everything and penetrated into everything”.

A most important milestone in formation and development of the Russian science and education was the foundation of the Moscow University in 1755. Initially it had three faculties:  philosophical, medical and legal ones.  Soon it became the largest center for training specialists in all branches of knowledge. 

The Russian Academy of Sciences was opened in 1783 and it first president was Princess E.R. Dashkova. The academy also played a huge role in the development of Russian science.  Its first large-scale scientific achievement was the six-volume Thesaurus of the Russian Academy providing interpretation of the principal scientific terms and concepts. 

The 18th century was marked with profound changes in public consciousness, accompanied with considerable revival and rise of public thought. It was promoted by both Peter’s reforms and extending contacts with the European countries, giving way to the ideas of the western rationalism, humanism and Enlightenment. 

Feofan Prokopovich, a contemporary and associate of Peter the Great, was an eminent Russian thinker of the 18th century. Being an avid admirer of Peter I, he glorified his deeds in every possible way and held him as a paragon of enlightened monarch. He was also an ideologist of church reforms and justified the need of its subordination to the state.

The well-known writer and philosopher Nikolay Radishchev played a special role in spiritual life of Russia.

Another profound thinker was self-educated I.T. Pososhkov, the author of the Book on Scarcity and Wealth. A supporter of Peter I, he at the same time stood in opposition to the nobility, by expressing and defending interests of the peasantry, merchants and handicraftsmen.

The past of Russia was very well interpreted by V. N. Tatishchev, the first prominent Russian historian, who authored The Russian History since Antiquity, which traced historic events in Russia from Rurik to Peter I.

Thus, one can sum up with good reason that the Russian science made a powerful breakthrough within just one century. Starting from scratch, it managed to swiftly rise to the world level.

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Science Russian History Mikhail Lomonosov   

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