Russia gave the world a lot of great
writers, artists, musicians, philosophers, sportsmen, and politicians. The
names of Russian scientists and inventors are known all over the world. Almost
in all branches of science and technology the Russian scientists played the leading
The achievements of the Russian
scientists are great.
Vladimir Vernadsky (1863-1945), a
Russian scientist, is considered to be one of the founders of geochemistry and
biogeochemistry. The son of a professor, Vernadsky graduated from St. Petersburg
University in 1885 and became curator of the university's mineralogical
collection in 1886. In 1890 he became a lecturer on mineralogy and
crystallography at Moscow University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1897. He
served as a professor at Moscow University from 1898 to 1911. After the
Revolution he was active in scientific and organisational activities. He
founded and directed (from 1927) the biogeochemical laboratory of the Academy
of Sciences at Leningrad (St. Petersburg).
Vernadsky's initial work was in
mineralogy. He was also a pioneer in geochemistry. He made a detailed study of
the Earth and chemical processes going on in its crust, including the migration
of chemical elements.
Vernadsky was one of the first
scientists to recognise the tremendous potential of radioactivity as a source
of energy, and he was also one of the first to put forward the idea that
radioactivity is vital to many processes of the Earth's life. His later years
were taken up with the study of the life processes in the atmosphere and in the
Earth's crust. Vernadsky is regarded the founder of the theory of the
biosphere, that is the total mass of living organisms, which process and
recycle the energy and nutrients available from the environment. His name is
well known today. For example, an avenue and a metro station in Moscow bear the
name of Vernadsky.
I also admire the work of Alexander
Tchijevsky (1897-1964), a Russian scientist of space biophysics, and a young
friend of Tsiolkovsky. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) was among the first
to work out the theoretical problems of rocket travel in space. He is the
greatest Russian research scientist in aeronautics and astronautics who
pioneered rocket and space research.
Tchijevsky worked in the tradition
of late Cosmic Philosophy. The son of a Russian general, Tchijevsky spent the
early years of his life in Kaluga. There he got his education and then worked.
In this town he made friends with Tsiolkovsky, who became his advisor and
For the rest of his life Tchijevsky
lived and worked at different research institutions in Moscow. His theories of
sunspot activity and human activity stated that sunspot cycle activity
increased and decreased in a cycle of approximately 11 years. During World War
I Tchijevsky continued his studies at the war front. He noticed that a
dependence existed between the severe battles and solar activity.
To test his hypothesis that sunspot
cycle influenced human lives, Tchijevsky analysed the data covering each year
form 500 BC to 1922 AD. Then he studied the histories of 72 countries during
that period, noting signs of human unrest such as wars, revolutions, riots,
expeditions and migrations. Tchijevsky found that 80 percent of the most
significant events occurred during the years of maximum sunspot activity.
Tchijevsky observed that the Russian Revolution of 1917 occurred during the
height of the sunspot activity. The scientist spent long years in Soviet
prisons because his theory challenged the established system.
Tchijevsky did not believe that
solar disturbances caused discontent among people. Solar activity simply served
as detonators that set off the reaction of the people who had many grievances
and causes for complaint. The recent studies tend to confirm Tchijevsky's
- Can you tell us about an
outstanding American personality?
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
(1917-1963), 35th president of the United States (1961-63), faced a number of
foreign crises, especially in Cuba and Berlin, but managed to secure such
achievements as the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and the Alliance for Progress.
John Kennedy grew up in a large
family. He was the second of nine children, and his father wanted all his
children to compete physically and intellectually with each other. Kennedy
graduated from Harvard University. For six months in 1938 he served as
secretary to his father, then U.S. ambassador to Great Britain.
In the fall of 1941 Kennedy joined
the U.S. Navy and two years later was sent to fight in the Pacific against the
Japanese during Word War II. Originally John's elder brother was to become the
U.S. president, but he was killed during the war. So, John who originally
planned to become a scholar or a journalist was to replace his brother. In 1960
the Democratic Party nominated Kennedy as its official candidate for the
In 1960 John Kennedy became one of
the most famous political figures in the country. He was young and ambitious,
people believed that he would open a new era in the American history. During
the television debates Kennedy appeared as a good looking and promising person.
Kennedy won the election and in 1961 he became the president of the United
States. John F. Kennedy was the youngest man and the first Roman Catholic ever
elected to the presidency of the United States. His slogan was "Let's get
this country moving again". His administration lasted 1,037 days. From the
onset he was concerned with foreign affairs.
Kennedy was an immensely popular
president, at home and abroad. At times he seemed to be everywhere at once,
encouraging better physical fitness, improving the morale of government
workers, bringing brilliant advisers to the White House, and beautifying
Washington, D.C. His wife joined him as an advocate for U.S. culture. Their two
young children were known throughout the country. In 1963 John Kennedy was
killed, but the Kennedy mystique was alive.
- Who glorified Great Britain?
- Great Britain is proud of its
writers such as William Shakespeare, Daniel Defoe, Robert Burns, George Gordon
Byron, Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wild, John Golsworthy. James Cook,
William Harvey, Michael Faraday, Edward Jenner, Alexander Mackenzie, Isaac
Newton, George Stephenson, James Watt - glorified Great Britain too.
- What are they famous for?
- In 1628 William Harvey discovered
the circulation of blood and this led to great advances in medicine in the
study of human body. James Cook discovered Australia and New Zealand, and
sailed round the world three times. Isaac Newton formulated the law of
gravitation, he discovered that white light was made up of rays of different
colours, and developed a mathematical method, which is known as the Binomial
Theorem, and also differential and integral calculus. Michael Faraday is famous
for his work in electricity; he is known as the father of electric motor. James
Watt invented the universal steam-engine. Smallpox has almost disappeared due
to Edward Jenner who introduced the smallpox vaccination in 1800. The name of
George Stephenson is connected with the first railway; he is often called the "Father
of Railways". Alexander Mackenzie is known for his exploration of the
- Well, what can you tell us about
Russian painting? When did a truly Russian tradition of painting begin?
- A truly Russian tradition of
painting began in the 1870s with the appearance of the "Wanderers" -
the Peredvizhniki. This society was formed by a group of Romantic artists who
regarded themselves as Realists. Rejecting the classicism of the Russian
Academy they formed a new realist art that served the common men. The "Wanderers"
depicted Russian middle-class and peasant life in an easily understood style.
- Why did the "Wanderers"
organise mobile exhibitions?
- When they set up a Society of
Wandering Exhibitions, they organised mobile exhibitions of their works in
order to bring serious art to the people.
- Who belonged to this group?
- The greatest Russian artists of
the 1870s and 1880s, including Ivan Kramskoy, Il'ya Repin, Vassily Surikov,
Vassily Perov, and Vassily Vereshchagin, belonged to this group. The Wanderers attached
much importance to the moral. Their artistic creed was realism, national
feeling, and social consciousness. The Wanderers were dominant in Russia for
nearly 30 years.
- Can you describe the
- I am impressed by Il'ya Repin's
paintings. He is known for the power and drama of his works. He created
realistic and historical paintings. His powerful "Volga Boatmen",
depicting bargemen harnessed together like beasts of burden, is full of realism.
In his "Religious Procession in the Kursk Guberniya" Repin depicted
almost all the estates of provincial Russia. With the development of realism,
historical painting underwent great changes. In his large historical paintings
"Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan, November 16, 1581" and
"Zaporozhian Cossacks" Repin revived the spirit of historical events,
he recreated historical characters, their fates and passions. The painter also
made portraits of his great contemporaries, such as Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail
Glinka, and Modest Mussorgsky.
- What do you know about English
- English painting up to the 18th
century was dominated by foreign portraitists. The modern British school of
painting originated in England in the 18-th century. Its founder was William
Hogarth. He invented a new form of secular narrative painting. In his
moralizing paintings William Hogarth showed the life of his contemporaries.
Thomas Gainsborough is known for his landscapes and elegant portraits. The
mainstream of English painting in the first half of the nineteenth century was
landscape. Constable and Turner were the greatest landscapists of that time.
- Can you dwell on one of them?
- Yes, of course. I'll tell you
about John Constable. The son of a miller Constable honoured all that was natural
and traditional. He never left England and made dutiful sketching tours through
regions of scenic beauty. "The Hay Wain" sums up Constable's ideals
and achievements. The painting shows Constable's beloved river Stour with its
trees, a mill, and distant fields. In 1829 Constable became member of the Royal
Academy. One of his late works of art is "Stroke-by-Nayland". In this
large canvas John Constable depicted the distant church tower, the wagon, the
plough, the horses, and the boy looking over the gate. The breadth of the
picture, and colours painted in a rapid technique are equalled to Titian's or
Rembrandt's landscape backgrounds.
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