Vladimir Vernadsky

Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky (Russian: Влади́мир Ива́нович Верна́дский; Ukrainian: Володи́мир Іва́нович Верна́дський, romanizedVolodymyr Ivanovych Vernadskyi; 12 March [O.S. 28 February] 1863 – 6 January 1945) was a Russian[1][2], Ukrainian[3][4][5] and Soviet mineralogist and geochemist who is considered one of the founders of geochemistry, biogeochemistry, and radiogeology.[1] He is also known as the founder of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences[6][7] (now National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine).[8] He is most noted for his 1926 book The Biosphere in which he inadvertently worked to popularize Eduard Suess' 1885 term biosphere, by hypothesizing that life is the geological force that shapes the earth. In 1943 he was awarded the Stalin Prize.

Vladimir Vernadsky
1934-V I Vernadsky.jpg
Vernadsky in 1934
Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky

12 March [O.S. 28 February] 1863[1]
Died6 January 1945 (aged 81)[1]
EducationDoctor of Science (1897)
Alma materSaint Petersburg Imperial University
Known forNoosphere
Scientific career
FieldsGeology, crystallography, mineralogy, geochemistry, radiogeology, biology, biogeochemistry, philosophy
InstitutionsMoscow University Professor
National Academy of Science of Ukraine
Tavrida National V.I. Vernadsky University
Moscow Institute of Fine Chemical Technologies
ThesisSlip phenomena of crystalline matter
InfluencesVasily Dokuchaev, Andreas Artsruni
InfluencedAlexander Fersman
Vernadsky Vladimir Ivanovich signature.png

Early lifeEdit

Vladimir Vernadski, Paris 1889

Vernadsky was born in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire, on 12 March [O.S. 28 February] 1863 in family of the native Kyiv residents Russian Imperial economist Ivan Vernadsky and music instructor Anna Petrovna Konstantinovna. According to family legend, his father's ancestors were Zaporozhian Cossacks.[9] Ivan Vernadsky had been a professor of political economy in Kyiv at the St. Vladimir University before moving to Saint Petersburg; then he was an Active State Councillor and worked in the Governing Senate in St. Petersburg. Vladimir's mother was a Russian noblewoman of Ukrainian Cossack descent.[10] Vernadsky graduated from Saint Petersburg State University in 1885. As the position of mineralogist in Saint Petersburg State University was vacant, and Vasily Dokuchaev, a soil scientist, and Alexey Pavlov, a geologist, had been teaching Mineralogy for a while, Vernadsky chose to enter Mineralogy. He wrote to his wife Natasha on 20 June 1888 from Switzerland:

...to collect facts for their own sake, as many now gather facts, without a program, without a question to answer or a purpose, is not interesting. However, there is a task which someday those chemical reactions which took place at various points on earth; these reactions take place according to laws which are known to us, but which, we are allowed to think, are closely tied to general changes which the earth has undergone by the earth with the general laws of celestial mechanics. I believe there is hidden here still more to discover when one considers the complexity of chemical elements and the regularity of their occurrence in groups...

While trying to find a topic for his doctorate, he first went to Naples to study under crystallographer Arcangelo Scacchi, who was senile by that time. Scacchi's condition led Vernadsky to go to Germany to study under Paul Groth. Vernadsky learned to use Groth's modern equipment, which included a machine to study the optical, thermal, elastic, magnetic and electrical properties of crystals. He also gained access to the physics lab of Leonhard Sohncke (Direktor, Physikalisches Institut der Universität Jena, 1883–1886; Professor der Physik an der Technischen Hochschule München 1886 -1897), who was studying crystallisation during that period.

Political activitiesEdit

Vernadsky participated in the First General Congress of the zemstvos, held in Petersburg on the eve of the 1905 Russian Revolution to discuss how best to pressure the government to the needs of the Russian society; became a member of the liberal Constitutional Democratic Party (KD); and served in parliament, resigning to protest the Tsar's proroguing of the Duma. He served as professor and later as vice rector of Moscow University, from which he also resigned in 1911 in protest over the government's reactionary policies.

Following the advent of the First World War, his proposal for the establishment of the Commission for the Study of the Natural Productive Forces (KEPS) was adopted by the Imperial Academy of Sciences in February 1915. He published War and the Progress of Science where he stressed the importance of science as regards to its contribution to the war effort:[11]

"After the war of 1914–1915 we will have to make known and accountable the natural productive forces of our country, i.e. first of all to find means for broad scientific investigations of Russia’s nature and for the establishment of a network of well equipped research laboratories, museums and institutions . . . . This is no less necessary than the need for an improvement in the conditions of our civil and political life, which is so acutely perceived by the entire country."[12]

After the February revolution of 1917, he served on several commissions of agriculture and education of the provisional government, including as assistant minister of education.[13]

Scientific activitiesEdit

Vernadsky first popularized the concept of the noosphere and deepened the idea of the biosphere to the meaning largely recognized by today's scientific community. The word 'biosphere' was invented by Austrian geologist Eduard Suess, whom Vernadsky met in 1911.

In Vernadsky's theory of the Earth's development, the noosphere is the third stage in the earth's development, after the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life). Just as the emergence of life fundamentally transformed the geosphere, the emergence of human cognition will fundamentally transform the biosphere. In this theory, the principles of both life and cognition are essential features of the Earth's evolution, and must have been implicit in the earth all along. This systemic and geological analysis of living systems complements Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection,[citation needed] which looks at each individual species, rather than at its relationship to a subsuming principle.

Vernadsky's visionary pronouncements were not widely accepted in the West. However, he was one of the first scientists to recognize that the oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere result from biological processes. During the 1920s he published works arguing that living organisms could reshape the planets as surely as any physical force. Vernadsky was an important pioneer of the scientific bases for the environmental sciences.[14]

Vernadsky was a member of the Russian and Soviet Academies of Sciences since 1912 and was a founder and first president of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kyiv, Ukraine (1918). He was a founder of the National Library of Ukrainian State and worked closely with the Tavrida University in Crimea. During the Russian Civil War, he hosted gatherings of the young intellectuals who later founded the émigré Eurasianism movement.[15]

In the late 1930s and early 1940s Vernadsky played an early advisory role in the Soviet atomic bomb project, as one of the most forceful voices arguing for the exploitation of nuclear power, the surveying of Soviet uranium sources, and having nuclear fission research conducted at his Radium Institute. He died, however, before a full project was pursued.

On religious views, Vernadsky was an atheist.[16] He was interested in Hinduism and Rig Veda.[17][18]

Vernadsky's son George Vernadsky (1887–1973) emigrated to the United States where he published numerous books on medieval and modern Russian history.

The National Library of Ukraine, the Tavrida National University in Crimea and many streets and avenues in Ukraine and Russia are named in honor of Vladimir Vernadsky.

UNESCO sponsored an international scientific conference, "Globalistics-2013", at Moscow State University on 23–25 October 2013, in honor of Vernadsky's 150th birthday.


Vernadsky family in Poltava in 1908. Right-left: Vladimir, his daughter Nina, wife Natalia and her brother Pavel, son George
  • Father – Ivan Vernadsky, Russian Imperial economist
  • Mother – Аnna Konstantinovich, Russian music instructor
  • Wife – Nataliya Yegorovna Staritskaya (married in 1887 in Saint Petersburg)
  • Son – George Vernadsky, American Russian historian, an author of numerous books on Russian history and philosophy
  • Daughter – Nina Toll, Doctor-psychiatrist


1000 hryvnia banknote with Vladimir Vernadsky portrait

On 25 October 2019 the National Bank of Ukraine put in circulation a 1000 hryvnia banknote with Vernadsky's portrait.[19]

Selected worksEdit

  • Geochemistry, published in Russian 1924
  • The Biosphere, first published in Russian in 1926. English translations:
    • Oracle, AZ, Synergetic Press, 1986, ISBN 0-907791-11-5, 86 pp.
    • tr. David B. Langmuir, ed. Mark A. S. McMenamin, New York, Copernicus, 1997, ISBN 0-387-98268-X, 192 pp.
  • Essays on Geochemistry & the Biosphere, tr. Olga Barash, Santa Fe, NM, Synergetic Press, ISBN 0-907791-36-0, 2006


  • Dnevniki 1917–1921: oktyabr 1917-yanvar 1920 (Diaries 1917–1921), Kyiv, Naukova dumka, 1994, ISBN 5-12-004641-X, 269 pp.
  • Dnevniki. Mart 1921-avgust 1925 (Diaries 1921–1925), Moscow, Nauka, 1998, ISBN 5-02-004422-9, 213 pp.
  • Dnevniki 1926–1934 (Diaries 1926–1934), Moscow, Nauka, 2001, ISBN 5-02-004409-1, 455 pp.
  • Dnevniki 1935–1941 v dvukh knigakh. Kniga 1, 1935–1938 (Diaries 1935–1941 in two volumes. Volume 1, 1935–1938), Moscow, Nauka, 2006,ISBN 5-02-033831-1,444 pp.
  • Dnevniki 1935–1941 v dvukh knigakh. Kniga 2, 1939–1941 (Diaries 1935–1941. Volume 2, 1939–1941), Moscow, Nauka, 2006, ISBN 5-02-033832-X, 295 pp.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky. Encyclopaedia Britannica
  2. ^ "Большая российская энциклопедия: ВЕРНА́ДСКИЙ" [The Great Russian Encyclopedia: VERNADSKY]. Retrieved 12 October 2020.
  3. ^ Володимир Вернадський– найвидатніший природознавець ХХ століття tr. Volodymyr Vernadsky – The Most Familiar Nature of the XX Century at dspace.snu.edu.ua:8080, accessed 12 October 2020
  4. ^ "Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky". European Geosciences Union (EGU). Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  5. ^ "Honoring Vladimir Vernadsky: Russian-Ukrainian Scientist's 150th Year Wraps Up". 3 February 2015. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  6. ^ "Honoring Vladimir Vernadsky: Russian-Ukrainian Scientist's 150th Year Wraps Up". Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  7. ^ Верна́дський Володи́мир Іва́нович. Універсальний Словник-Енциклопедія
  8. ^ Samson, Paul R.; Pitt, David C. (1999). The Biosphere and Noosphere Reader: Global Environment, Society, and Change. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-16644-7.
  9. ^ Книжкова виставка – «Життя, присвячене науці» – до 150-річчя від дня народження В. І. Вернадського (1863–1945) [Book exhibition – "A life devoted to science" – the 150th anniversary of VI Vernadsky (1863–1945)] (in Ukrainian). Nplu.org. 12 February 2013. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  10. ^ В.В. Томазов. Генеалогія В.І. Вернадського: походження та родинні зв'язки tr. V.V. Tomasov. Genealogy V.I. Vernadsky: a voyage of motherland
  11. ^ Oldfield, jon. "Russian geography and the Commission for the Study of the Natural Productive Forces of Russia (KEPS), 1915–1930" (PDF). www.york.ac.uk. University of York. Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  12. ^ Kojevnikov, Alexei (2002). "The Great War, the Russian Civil War, and the Invention of Big Science". Science in Context. 15 (2): 239–275. doi:10.1017/S0269889702000443. PMID 12467271.
  13. ^ Josephson P., Dronin N., Mnatsakanyan R., Cherp A., Efremenko D., Larin A. (2013) An Environmental History of Russia. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 54–57. ISBN 9781139021043. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139021043
  14. ^ Weart, S.R. (2003) The Discovery of Global Warming, Cambridge, Harvard Press
  15. ^ See Vernadsky's diaries in the "Works" section, summarized in Sergei Glebov. "Russian and East European Books and Manuscripts in the United States" in Russian and East European Books and Manuscripts in the United States: Proceedings of a Conference in Honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture (Slavic and East European Information Resources, Volume 4, Number 4 2003), eds. Jared S. Ingersoll and Tanya Chebotarev, The Haworth Press, 2003, ISBN 0-7890-2405-5 p. 29
  16. ^ Margulis, Lynn; Sagan, Dorion (2000). What Is Life?. University of California Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-520-22021-8. Both the French paleontologist-priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the Russian atheist Vladimir Vernadsky agreed that Earth is developing a global mind.
  17. ^ Neelakandan, Aravindan (21 February 2013). "Vernadsky, Noosphere and Vivekananda". Centreright.in. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  18. ^ "Yuva Bharati February 2012 | Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan". Prakashan.vivekanandakendra.org. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
  19. ^ Ukraine starts printing new 1,000-hryvnia banknotes, UNIAN (1 October 2019)


External linksEdit

Academic offices
Preceded by
President of NANU
Succeeded by