Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky. March 12, 1863 – January 6, 1945. Natural scientist, thinker and public figure. Academician of the Imperial Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences and the USSR Academy of Sciences. One of the founders and the first President of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Member of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and the Paris Academy of Sciences. Founder of scientific schools. Founder of geochemistry, biogeochemistry, radiogeology, study of the biosphere, founder of multiple scientific institutions.
Life and Work:
1. Biologists rank him together with Darwin and Pavlov, geographers call him the creator of modern geography, geologists consider him the originator of geology. No modern practical work in agricultural chemistry, biochemistry, physiology can be interpreted correctly without the application of his ideas.
2. He lived a very long life: born in Saint Petersburg two years after the abolition of serfdom, he died in 1945, only four months before the Victory in the Second World War.
3. Vernadsky was born in the family of professor of economics Ivan Vasilyevich Vernadsky, a descendant of Ukrainian Cossacks. Vladimir Korolenko was Vernadsky's second cousin.
4. Vladimir Vernadsky recalled this about his childhood, “I started consuming books at an early age and I greedily read anything I could get my hands on, constantly rummaging through the books in my father's library.”
5. Vladimir became head of the scientific and literary society at Saint Petersburg University where he studied at the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. Sadly, it was eventually dissolved for being a hotbed of freethinking and rebellion: the society's secretary was a talented zoology student Alexander Ulyanov who was arrested for conspiracy to assassinate the Tsar.
6. At the university, he became a student of Professor Dokuchaev and completed his first geological traverse. Vernadsky's paper about the experience was the very first out of the nearly seven hundred works he would publish over the 60 years of his scientific career.
7. As was a custom at the time, Vernadsky studied in Europe, and when he returned, he started working at Moscow University where he was offered a position at the Department of Mineralogy and Crystallography.
8. Vladimir Vernadsky was not an armchair scientist and never steered clear of politics. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Russia, a member of the State Council, and even a Vice Minister in the Provisional Government.
9. Vernadsky recognized the Soviet Government, but did not idealize it. He wrote that “socialism is always based on subordination of the individual to the welfare of the majority.” “For scientific development, it is vital to recognize the absolute freedom of the individual, of the individual spirit, because only under this condition can one scientific world view be replaced by another, created by the free, independent work of the individual.”
10. From 1915 to 1930, Vernadsky was the Head of the Commission for the Study of Production Forces of Russia (CSPF). He was one of the authors of the GOELRO plan and the first five-year plan.
11. Academician Vernadsky changed the concept of the biosphere: according to his vision, under the influence of scientific achievement and work of humans, it gradually transforms into the noosphere, the sphere of reason. “We are living in a remarkable time when humans are becoming a geological force that transforms the appearance of our planet,” he said.
12. Vernadsky created many scientific institutes that dramatically propelled forward research in our country. In late 1918, he spoke at a CSPF meeting about creating a network of state research institutes. His plan was implemented with the creation of the State Hydrological Institute, Radium Institute, Power Engineering Institute, Institute of Fossil Fuels, and so on, a total of 14 new organizations.
13. Vernadsky's name can be found even on the map of Antarctica: named after him are subglacial mountains and a Ukrainian research station.
14. The marriage of Vladimir Vernadsky and his wife Natalya Yegorovna, nee Staritskaya, lasted for more than half a century “in perfect harmony of souls and minds.”
15. His son Georgy Vladimirovich Vernadsky, a well-known Russian history expert, and daughter Nina Vladimirovna Vernadskaya-Toll, a psychiatrist, both lived out their lives in the United States, as emigrants.
16. During the Stalin-era repressions, Vernadsky resigned from all administrative positions and retained only the position of a Scientific Adviser. Thus, he avoided being targeted himself and never contributed to the purges of scientists.