Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov



Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov (1711-1765) is considered the first in Russia scientist, natural scientist truly world-class. He was engaged in physics and chemistry, wrote an encyclopedia, was a wonderful practitioner and theoretician. Lomonosov was an astronomer, geographer, metallurgist, geologist and poet. The scientist developed the project of the Moscow University, insisting on his discovery.

Lomonosov’s activities were so universal that it was difficult to determine its main direction. The name of the famous scientist was constantly used for propaganda purposes. In tsarist Russia, he was extolled as a statesman, while in the Soviet Union he emphasized the genesis of the people, hinting at a hidden struggle with the regime.


And today the memory of Lomonosov is honored, the anniversaries associated with him are vigorously celebrated. The scientist is called the Russian Leonardo da Vinci, but the image has long become more a legend than a real story. Much of what we know about him, as it turned out, is not entirely true. Myths about Lomonosov are gradually revealed 300 years after his birth. Lomonosov came from a penniless family.

The family of the scientist was not even considered poor, not that poor. Mikhail Lomonosov was born on November 8, 1711 in the village of Denisovka in the Kholmogory district of the Arkhangelsk region. And although his parents were not a noble class, there was prosperity in the house. Father, Vasily Dorofeevich, was known in Pomorie as the owner of a fishing artel. He was engaged in trade. In this area Vasily Lomonosov was one of the most educated people, he had his own small library and experience of studying in Moscow. Lomonosov’s mother was the daughter of a clerk. It was she who taught her son to read as a child, instilling in him a love for books. Going to conquer Moscow, Mikhail was not at all uneducated. He already had some knowledge, as much as possible for that environment. This allowed Lomonosov to enter the Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy. The Lomonosov neighborhood was Pomor, the descendants of the Novgorodians. They did not know serfdom, corvee. There were rich traditions of trade, crafts, needlework.

Lomonosov in bast shoes reached Moscow.

Another myth about Lomonosov says that he went to Moscow for a fish cart in some bast shoes for the sake of studying there. But this convoy, in all likelihood, belonged to Mikhail’s father. The father let his son go for a short time, to accompany the cargo. And he started “running”. They say that Lomonosov escaped also because he wanted to marry, which he did not want. And not in bast shoes was this young man from a wealthy family, he clearly had his boots.

Lomonosov was the son of Tsar Peter.

This rumor appeared during the life of the scientist himself. Many thought it inconceivable that a peasant enter the Moscow Academy, studying with the children of priests and nobles. And further brilliant career of Lomonosov from envious people caused questions. The facts were drawn “by the ears”. At one time Peter as a simple carpenter worked at the Bazhenov shipyard, not far from Kurostrov. True, the creators of the myth ignore the fact that, nine months before the birth of Lomonosov, Tsar Peter was far from these places. He could not physically participate in the conception. The argument in favor of kinship is the violent nature of the scientist, who is often compared with the “father.” Lomonosov did not try to be diplomatic, he directly expressed his thoughts, proving the practice of rightness. Scandals, he ignored, as if not fearing the consequences. History says that geniuses of science may well have ordinary parents. This is proved by examples of Newton, Faraday, Landau, Feynman. And who said that everything in life was easy for Lomonosov? He really studied a lot, first in the Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy, then in Germany. Lomonosov recalled that for the sake of studying he lived in extreme poverty, over his age laughed.

Lomonosov was a pomor.

For the first time Lomonosov was named pomor by the Russian historian V.Lamansky. His further colleagues only replicated this myth.However, in none of the biographies of the scientist written before the work of Lamansky in 1863, there were no mention of such an origin of Mikhail Vasilyevich. Shuvalov, who loved him, did not say anything about it in “Ode on the death of Lomonosov”, the educator and book publisher N.Novikov also did not consider the scientist to be a pomor. And in the stories of Lomonosov’s compatriots, recorded by M. Muravyov, there is nothing that would give such an origin. There are no historical documents in which the scientist himself called himself a pomor. At his interrogation in the Synod in 1734, Lomonosov recounted that his father was a peasant Vasily Dorofeyev, but he did not say anything about pomors. In those days pomors called residents of very different territories – the western White Sea coast. And the inhabitants of the eastern White Sea coast began to call themselves pomors only from the XIX century.

Lomonosov was not serf.

Prominent Marxist Georgy Plekhanov said that the Arkhangelsk peasant could become a great figure also because he was a pomorian who did not know the “serf collar”. But such an assertion does not agree much with the well-known fact. To leave for Moscow, Lomonosov straightened his passport. And when the validity of the document expired, he began to be listed as a runaway one. If we take serfdom as a universal state regime that restricts the movement of the population to collect taxes, serfdom in the Russian North was still present. Wishing to go to Moscow, Lomonosov received a passport. In the XVII-XIX centuries, such a document gave aspirants to leave their place of residence. Upon returning the passport was returned. The document of Lomonosov operated until the middle of 1731, the young man did not return back. And up to the receipt of the noble title in 1747 Lomonosov was considered a runaway peasant living with an expired document. For 16 years, fellow-villagers paid for it a tax of one and a half rubles a year (considerable money for the peasants), while the latter communicated with the empress, was a member of palaces, was an academician.

Lomonosov was a bad husband and father.

The main woman in the life of a scientist was his wife. Young Elizaveta Tsilh was the daughter of a German brewer. She met Mikhail Lomonosov when he was studying at the University of Marburg. When a 19-year-old woman gave birth to a daughter, the child’s father was no longer in the country. He asked his wife to wait for a call from him to Russia. But the request never came. Did Lomonosov really throw a woman with her daughter? The history of this has a continuation. Two years later Elizabeth, neither officially married nor a widow, herself sought out Lomonosov through the embassy and came to him in Russia. The news about the appearance of the scientist’s family shocked many. He was considered a bachelor. But Lomonosov did not try to avoid responsibility. In those years, a Russian student could not marry a German woman under Russian laws, this required permission from the Academy of Sciences. His Lomonosov never received, that’s why he could not marry. The wedding was played in Germany according to local laws. And the further family life of the scientist proves, if not love for his family, then in any case, great respect. 20 years of marriage Lomonosov and Elizaveta Andreevna lived in “unanimity”. No debauchery for him was noticed. Mikhail Vasilievich died in the hands of his relatives. And his wife survived her husband for only a year and a half.

Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov

Lomonosov was a passionate alchemist.

Returning to his homeland in 1741, Lomonosov began experiments in the field of chemistry. There was little material about this activity, such mysteriousness allowed the myth of alchemy to appear. The Sumarokov poem also hints at this, in which there is a hint of this – the extraction of gold from milk. Even if Lomonosov was acquainted with alchemy, this knowledge was required for the main occupation in his life – for chemistry. As a result, the scientist not only could refute the basic postulates of jatro-chemistry and alchemy, but also create a foundation for physical chemistry.On the basis of Lomonosov’s predilection for alchemy, a fascinating story was created, according to which, throughout his life, the scientist tried to decipher a mysterious scroll with the texts of the sages of Hyperborea. This rarity was given to him from his father, and that from sorcerers-shamans. The letters mysteriously resembled the records of medieval alchemists, and in the texts Lomonosov discovered chemical formulas. Ostensibly Lomonosov once showed his scrolls to Christian Wolf, a professor at the University of Marburg. He saw in the recipes the recipes of the philosopher’s stone and advised the young scientist not to waste time on such complex searches. But was an inquisitive mind able to do this? Fans of fiction explain the discovery of solid mercury scientists by the search for a philosopher’s stone. According to the legends, shortly before his death, Lomonosov burned all his notes and papers. But this version has no relation to science and history, it has a place in fiction.

Lomonosov was an Old Believer.

As a child, Lomonosov belonged to one of the Old Believers’ consents, it is likely that he even studied in the monastery. But then the scientist negatively spoke about this current, considering it superstitious. Yes, and buried Lomonosov in the Orthodox cemetery, according to the Orthodox rite. In adulthood, he was an ordinary parishioner of the traditional church. Lomonosov with his craving for knowledge was interested in books preserved by the Old Believers, which preserve the age-old wisdom. However, the young man quickly realized that there was nothing interesting for him, answers to worrying questions. The whole principle of Old Believers, martyrdom and bitterness were based on absurd obstinacy and ritual trivialities. The Old Believers openly hated scientists who comprehend the world. Lomonosov wanted to become one.

Lomonosov struggled with the church.

There is an opinion that the scientist was a heretic, a theologian, and treated the church only formally. The proof of the myth is served by a rather insulting poem “Hymn to the beard”. In this scandalous creation there is nothing from Christian piety. Nobody doubted the authorship. Lomonosov was even summoned to a meeting of the Synod. There he did not think to deny his insolence. This angered the members of the Synod. He asked the Empress Elizabeth to exterminate the public libel in public, and to give the most impudent to the spiritual authorities for re-education. In fact, this threatened a reference to Solovki. But the case remained without consequences, and Elizabeth did not approve the report. The most progressive minds noted that science and enlightenment are gaining strong positions in society. But do not consider a scientist such an enemy of the church. He had poems dedicated to the great church enlightener Dimitry of Rostov. In many works Lomonosov praises God for wisdom, and he refers to the Church as a mother. There is every reason to believe that he was not a false believer, but a true Christian. And periodic attacks on the church can be explained by the experience of religious free-thinking, acquired in Germany. It seemed to the scientist that he could correct the behavior of the church at the expense of his intellect. But anti-church behavior and God-fighting Lomonosov certainly were not inherent.

Lomonosov discovered the atmosphere of Venus.

To begin with, we note that in the West this discovery is attributed to the German astronomer Schröter and his English colleague Herschel. But they conducted their observations 30 years after Lomonosov. Taking into account the size of the planet, it was necessary to have a telescope with an aperture of 200-250 mm, which the Russian scientist simply did not have. Lomonosov himself wrote that he saw a “papyr”. This was later interpreted as a “light bezel”. The scientist’s drawings show that the rays of light, passing through a denser medium, are refracted. This he understood from observations. But there is also no question that Lomonosov managed to see the holy rim of the planet. Perhaps he guessed the existence of the atmosphere of other planets, but he clearly did not write about it.

Lomonosov fought against foreigners.

This myth appeared in the middle of the XIX century, when in Russia the Westerners clashed with the Slavophiles.Lomonosov himself studied in Germany, the deep influence of German culture remained with him for life. Almost all professors of the Academy of Sciences, with whom the scientist collaborated, were foreigners, mostly Germans. Yes, and his wife was German. And what with the fact that among the enemies of Lomonosov in Russia were many foreigners? After all, his few friends were not Russians either. Foreign professors came to work in St. Petersburg for only a few years, not particularly wanting to break away from their studies. And for Lomonosov, an important goal was enlightenment of Russia, such a superficial approach of the temporary workers made him angry. But he did not feel hatred for foreigners, and if he was scolded, then not for origin, but for behavior.

Lomonosov founded the Moscow University.

The University was in fact founded by Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov. This friend and disciple of Lomonosov was also a prominent patron of art. But in the Soviet Union, a nobleman and favorite of the Empress could not be an object of worship and veneration, which is why the role of Lomonosov in the creation of an educational institution was exaggerated in every way. In fact, his role was limited to writing the draft statute and curriculum. Where the scientist gave more strength to the Petersburg Academic University, becoming its rector in 1760.

Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov

Lomonosov discovered simultaneously with Lavoisier the law of conservation of mass.

This myth also appeared in the Soviet era. In general, the theoretical principle of mass conservation has been known since antiquity. In 1756, Lomonosov began calcining the metals in closed vessels, and then weighed them. Antoine Lavoisier began this experiment only in 1772, burning phosphorus in a closed vessel. Both experiments demonstrated the law of conservation of mass of matter specifically in this case, but did not prove the universality of the rule. And the Russian scientist himself, because of his views on weight and burning, did not attach much importance to experience. Before his death, Lomonosov made no observations even in the list of his main discoveries. And although in the domestic textbooks the law got the name Lomonosov-Lavoisier, it was the French who later confirmed it and proved universality by experiments.

Lomonosov tried to be independent of the authorities.

It is known that the scientist valued his independence and personal dignity, while he was a fierce statesman. Lomonosov believed that education in the country can be planted only with the help of a powerful government. Some of the scientist’s actions for the intellectuals of the XIX-XX centuries look simply unthinkable. For example, in 1748 the enlightener took part in a search of the historian Miller, who was suspected of illicit correspondence with the French astronomer Delil. It turned out that he sent copies of secret maps to Paris. Lomonosov did not see anything wrong in his step, because he defended the interests of the state.



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