Lomonosov was a scientist, a poet, a grammarian. He is often considered the first great Russian linguistic reformer. Lomonosov made substantial contribution to the natural sciences, reorganized the St. Petersburg Imperial Academy of Sciences, established in Moscow the university that today bears his name, and created the first coloured glass mosaics in Russia.
Lomonosov was born on the 19th of November, 1711 near Kholmogory, Russia. He was the son of a poor fisherman. At the age of 10 he took up that work, too. When the few books he was able to obtain could no longer satisfy his growing thirst for knowledge, he left his native village, penniless and on foot, for Moscow. He was 19. His ambition was to educate himself to join the learned men on whom the tsar Peter I the Great was calling to transform Russia into a modern nation.
His bitter struggle began as soon as he arrived in Moscow. It was not an easy task for a man of humble origin to get education at that time. But his exceptional intelligence enabled him in five years to assimilate the eight-year course of study and in 1736 Lomonosov became a student at the St. Petersburg Academy.
Seven months later he left for Germany to study at the University of Marburg and later in Freiberg. He studied Western philosophy and science, the technologies of mining, metallurgy, and glassmaking.
In 1741 he returned to St. Petersburg. Here he worked on «276 Notes on Corpuscular Philosophy and Physics», where he set forth the dominant ideas of his scientific work. In 1745 he was appointed a professor at the Academy. He translated scientific works into Russian and wrote in Latin such important works as «Cause of Heat and Cold», «Elastic Force of Air» and «Theory of Electricity». He recorded more than 4,000 experiments, the results of which enabled him to set up a coloured glass works and to make mosaics with these glasses. His «Discourse on the Usefulness of Chemistry», «Letter to I.I. Shuvalov Concerning the Usefulness of Glass», «Origin of Light and Colours» and the «Ode» to Elizabeth celebrated his fruitful union of abstract and applied science.
To these achievements were added the composition of Rossiyskaya grammatika and «Short Russian Chronicle» and the «universal law of nature» — that is, the law of conservation of matter and energy.
From 1755 he did a lot for the development of Moscow State University. Appointed a councillor by the Academy in 1757, he undertook reforms to make the university an intellectual centre closely linked with the life of the country. He wrote several works on voyages and navigation in the Northern Seas. His prestige was considerable in Russia, and his scientific works and his role in the Academy were known abroad. He was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and of that of Bologna.
The persecutions he suffered, particularly after the empress Elizabeth’s death in 1762 exhausted him physically, and he died in 1765. The empress Catherine II the Great had Lomonosov buried with great ceremony, but she confiscated all the notes in which were outlined the great humanitarian ideas he had developed.
The publication of his «Complete Works» in 1950—1983 by Soviet scholars revealed the full contribution of Lomonosov, who has long been misunderstood by historians of science.