THE DECREE ON THE FOUNDING OF THE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, JANUARY 28, 1724


The problem of higher education and scientific research in Russia presented many difficulties, chiefly because of the deficiency of primary and secondary education, although progress had been made in this field during Peter's reign. In 1698 Peter's project to transform the Greco-Slavo-Latin Academy into a university met with a cool reception on the part of Patriarch Hadrian. Gradually Peter was won over to the idea of setting up an academy of sciences as the highest institution of learning; he thought that this would later force his successors to develop its educational base. The final order to establish the academy was given in 1718, but it took several years to work out the particulars. Finally one of the court physicians, Laurentius Blumentrost (16921755), who was in charge of the tsar's library and museum, presented a detailed project, which Peter approved on January 22, 1724, and which was incorporated into the decree establishing the Academy of Sciences. The first session of this academy was held after Peter's death, on November 12, 1725. Most of its members had been recruited abroad. Laurentius Blumentrost was its first president and retained this position until he fell into disgrace in 1733 under Empress Anne:

His Imperial Majesty has ordained the establishment of an academy where [it would be possible] to study languages as well as other sciences and fine arts, and where books would be translated. On January 22 [1724] His Majesty, after examining in his winter house the project for the establishment of this academy, wrote the following resolution on it with his own hand: "Assign for the maintenance of this [academy] the customs and export license revenues collected in the cities of Narva, Dorpat, Pernau, and Arensburg- 24,912 rubles [yearly]." . . .

Project for the Establishment of an Academy

Two types of establishments are normally used for the development of arts and sciences: one is called a university, and the other, an academy, or society of arts and sciences.

1. A university is an association of learned men who teach the young men high sciences, like theology, jurisprudence, medicine, and philosophy up to the limit to which these sciences have been developed. An academy is an association of learned and skilled men who not only know their respective sciences to the extent to which they are developed but also seek to perfect and to develop them further through new discoveries (and publications), while taking no pains to teach others.

2. Though academy and university both comprise the same sciences and the same [type of] members, there is no connection between them in some countries, where the large number of learned men makes it possible to set up several [learned] assemblies. This is done so that teaching duties would not interfere with the speculations and research of the academy, whose sole purpose is to improve arts and sciences-from which both university professors and students benefit; at the same time the university should not be distracted from teaching by various ingenious investigations and speculations, which would leave the young men unattended to.

3. Since it is now necessary to create in Russia an establishment for the development of arts and sciences, it is impossible to adopt the pattern followed in the other states, for we must consider the conditions existing in this country....

5. Thus the most appropriate type of an association [for Russia] would be one consisting of the very best men of learning who would:

a. develop and perfect the sciences, but in such a way that they would at the same time

b. teach young men publicly (those who are found fit for it) and

c. give special instruction to several men who would then be able to teach the fundamentals of all the sciences to young men....

7.... The sciences to be represented in this academy can generally be divided into three classes: the first class to comprise the mathematical sciences and all that depends on them; the second class-all parts of physics; and the third class-the humanities, history, and law....

11. The duties of the academicians are as follows:

a. To seek out everything that has already been achieved in the sciences; to perform the tasks necessary for their correction and expansion; to make reports on all their discoveries in this connection, and to give them to the secretary, who must then edit [and publish] them at the appropriate time.

b. Every academician must read the good authors in his field who publish their works abroad; it will thus be easy for him to draw up a summary of such works; these summaries shall be published by the academy at designated times, together with [the academy's] other findings and deliberations.

c. Since the academy is nothing but a society of persons who must cooperate with one another in the development of sciences, it is highly important that they should meet together for several hours every week. Each member could then present his own opinions, benefit from the advice and opinions of others, and check in the presence of all the members experiments that he had performed alone; this last feature is especially necessary, for very often in the conduct of such experiments one member will hold another to a perfect demonstration [of his discovery]-for instance, the anatomist might do it with the mechanist, and so forth.

d. The academy must also:

i. Examine all the discoveries that will be made from time to time in the abovementioned sciences, and give its candid appraisal as to whether they are correct.

ii. Determine whether [these discoveries] are of great or of little use.

iii. Determine whether they were known before or not.