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Mikhail Lomonosov

Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov (1711-1765), Russian writer and polymath, who made important contributions to both literature and science.

Lomonosov was born on November 19, 1711, in the village of Denisovka (the name of which was afterwards changed in honour of the poet), situated on an island not far from Kholmo-gorl, in the government of Arkhangelsk. His father, a fisherman, took the boy when he was ten years of age to assist him in his calling; but the lad's eagerness for knowledge was unbounded. The few books accessible to him he almost learned by heart; and, seeing that there was no chance of increasing his stock of knowledge in his native place, he resolved to betake himself to Moscow. An opportunity occurred when he was seventeen, and by the intervention of friends he obtained admission into the Zaikonospasski school. There his progress was very rapid, especially in Latin, and in 1734 he was sent from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. There again his proficiency, especially in physical science, was marked, and he was one of the young Russians chosen to complete their education in foreign countries. He accordingly commenced the study of metallurgy at Marburg, Germany; he also began to write poetry, imitating German authors, among whom he is said to have especially admired Gunther. His Ode on the Taking of Khotin from the Turks was composed in 1739, and attracted a great deal of attention at St. Petersburg. During his residence in Germany Lomonosov married a native of the country, and found it difficult to maintain his increasing family on the scanty allowance granted to him by the St. Petersburg Academy, which, moreover, was irregularly sent. His circumstances became embarrassed, and he resolved to leave the country secretly and to return home. On his arrival in Russia he rapidly rose to distinction, and was made professor of chemistry in the university of St. Petersburg; where he ultimately became rector. Eager to improve Russian education, Lomonosov was engaged in founding the Moscow State University (http://www.msu.ru/english/) (later named after him) in 1755. In 1764 Lomonosov was appointed to the position of a secretary of state.

As a scientist Lomonosov rejected the phlogiston theory of matter commonly accepted at the time, and anticipated the kinetic theory of gases. He regarded heat as a form of motion, suggested the wave theory[?] of light, and stated the idea of conservation of matter[?]. Lomonosov was the first person to record the freezing of mercury, and to observe the atmosphere of Venus during a solar transit. In 1755 he wrote a grammar that reformed the Russian literary language by combining Old Church Slavonic with the vulgar tongue. He published the first history of Russia in 1760. Most of his accomplishments, however, were unknown outside Russia until long after his death. He died in St. Petersburg on April 15, 1765.

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