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Phisical Cabinet

40. Barometer and thermometer. 18th century.

Mercury barometers received wide recognition in Europe after the experiments of Torricelli in 1647 and Pascal in 1647. They were further improved by Huygens and Boyle. The Russian instrument displayed here combines both a barometer and a thermometer, which uses the Reaumur scale. The device was made meticulously and was intended to serve for a long time. As a result, it still works today.

41. Mirror with lenses, table clock and mechanical step-measurer. 18th century.

In Peter’s days lenses competed with microscopes, which were still imperfect, expensive and took up a lot of space. Master Leeuwenhoek, whom Peter knew personally, especially excelled in the art of polishing lenses. A lens with reflective mirrors would be used rather as a toy than as a serious scientific instrument. Such a device made it possible to show a rise in the temperature or demonstrate other «curious experiments» to the uncultured Russian public.
The design of the table-top mechanical clock (a rarity for those days, with only one hand) is noble and exquisite; a perfect example of the baroque style. The clock showed the time only approximately, but in the side holes one could see the working mechanism measuring time. For us, accustomed to observing this phenomenon since childhood, it is difficult to understand the mentality of people who had «never observed minutes» and had a vague notion of the time in general. The mechanical step-measurer counted steps, and could count up to four thousand.

42. Upper row: protractor with a plumb, artillery gun-sight, quadrant. Lower row: globe, graphometer, sundial with a compass and a plumb. 18th century.

In Peter’s days collecting instruments was a fashionable pass-time. Peter knew many of them from his childhood, and they served «to instruct him in his young years». His father Alexey Mikhailovich had several globes. One of them had been presented to him by Dutch ambassadors. The globes of that time were different from those we know today: they were divided into «terrestrial» and «celestial» globes. In Russia such globes began to appear in the 16th and 17th centuries. Our exposition features a terrestrial globe. Mass production of globes was a new business both for Russia and for Eastern Europe. Globes were made of expensive wood or cast in bronze, then they were further engraved and sometimes gilded.

The sundial exhibited here is also unique because it could also be used as a compass. The sundial was the first instrument ever used by man to measure time. In Russia portable sundials appeared in the second half of the 16th century. In the 17th century they were already widely used by sailors to tell time. Almost all of them were equipped with a plumb to place them into horizontal position, as well as a scale of latitudes to adjust them to the right latitude, and a magnetic needle for orientation in respect to meridians. Peter the Great was not only well-acquainted with sundials, but even knew their design theory.

43. Spyglasses of Russian and English make. Possibly 18th century.

The first spyglass was brought to Russia in 1614, just six years after its invention. These spyglasses were used not only by the military, but also for scientific purposes. Observatories, physical cabinets, and expeditions that set out for all parts of Russia needed them badly. Soon after the establishment of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, a workshop for manufacturing various instruments, including spyglasses, was opened there.

44. Portrait of Mikhail Lomonosov, plaster.

Poet Alexander Pushkin wrote quote eloquently of Russia’s most famous 18th-century scientist that «Combining an iron-hard will with a remarkable keenness of the mind, Lomonosov embraced all branches of knowledge. A thirst for knowledge was the strongest passion of this soul full of passions. Historian, rhetor, mechanic, chemist, mineralogist, artist and poet, he experienced everything and got to the core of everything». Lomonosov’s entire life was one continuous feat. In the 18th century the sciences were not considered a promising profession from the point of view of fame, honors or wealth. But these weren’t Lomonosov’s objectives anyway. The stubborn son of a Russian sailor bore with patience both his «extreme poverty» and the sneers of illiterate courtiers or intrigues of jealous colleagues. His attractive image was well described by Nikolai Novikov in his «Example of a Historical Dictionary»: «his disposition was always cheerful, he spoke in short phrases but with wit and humor and loved to mix his conversation with juicy jokes; he was true to his motherland and his friends, patronized those practicing the rhetoric arts and encouraged them; normally treated everyone with care and respect and was generous to those who sought his favors, but at the same time hot tempered and angered easily».

45. Caftan of earl Count Kirill Petrovich Razumovsky, president of the Academy of Sciences (mid-18th century).

This exhibit brings us back to the reign of Peter’s daughter Elizabeth. Her favorite, Alexei Grigorievich Razumovsky, lived with her for almost twenty years in perfect harmony. This well-built handsome fellow with a magnificent voice was brought to the court capella from the village of Chemary of the Chernigovsky area and at that time went by the name of Alexei Rozum. Ukrainian singers were in enormous demand in the days of Elizabeth, she herself being a great lover of singing.

The story of Razumovsky’s brother Kirill resembles a fairy-tale. The boy of 16 was peacefully tending his flock when couriers from St. Petersburg seized him and delivered him to the capital. From there he was sent abroad to travel and pursue studies. After a couple of years he returned home with a packet of flattering diplomas and charmed everyone with his polite manners. At the age of 20 he was appointed president of the Academy of Sciences. His inauguration was celebrated with the delivery of lectures organized by Lomonosov. The young president did not even pretend to be interested in the activities of the Academy. At least the former shepherd remained a simple and kind person. Of course he did not help the scientists, but at least he did not bother them, or hinder the activities, of which he himself understood nothing.

His caftan gives us some idea of the merciless tyranny of fashion that ruled the court of Empress Elisabeth. Some of the decrees of this fashionable empress resembled recommendations from fashion magazines.

46. Books and writing accessories of the 17th and 18th centuries.

These books bound in leather were handled by the first Russian scientists. We shall never know who was the owner of the ink-stand, made in Rostov in the technique of cloisonnй, or whose extensive musings were witnessed by the metal box for writing accessories. The books were taken from the Library founded by Emperor Peter the Great himself. He had collected and acquired books throughout his life. Even at the time when the collections were kept in the Kikin Mansion, rows of bookcases stocked with books lined up the second floor of the building. They contained several thousand volumes, mostly of foreign origin by Greek, Latin, French and German authors. Most of the books were written on subjects which were interesting and popular among the reading public of the day: lives of saints, stories in the original or translations, maps, «histories», or historical works, «herbals» or description of medical herbs and their use, and many others. The library was open «at any time» and anyone who wanted to see it could freely do so.

Later it became the nucleus for the future library of the Kunstkammer and still later it formed the core of the library of the Academy of Sciences.

47. Scene: a visit of tsaritsa Anna Ioannovna to the Kunstkammer (modern reconstruction).

The foreground features tsaritsa Anna with a dwarf and her suite. Opposite this little group Johann Schumacher stoops in an elaborate bow. Schumacher came to Russia in 1714 and received the position of a librarian at the cabinet of rarities. Peter the Great sent Schumacher abroad with instructions to invite scholars and to acquire the newest and most perfect physical and astronomical devices. When the invited academicians arrived in Russia, they were surprised to see such machinery and instruments, which could make any educational establishment in the West proud.
During the reign of the first successors of Peter I the Academy was completely deserted and Schumacher became the absolute commander of the place. This clever man, shrewd and ready to flatter the high and mighty, was not really concerned with the activities of the Russian sciences. His ultimate objective was always his own career and creating an impression of the Academy’s success. He started getting rid of some academicians who for one reason or another displeased him, without taking into account their scientific achievements. The work of the Academy began to depend on his own interests and on the pure enthusiasm of some of its members who still continued to work hard.

The membership itself was affected: many academicians left or were replaced. In 1833 Daniel Bernoulli left, while Eiler also thought about leaving. All vacancies in the Academy were taken by Schumacher’s protйgйs. Foreign speech was more often heard within the wall of the Academy than the Russian language. During her visit to the Kunstkammer, tsaritsa Anna laughed at Schumacher’s broken Russian while he tried to explain the meaning of certain exhibits to her. She loved to visit the Kunstkammer, showed great surprise at the sight of rarities, intently looked at the wax figure of her powerful predecessor «uncle» Peter, and watched the changing outlines of the earth on the gigantic Gottorp globe. Strictly speaking Anna was not keen about the sciences, but they amused her. Besides, the Academy, which had been Peter’s venture, added more prestige to her reign… to say nothing of the practical use of some of the academicians: no one could better organize a fireworks display than they. The Academy was also a great amusement for the tsaritsa: Joseph Nicolas Delille regularly delivered his long «Newtonian pipe» to the palace so that the tsaritsa could observe the stars at night. She took delight in such «astronomical observations» and often watched the rings of Saturn. Indeed, the stars had predicted her ascendancy to the Russian throne.