100 years ago, on April 28, 1920, the great Russian scientist Kliment Arkadyevich Timiryazev passed away. A researcher who has revealed the secret of the transformation of the inanimate into organic matter. A person who was a source of light for the people.
Origin and education
Kliment Timiryazev was born on May 22 (June 3), 1843 in the Russian capital – Petersburg. He belonged to one of the old Russian noble families, his ancestors came from the Golden Horde and served the Moscow rulers. Clement’s father, Arkady Semyonovich, served in customs, was a senator and privy councilor. He fought with the French in 1812-1814, was known for his honesty and freedom of thought, so he did not accumulate wealth. Mother Adelaide Klimentievna was from the ancient French noble family of barons de Bode, who moved from Alsace to Russia during the Great French Revolution. Also in the Bode clan there was a fair share of English and Scottish roots.
Therefore, Timiryazev himself noted: “I am Russian, although a significant proportion of English is mixed with my Russian blood.” Thus, the Timiryazev family belonged to the aristocracy. He was fluent in German, French and English.
The Timiryazev family was large and friendly. All children received a good education at home from their mother. Clement not only mastered foreign languages, but also studied music, visual arts, was fascinated by landscape photography. His work has even been exhibited. His brothers also became prominent people and influenced Clement: Vasily (a famous writer), Nikolai and especially Dmitry (statistician and chemist), who introduced his brother to organic chemistry.
Despite his high birth, Timiryazev’s life was not easy. My father was an honest campaigner and did not make money. When Arkady Semyonovich was dismissed from service, the family was left without income. Clement began working as a young man. He recalled how he consoled himself with the thought that he did not sit on the backs of the workers, like the merchant’s sons.
In 1860, Clement entered the Faculty of Law at St. Petersburg University, then moved to the natural department of the Physics and Mathematics Faculty. Attended lectures by leading scientists: chemist Mendeleev, botanists Beketov and Famintsyn, physiologist Sechenov, historian Kostomarov. He graduated from the course in 1866 with a candidate’s degree, that is, with honors. True, he was almost expelled for freethinking. Timiryazev studied the works of Marx and became his associate. He developed the conviction of “duty to society” and “hatred of all, especially public, untruths.” As a result, the young man took part in student riots and then refused to cooperate with the police. I was able to continue my studies only as a free listener.
The answer to photosynthesis
Even at the university, Timiryazev was noted as a talented experimenter. The young scientist believed that all theories should be tested in practice. Therefore, he himself designed new devices, which were used after him. After university, he was the head of an experimental agrochemical station in the Simbirsk province. The talented scientist was noticed at the Ministry of Public Education and sent for an internship abroad to prepare for professorship. For two years Clement attended lectures by prominent Western scientists and worked in leading laboratories in France and Germany.
After returning to Russia, Timiryazev defended his master’s thesis and was appointed professor at the Petrovskaya Agricultural and Forestry Academy in the Moscow Region. In 1877, the scientist was invited to Moscow University. In these educational institutions Timiryazev worked for over 30 years and made his main discoveries.
One of the students of the academy, a well-known later publicist and writer Vladimir Korolenko noted:
“Timiryazev had special sympathetic threads that connected him with students, although very often his conversations outside the lecture turned into disputes on subjects outside the specialty. We felt that the questions that occupied us were also of interest to him. In addition, true, fervent faith was heard in his nervous speech. It belonged to the science and culture that he defended from the wave of “forgiveness” that swept us, and there was a lot of sublime sincerity in this faith. Young people appreciated it. “
The main research of the Russian scientist concerned the process of photosynthesis. It was previously known that in the light, plants convert carbon dioxide and water into organic matter. But scientists did not know how this happens. Clement Arkadyevich directed light at the plants, which passed through colored liquids. And I found that red and blue rays are absorbed better than yellow ones, and the rate of decomposition of carbon dioxide depends on this. It was Timiryazev who realized that light is absorbed by the chlorophyll grains, which give the plants their green color. He was the first to report that chlorophyll is not only physically involved, but also chemically involved in photosynthesis. Through his research, the Russian scientist proved that the law of conservation of energy fully applies to the process of photosynthesis. Although at that time this fact was not recognized by most researchers.
Also, a Russian scientist discovered the phenomenon of light saturation. Previously, it was believed that the main characteristic of light is brightness. Timiryazev denied this. He found that with an increase in brightness, plants actually absorb more and more carbon dioxide, but up to a certain limit. After it, it is pointless to increase the brightness, and sometimes it is harmful, since moisture evaporates due to strong light. As a result, Kliment Arkadievich made a conclusion about the “cosmic role of plants.” It was such a lecture that he gave at the Royal Society of London in 1903.
Timiryazev noted: “A plant is a mediator between heaven and earth. It is the true Prometheus who stole fire from heaven. ” Plants use solar energy for nutrition, create the primary organic matter that animals feed on. Plants maintain the chemical composition of the atmosphere, that is, they give life to all organisms.
“Only by fulfilling its best dreams, humanity moves forward”
Clement Arkadievich was one of the active supporters of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. As a student, he was one of the first in Russia to translate Darwin’s famous book On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection. He also wrote for the journal Otechestvennye zapiski a series of articles about Darwin’s book and its criticism. Then he published the book “A Brief Outline of Darwin’s Theory.” In fact, thanks to Timiryazev, Russian society became acquainted with Darwin’s theory. The Russian scientist considered Darwin’s discovery to be the greatest discovery of the 19th century. He was an active Darwinist, defended the theory from criticism and distortion.
The Russian scientist was not only a theoretician, but also a practitioner. He dreamed that his discoveries would be useful in the national economy. Science was supposed to make agriculture more productive. Immediately after graduating from the university, he supervised work at the agrochemical station to study the effect of mineral fertilizers on plant productivity. In the 1870s, while working at the Petrovskaya Academy, Timiryazev built a “growing house” – it was the first scientific greenhouse in Russia and the third in the world. At the All-Russian Exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod in 1896, he repeated this experience.
Kliment Arkadievich actively worked on the dissemination of knowledge. The scientist wrote more than 100 popular scientific works, where he described the effect of light on plants and methods of increasing yields, talked about natural science and the discoveries of major scientists. Timiryazev noted that from the very beginning he set himself two main goals: science and writing for the people. For this, the Russian scientist held public lectures, which were very popular among young people. Kliment Timiryazev himself believed that it was the younger generation who would lead the people along the path of progress:
“I confess three virtues: faith, hope and love; I love science as a means of reaching the truth, I believe in progress and I rely on you (students). “
Striving for light and higher truth
Despite worldwide recognition and popularity, the authorities disliked the free-thinker. In 1911, Kliment Arkadievich, despite a serious illness (after a cerebral hemorrhage in 1909, Timiryazev’s left arm and leg were paralyzed), together with other professors and teachers, left Moscow University. The professors’ protest was linked to the Kasso case. In January 1911, a circular was issued by the Minister of Education, L. A. Kasso, “On the Temporary Prohibition of Public and Private Student Institutions.” The document prohibited the holding of meetings in universities, rectors had to monitor the penetration of unauthorized persons into higher educational institutions. In general, the circular violated the autonomy of universities.
Politically, the Russian scientist strove to bring science and politics closer together. He acted as a patriot and Slavophil, for the war of Russia against Turkey, which should have led to the freedom of the Slavs. He hoped for a rapprochement between the peoples of Russia and England, which had to resist the aggression of Germany. Initially, he spoke out in favor of the Entente and Russia’s action in defense of the Serbs. However, he quickly became disillusioned with the world massacre and began to work in M. Gorky’s anti-war magazine, Letopis. Timiryazev became the head of the science department and led many prominent scientists, writers and poets to participate in the journal.
After the February Revolution, the socialist revolutionaries promoted the candidacy of Kliment Arkadievich for the post of Minister of Education in the future socialist government. However, observing the destructive policy of the Provisional Government in the peasant and agrarian question, the Russian scientist began to support the ideas of the Bolsheviks. Timiryazev actively supported Lenin’s April Theses (on the development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into a socialist one) and the Great October Revolution. He supported the “amazing, selfless successes” of the Red Army, which saved Russia from death, called for joining the army of labor, since the happiness and prosperity of a people are created only by productive labor.
The socialist revolution brought Timiryazev back to Moscow University. True, he did not work for long. On April 28, 1920, the great scientist died of a cold. On the occasion of Timiryazev’s 70th birthday on May 22, 1913, another great Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov, gave a full description to his colleague:
“Kliment Arkadyevich himself, like the plants he loved dearly, strove for light all his life, storing in himself the treasures of the mind and the highest truth, and he himself was a source of light for many generations, striving for light and knowledge and seeking warmth and truth in the harsh conditions of life “.
Bust of K.A.Timiryazev on the territory of the Moscow Agricultural Academy K. A. Timiryazeva