Pavel Nikolaevich Yablochkov. September 14 (26), 1847 – March 19 (31), 1894. A Russian electrical engineer, military engineer and inventor. He developed an arc lamp, which went down in the history of technology as the Yablochkov candle.


Life and Work:

1. Yablochkov’s “electric candle” was first lit in an apartment in St. Petersburg in 1878. That was the residence of Pavel Yablochkov; it would be a too bizarre idea to electrify neighbors while the inventor himself lived in the dark.


2. The world press was overwhelmed with delight: “You must see the Yablochkov candle,” “Light comes to us from the North, from Russia,” “Russia is the birthplace of electricity.” French newspapers were especially excited. France shared the success of Russian electrical engineer as a patent for the new miracle of technology was issued in that country.


3. Pavel Yablochkov had to do business in the country of winemakers, musketeers and Napoleons because of the lack of funds for research. The son of an ancient, but long impoverished family, Yablochkov did not have hereditary capital.


4. Pavel Yablochkov was born into the family of an impoverished nobleman in the Serdobsky district of Saratov Province in 1847. Military service was the only way for him into the better-off life.


5. He showed a penchant for invention as a child, having built a goniometer for marking peasant allotments and a distance meter for installation on horse carts.


6. At the age of 16, Pavel was enrolled in the Nikolaev Military Engineering School in St. Petersburg. To be admitted to this prestigious educational institution, young Yablochkov spent several months gaining knowledge in a private boarding school, which was maintained by a military engineer and part-time composer César Cui. The teacher had a huge influence on the student and was friends with him for many years.


7. To the great chagrin of the parents, Yablochkov left military service. His love for electricity prevailed.


8. By that time in Russia, electricity was used only in the navy and on the railroad. The retired lieutenant got a job at the telegraph office of the Moscow-Kursk rail line. There he found that the electric lights were no good. A new electrical light source was needed.


9. Yablochkov launched his own workshop manufacturing physical instruments and began to invent a light bulb. And much more. He was badly short of funds and decided to go to the United States in the hope that someone might be interested in his inventions. But he did not reach the other side of the Atlantic, and stayed in Paris.


10. Louis François Clément Breguet, the owner and technical director of a watch and precision instrument workshop, noticed the experienced electrical engineer. It was in Breguet’s workshop that Yablochkov managed to finish off his invention and get his patent No.112024. A triumph followed!


11. The Louvre and the rue de Opera shops experimentally lit by the Yablochkov candles proved that the new light is not only brighter, but also costs the treasury much cheaper. London followed the example of Paris. Berlin, Belgium, Spain, Sweden also joined the trend. The Yablochkov candles illuminated the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome, the Volksgarten public park in Vienna, the Falernian Bay in Greece, San Francisco and Philadelphia, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico, India, Burma... The Persian Shah and the King of Cambodia set the Yablochkov candles in their palaces.


12. In 1878, the Yablochkov candles came to Russia. The barracks of the Kronstadt training crew were the first facility to be illuminated. And only after this experiment the new lighting came to the Grand Theater of St. Petersburg.


13. The Yablochkov candles were available and affordable: twenty kopecks a piece. One candle could last for about an hour and a half, then a new candle came to replace it: the inventor took care of the automatic replacement of the bulbs. Later on, Yablochkov’s arc candles were replaced by more durable Lodygin-Edison incandescent lamps. But it was the triumph of “Russian light” that opened the way for electric lighting.


14. In addition to the legendary “candle,” Pavel Yablochkov had a number of other inventions. He was the first to use alternating current for industrial purposes, created and patented an alternating current transformer. His inventions allowed him to create a system for powering a large number of candles from a single current generator.


15. Electricity brought Yablochkov a triumph, but not money. More precisely, he spent all the money he earned on the redemption of his foreign patents.


16. Yablochkov’s early death (he died at the age of 46) was also partly because of electricity. His health was undermined by experiments with chemical sources of electric current: an explosion almost killed the inventor and severely burned the mucous membrane of his lungs.


17. Yablochkov was buried in the cemetery of the Michael the Archangel Church in the village of Sapozhok (now the Rtishchevsky district of Saratov Region). In the 1930s, the church was demolished. On the centenary of Yablochkov’s birth, a special commission was created by order of Vavilov, President of the USSR Academy of Sciences, which found the lost grave of Yablochkov. In 1952, a monument was erected on the grave. In 1992, a monument to the inventor was erected in the town of Serdobsk.