V. V. Petrov’s Hypothetical Experiment and Electrical Experiments of the 18th Century

  • V. P. Kartsev
Part of the The University of Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 20)

Abstract

It is only in our time that the name of Russian academician Vasily Vladimirovich Petrov (1761–1834) — the discoverer of electrical arcs (1802) — became widely known among foreign historians of physics. It should be noted though, that in Russia itself academician Petrov was forgotten soon after his death and that his works fell into oblivion.1 No documents elucidating his private life were preserved, no portrait of him was left, and his burial-place was lost. V. V. Petrov’s now so well known book “News of the galvani-voltaic experiments which professor of physics Vasily Petrov had conducted by means of a particularly huge battery consisting at times of 4200 copper and zinc disks and installed at St. Petersburg Medicine and Surgery Academy”, published in 1803 in St. Petersburg, was by chance discovered in a library in the town of Vilno at the end of the last century. Familiarization with the book showed that for the first time in world literature it described a series of physical phenomena of paramount importance related to electricity.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    S. I. Vavilov (ed.). Academician V. V. Petrov, Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., Moscow-Leningrad, 1940.Google Scholar
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    V. V. Chenakal. ‘A valuable find’, Literaturnaya Gazeta, June 6, 1952, N 75 (2948), p. 2.Google Scholar
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    A. I. Leushin. On the authenticity of academician V. V. Petrov’s portrait. Problems of history of natural sciences and technogy. N 1, 1980, 129–130.Google Scholar
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  5. 5.
    This term has not been fully established in modern science and attempts are made to refer it to entire communities and scientific periods (see e.g. Novic I. B. Style of Thinking in Natural Sciences, Moscow, Progress, 1972.) and even reject it completely (see: Kedrov B. M. About scientific revolutions. Problems of History of Natural Science and Technology, N 3, 1980).Google Scholar
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    Ja. G. Dorfman. History of Physics, v. I, Nauka, 1974, pp. 280–309.Google Scholar
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  10. 10.
    This situation resembles the situation which arose later for J. Henry who, after having built an extremely powerful electromagnet, discovered very subtle effects, imperceptible with less powerful equipment. We can also note some other cammon features which characterized Petrov’s and Henry’s lives and activities, e.g. the ‘provincialism’ of their scientific environments, etc.Google Scholar
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    V. V. Petrov. New electrical experiments. S. Petersb., 1884, p. 70.Google Scholar
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    The archives of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, also see in the book ‘Academician V. V. Petrov’, p. 207.Google Scholar
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    L. Galvani, A. Volta. Selected works on animal electricity, Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.Google Scholar
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    See in the book ‘Academician V. V. Petrov’, 1940, p. 66.Google Scholar
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    Quoted from the book ‘Academician V. V. Petrov’, p. 62.Google Scholar
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    Quoted from the book ‘Academician V. V. Petrov’, pp. 212–213.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    The archives of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, see also in the book ‘Academician V. V. Petrov’, p. 247.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. P. Kartsev
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for History of ScienceMoscowRussia

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