The Prominent Russian Scientist V.I.Vernadsky
V.I.Vernadsky was born in St. Petersburg on March 12, 1863. He graduated
from Physics and Mathematics Department of the Petersburg University
in 1885 and after that during two years enlarged his education in the
Universities of the Western Europe. Since 1890 till 1911 he taught mineralogy
and crystallography in the University of Moscow. In 1897 he maintained his
thesis for a Doctor's degree. In 1905 he was elected a junior scientific
assistant, in 1912 - a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He works
in its departments for 33 years and died in Moscow on January 6, 1945.
From the chronology of his life one may see that V.I.Vernadsky was a Russian
scientist. Still in the Ukraine, he is cosidered to be a Ukrainian scientist
and it is not devoid of foundation. His ancestors were the Dnieper Cossacks.
His father, before his move to Petersburg, taught political economy in the Kiev
University. In 1918 V.I.Vernadsky himself organized the Ukrainian Academy of
Sciences and became its first president.
In the beginning of his scientific activities, V.Vernadsky worked as a soil
scientist. In the 1880s he participated in the expeditions which had been
organized by his loved teacher
(the founder of the modern soil science). These expeditions explored the soils
in the various regions of Russia. Studying the mineral composition of different
soils, Vernadsky became deeply interested in mineralogy and crystallography.
These sciences for long years became the main areas of his scientific
inferences and of his activities as a professor. His thesis for Doctor's
degree dealt with a crystallographic topic: On the sliding phenomena in
the sillimanite crystals. But his contributions to mineralogy are still
more important. Among these contributions, one must note the genetic approach.
He emphasized the connection between the crystallization form, hardness, color
and other physical properties of minerals and their chemical composition, as
well as the conditions of their genesis.
Studying the chemical composition of minerals, V.I.Vernadsky became
interested in the distribution of individual chemical elements in the Earth's
crust, hydrosphere, and atmosphere, i.e. in the knowledge field, which was as
early as in 1842 named geochemistry by the Swiss scientist
V.I.Vernadsky published many papers on geochemistry of various elements,
and his main work La Geochimie was published in French in 1924 in Paris.
In this book the geochemistry of carbon, as a constant component of all organic
compounds, is described in the utmost detail. The final chapter of the book
deals with the geochemistry of radioactive compounds.
V.I.Vernadsky was one of the first scientists who predicted the possibility
of controling the rate of radioactive decay and using radioactive elements
as energetic raw materials. At the same time he organized a special commission
which began searching uranium ores in the various regions of Russia. In 1916
the first uranium deposit was discovered in the Middle Asia, and in 1918
its ores gave the first milligrams of radium in Russia.
In the early 1922 V.I.Vernadsky managed to organize in Petersburg the
Radium Institute which is actively working up to our time. To 1938 he
remained its director. In the day of the opening he held a speech. Vernadsky
said:"Soon man will have atomic power at his hands. This is a power source
which will give him a possibility to build his life just as he wishes. Will he
be able to use this force for good purposes and not for selfdestruction? A
scientist must feel responsibility for the results of his studies!"
This was the first time when a warning about the threat of atomic war
In 1922 Vernadsky began studying meteorites and cosmic dust. He published
a series of papers in this area. In 1935 he organized the Committee on
meteorites of the Academy of sciences. He guided the works of this Committee
up to the end of his life.
But of the greatest importance for our days is V.I.Vernadsky's doctrine
on the biosphere of the Earth and on the inevitability of the evolutionary
transformation of the biosphere into the reign of the human reason - the
As early as in his student years, he manifested a profound interest to
the living nature. It is evidenced by his most early publications of
Later he studied the distribution and migration of various chemical elements
in the Earth's crust as well as in the other Earth's sphere (hydrosphere,
atmosphere). During these studies he naturally became interested in the content
of these elements in various tissues of animals and plants. These studies
showed that almost all known chemical elements may be found in some or other
organs of the animals and plants. In his studies of the living substance,
V.I.Vernadsky approached an analysis of the structure of the envelope of the
Earth within which this substance exists. As early as in 1875 an Austrian
geologist Edward Suess called this envelope biosphere, i.e. the sphere
of life. However, neither Suess nor other scientists analyzed the content of
this term in detail.
As to V.I.Vernadsky, he worked out an overwhelming doctrine concerning
the biosphere of the Earth. He defined the bounderies of the biosphere by
having shown that the biosphere includes all the hydrosphere, troposphere to the
height of about 30 km, and the upper part of the Earth's crust down to a depth
of two or three kilometers, for living bacteria still may be found at this depth
in the underground waters and in the oil. V.I.Vernadsky's biosphere is not a
static life envelope, but an open system having existed since the very
beginning of the Earth's history. The contemporary life and its activities
are the product of a long and complex evolution of the living substance.
Having accepted the idea of the evolution of the biosphere, V.I.Vernadsky
also changed his viewpoint upon the technological activities of the mankind.
He came to consider them as a lawgoverned evolutionary stage in the development
of the biosphere. He believed in the strength of the human reason and supposed
that the team scientific thought will overcome the negative results of the
technogenesis and will secure, in future, the rational transformation (and not
annihilation) of the natural components of the biosphere, for a maximum
satisfaction of the material and spiritual demands of the mankind which is
growing quantitatively. This future evolutionary stage of the biosphere of the
Earth was designated by V.I.Vernadsky noosphere, the sphere of reason
(the term introduced in 1922 by a French philisopher and mathematician Edouard
V.I.Vernadsky intended to elaborate the noosphere doctrine in more detail
but he had no time to answer. Still in his article Several Words on
the Noosphere (1944; the last paper out of all those which he published
during his life) and in the two above mentioned post humous monographs, conditions
are formulated which ought to be kept for the creation of the noosphere (after
V.I.Vernadsky's opinion). These conditions are:
It is easy to see that now, after the expire of half a century of the
formulation of these conditions by V.I.Vernadsky, they are for the most
part carried into effect or at least are being in the processof realization,
which brings the mankind nearer to the creation of noosphere.
A.E.Fersman, the nearest pupil of V.I.Vernadsky and his successor in the
area of the development of geochemistry, who only outlived his teacher by
several months, had time to write about Vernadsky: "His general ideas will
be studied and elaborated during centuries and one will discover new pages in
his works which will serve as the source for new searches. Many scientists
will learn his creative thought which is acute, stubborn and articulated,
always genial, but sometimes poorly understood. As for young generations, he
always will be a teacher in science and a striking example of a fruitfully
- peopling of all the Earth;
- abrupt transformation of the means of communication and commerce between
- establishment of political and other ties between all the states of the
- predominance of the geological role of man over other processes which
take placein the biosphere;
- expansion of the fontiers of the biosphere and the man's exit into the
- industrial exploitation of new sources of energy;
- equality of the people of all races and religions;
- increase in the role of people's masses in the decisions on the questions
of internal and foreign policy;
- freedom of scientific thought and scientific search from the pressure
of religious, philosophical and political considerations, and the creation
of the conditions, favorable for the free scientific thought, in social and
- rise of the well-being of the world's people. Creation of a real
possibility to exclude malnutrition, hunger, misery and to weaken the influence
of the diseases;
- rational transformation of the original nature of the Earth, with the
purpose to make it capable to satisfy all material, aesthetic and spiritual
demands of the mankind;
- exclusion of wars from the life of society.
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