Russian Polymath Mikhail Lomonosow

Mikhail Lomonosov (1711 - 1765)

Mikhail Lomonosov (1711 – 1765)

On November 19, 1711, Russian polymath, scientist and writer Mikhail Lomonosov was born. Lomonosov made important contributions to literature, education, and science. Among his discoveries were the atmosphere of Venus and the Law of Mass Conservation in chemical reactions. His spheres of science were natural science, chemistry, physics, mineralogy, history, art, philology, optical devices and others. Lomonosov was also a poet and influenced the formation of the modern Russian literary language.

Mikhail Lomonosov went to Moscow at the age of 19 and it is believed that he falsly claimed to be a priest’s son in order to be admitted into the Slavic Greek Latin Academy. Lomonosov managed to complete a twelve-year study course in only five years and graduated at the top of his class. In 1736 he was awarded a scholarship to St. Petersburg Academy and after excellent results he was rewarded with a two-year grant to study abroad at the University of Marburg, in Germany where Lomonosov became a student of Christian Wolff. He studied mineralogy, metallurgy, and mining as well as German literature, philosophy, chemistry and theology.

In 1741, Lomonosov returned to Russia and was named adjutant to the Russian Academy of Science in the physics department. Four years later he was made a full member of the Academy, and appointed professor of chemistry. During the next decade, Lomonosov joined his patron Count Ivan Shuvalov in founding Moscow University. Mikhail Lomonosov was elected foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and in 1764 he was appointed to the position of secretary of state.

In the field of chemistry, Lomonosov became the first person to record the freezing of mercury. He further published a catalogue of over 3,000 minerals, and in 1760, he explained the formation of icebergs. He further got close to the theory of continental drift and theoretically predicted the existence of Antarctica. Lomonosov invented instruments to calculate directions and distances and organized an expedition to find the Northeast Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by sailing along the northern coast of Siberia. In the field of Astronomy, Lomonosov further became the first person to hypothesize the existence of an atmosphere on Venus based on his observation of the transit of Venus of 1761. He further developed an improved design of a reflecting telescope to the Russian Academy of Sciences forum. However, his invention was not published until 1827, so this type of telescope has become associated with a similar design by William Herschel, the Herschelian telescope.

A lunar crater was named after Lomonosov as well as a crater on Mars and the asteroid 1379 Lomonosowa. In 1948, the underwater Lomonosov Ridge in the Arctic Ocean was named in his honor. Moscow State University was renamed ‘’M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University’’ in his honor in 1940.

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