At the turn of the 18th century this country found itself literally flooded with foreigners. Some came here in pursuit of ranks and glory, others were hunting after wealth and still others were eager to get some jobs-a pursuit much more practical within the boundless reaches of Russia than within the confined spaces of the small and fragmented feudal European principalities. Many of these newcomers stayed in this land for good as its true and obedient servants in various pursuits. One of them was Friedrich Theodore Schubert (Russian name- Fyodor Ivanovich), a budding mathematician who landed on these shores in 1783 and finally achieved international recognition as the founder of a famous school of research.
by Marina KOZYREVA, Cand. Sc. (Geogr), St. Petersburg State University
Fyodor Schubert was born on October 19, 1758 and was the youngest child in a family of eleven. His father was a well-known theologian and orator Johann- Ernst Schubert, the Abbot of the Michael-stein Cloister in Braunschweig (Germany). Shortly after the birth of his last child, and because of the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), the family moved to Greifswald (Pomerania). There Schubert, Senior, joined the clergy of the city's main Cathedral of St. Mary and received the post of Professor of Theology at the local university. After his death in 1774 the family was left with a lot of debts and a huge library which they had to sell. Fortunately, the children were already of age by that time and were able to earn their own living. As for Friedrich, he had graduated from the gymnasium and became a university student. Later on he continued his education in Gottingen where he studied theology and oriental languages. In 1779 the youth returned to Greifswald, in the hope of becoming a priest, but, as fate would have it, he had to earn his bread by giving lessons.
His further fate was determined by a certain Major von Kronghelm who offered him the job of a tutor of his son. The main condition put forward by the employer was to teach mathematics. And although the young tutor, with his brilliant knowledge of theology and oriental languages, knew only the bare essentials of the proposed subject, he decided not to turn down the offer being quite confident that he was able to master the subject well enough to be able to teach the boy. And again, as man proposes and God disposes, the young tutor was carried away by the new discipline, a passion augmented by his zeal for astronomy (his employer was in possession of a domestic observatory).
The life in the family of Major von Kronghelm determined not only the choice of his scholarly pursuit in life, but also his personal fate. The young tutor fell in love with his master's daughter and even dared ask for her hand in marriage. The girl's father, who had a liking for the serious and well-educated youth, accepted the proposal, but on condition that the groom found a well-paying job. Friedrich's elder brother, a cleric from Estland, helped out by getting him a land-surveyor's job. And apart from his main job, the future scholar received an opportunity to train young people for an exam for an officer's rank. In his leisure time he plunged back into mathematics and astronomy, sending his theses to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Finally, in 1785, he received an invitation to visit the Russian capital.
When in St. Petersburg, the young German scholar was assigned to the Academy's Department of Geography with the task of "drafting geographical maps". Working together with a team of specialists, including Ivan Truscott and Jacob Schmidt, he completed in 1786 a "New Map of the Russian Empire" (on 6 pages). He was also engaged on the "restoration" of the Gottorp globe* damaged by fire. A year later he received the degree of adjunct of mathematical science and elected Member of the Conference (learned council - Ed.) of the Academy. And that was a high enough position for the young man to resume his offer of marriage to Louise - Friederick von Kronghelm who had been waiting for him during all these years.
* * *
The rare natural talents for learning and great capacity for work paved the way to the rapid progress of the young scholar. In 1789 he became Member of the Academy; from 1800 he was put in charge of the Academy Library and the Minz-Kabinet (collection of rare coins and medals); in 1804 he was put in charge of the Academy Observatory which was then in a sad plight with the
* Gottorp - ancient castle on the Schlei near Schleswig-residence of the local ruling dynasty. Handed over to Denmark in 1713. The rare globe from a rich private collection was brought to St. Petersburg in 1714 . -Ed.
instmments falling to pieces, no regular observations and the staff being constantly distracted from their main duties.
Prof. Schubert launched a reorganization of the Library right from the start, putting into proper order the instruments and equipment and ordering new ones (some were produced in the Academy workshops, and others ordered from London). At the same time he set up a special library with the records of astronomical observations over the previous years (they later became the foundation of the Pulkovo Observatory collection).
Having new instruments at his disposal, Prof. Schubert and Ms assistant Dr. Vikenty Yishnevsky embarked on a series of studies. From 1804 to 1805 they, using meridian instruments, conducted observations of various heavenly bodies (including the recently discovered Ceres and Juno). Prof. Schubert also founded astronomical observatories in Kronstadt and in Nikolayev which are working there to this day.
In 1805 Fyodor Ivanovich came to head a Russian Academy expedition to China as part of a Russian diplomatic mission of Count Yury Golovkin. Working together with his son, he measured the geographical coordinates of certain sites in Siberia. Later on, in the 1860s, Prof. Schubert wrote his reminiscences which were published one hundred years later in Stuttgart. His description of the expedition abound in interesting details and ethnic descriptions: "...Our special task was drawing a detailed map of the whole route across Siberia and the conduct of astronomical observations in certain places. The Tobolskaya Goubemiya (province) located in this region was very habitable, Tomskaya much less and in the Irkutskaya one there were areas with villages located as far apart as 60-80 versts (one verst is 1.06 km). And our journey was not safe in all places. \\e traveled among some of the inveterate criminals who had been sentenced for life to hard labor in mines in Nerchinsk. Some of them escaped and were roaming around Lake Baikal, making the main road there unsafe. Thus one member of the mission (gentleman of the bedchamber Guryev) lagged behind his party, was attacked and captured by one such gang. He and his servants were tied up to trees and robbed. But when the bandits saw their gilt- embroidered uniforms, which were quite uncommon at that time, they were so scared that they abandoned their loot there and then and ran away. And the captives were left tied up to the trees for another twelve hours or so until they were found by another party of travelers who set them free..."
Among members of the expedition was painter A. Martynov who made sketches of landscapes along the route and painted water-colors of the local towns. Due to a number of reasons the mission failed to reach its goal so that the scientists could not continue their studies and had to return to the capital. Some of them were told by F. Schubert to undertake independent investigations in Siberia. One of them. Dr. M. Adams, discovered the first mammoth relic in the estuary of the Lena. His find was put on display in St. Petersburg in 1809 and today one can see it in the Zoological Museum of the Academy. Another scientist - Dr. I. Redovsky - amassed a large botanical collection and his colleague, Dr. Yu. Klaprot, studied local dialects in \\estem Siberia. Later on he published in Paris a monumental journal on the history literature and languages of Asia.
Back in St. Petersburg Prof. Schubert continued his work in the observatory, read lectures on astronomy for naval officers and devoted much of his time to writing scientific articles and monographs. His three-volume Theoretical Astronomy published in 1798 was hailed as a classical work by European and American scientists. In 1822 he translated it into French at the request of his Paris colleagues. The year 1803 saw the publication of his Popular Astronomy which was intended for broad reading public and explained in a popular way the structure of the universe. And he also published a textbook for military schools entitled "Guide to Astronomical Determination of the Longitude and Latitude of a Site" which saw several successive publications in Russian and in German.
Apart from these fundamental works Prof. Schubert produced a number of articles on higher mathematics and remained for many years the editor of the St. Petersburg Academic Gazette. Since 1788 he had been publishing Ordinamy Sanktpeterburgsky Mesyatseslov(calendar collection of popular-science articles) and from 1808 to 1818 he published a pocket calendar in German.
Prof. Schubert maintained correspondence with some leading scientists in Europe and America, including Honorary Members of the St. Petersburg Academy Pierre Laplace, Karl Gauss and Friedrich Bessel. He was elected member of the Stockholm, Copenhagen and Boston academies and of many scholarly societies of Germany, Denmark, Sweden, France, Italy and North America. Foreign scientists visiting St. Petersburg never missed a chance of meeting with Prof. Schubert in person. In 1811 his guest was the American Ambassador to Russia, D. Adams, who knew of Prof. Schubert's observations of the comet in 1807 and presented him with a copy of a report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on similar studies in the United States.
In recognition of his contributions to science Prof. Schubert was decorated with the orders of St. Vladimir and St. Anna, elevated to the rank of Councillor of State and granted a hereditary rank of gentleman (nobility) in 1820. And yet he never became a wealthy person, having neither his own mansion or estate even when he was already well on in years. The savant lived with his wife, one son and five daughters at an Academy residence in the Vasilyevsky Ostrov district of St. Petersburg...
He was suddenly taken ill in October 1825 and passed away a few days later. His demise was mourned by his contemporaries as a great loss for the Russian science. Count Sergei Roumyantsev, an Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy wrote a poem in his remembrance:
He is no more. Urania in tears,
The urn of ashes clinging to her chest.
We join her in lament,
Though it appears,
there's no end to him
Who never ceased his quest.
When informed of the demise of the outstanding man of science, Dr. Vassily Struve, in future director of the Pulkovo Observatory, who was then in Derpt (now Tartu, Estonia) wrote a letter to Prof. Schubert's son: "There is no doubt that the better part of German astronomers owe their scientific education to his book on Theoretical Astronomy This work is likely to be and remain for a long time to come the only one of its kind and the main source of learning of astronomy. 1 also respect your late parent as my true instructor in Astronomy It will be no simple matter for the St. Petersburg Academy to find a replacement for this person who used to be its main asset; scientists like him are but few in the whole of Europe."
After the death of the celebrated man of Russian science his cause was taken up by his descendants. His one and only son Fyodor was born in St. Petersburg on February 12 (23), 1789. He received his elementary education at home with his mother teaching him reading, languages and music and his father educating him in mathematics. The youth liked reading books, having full access to the vast Academic Library of which his father was in charge. And he had all sorts of hobbies - from bookbinding to operating machine-tools. At eleven he enrolled directly in the fourth grade of the Peterschule - the best public school in St. Petersburg. Thanks to his thorough domestic training, he immediate-
ly became top of the class and began to take things easy. When his hard- working father became aware of the situation, he took the boy from school and got for him a post of military land-surveyor at the General Staff. Fyodor was only 14 at that time.
In 1804 Fyodor Schubert was sent on an expedition to Polotsk to observe a solar eclipse for which he got a promotion. Later on he was sent on another mission to measure the astronomical coordinates of Revel (now Tallinn) and Narva.
The scientific pursuits of the young researcher were interrupted for several years by the war with Napoleon. From October 1806 he saw active service in all of the subsequent campaigns and was noted for his courage. For the battle of Preussisch-Eilau he was decorated with two orders and a golden cross, and a battle in Bessarabia won him a gold-plated sword with an inscription "For Bravery" and the rank of a captain.
During the war with Sweden (1808-1809) the young officer took part in a unique crossing by the Russian army of the ice-covered Gulf of Bothnia on the Baltic. During the subsequent peace talks in Stockholm he showed remarkable diplomatic talents so that later on he was sent on several occasions to the peace talks with Turkey at Shumlu and also to Warsaw and to Napoleon's headquarters in Vienna. In between the campaigns Schubert, Junior, conducted geodesic surveys on the liberated territories. In Paris he acted as the Quartermaster General for the Russian troops. And he was left there for several years for topographical studies of some of the departments of France. He returned to St. Petersburg only in 1819 in the rank of a colonel and decorated with many Russian and foreign orders.
Then came a new period in the life of the young scientist-he was put in charge of the Military Topography Depot of the General Staff (and held this post for 24 years). From then on he bore the responsibility for all of the cartographic activities in Russia, and he started out by putting into order all of the related archives, compiled catalogues of all the available maps which was of much help to their users. Related instruments which he helped to improve provided for greater accuracy of topographical surveys and their unified standards.
From 1820 the young scientist conducted trigonometric and topographic surveys of the St. Petersburg Goubemya (province) and until 1832 headed the mapping of the European part of Russia. The results of this work carried out over many years were condensed in the famous Desyativerstki of Schubert-59 maps of the western provinces of Russia on a scale often Russian versts, which won high praise from the contemporaries.
Special mention should be made of the "Detailed Plan of the Capital City of St. Petersburg" of 1828 which is known to specialists as the "Schubert Plan". Up until the 20th century is was used as the basic document for more recent city maps and it remains to this day an important source of information for studies of the St. Petersburg of the 1820s.
F. Schubert set up what was called the Corps of Army Topographers at the General Headquarters of which he was the director for more than 20 years. In 1826 he produced a Guide for Trigonometric Surveys and the Use of Related Tables by the Military-Topographic Bureau. The manual was very popular with experts in the field as the main book of reference forgeodet-
ic works. In preparing his tables the scientist used for the first time Russian measures of length.
A very important initiative launched by Fyodor Schubert was what was called a "Chronometric Expedition" on the Baltic in 1833 for determining the coordinates of the coastal populated centers. The participants included some of the leading European scientists like Vassily Struve and Alexander Humboldt. In actual fact that was the first such international expedition which aroused great interest not only in Russia, but elsewhere in Europe as well.
The prestige enjoyed by Fyodor Schubert was so great that he was invited all along as an expert to various commissions. Thus he took part in the work on unification of the Russian weights and measures in the tests of the first electromagnetic telegraph machine developed and suggested for practical uses by the Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Academy, Pavel Schilling (1832). And he was also in charge of the installation of electric street lighting in St. Petersburg.
And even despite his pressure of work, Fyodor Schubert found strength and time for basic science. The year 1858 saw the publication of his two-volume work which summed up the results of astronomical and geodetic studies conducted under his guidance over more than 20 years. This fundamental work received a high appraisal of scientists at home and abroad and was used as a practical guide in various geographical surveys.
From 1827 Fyodor Schubert was an Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy and later of the Russian Geographical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society in London, the Royal Academy of Sciences in Palermo, Italy, among other reputable institutions. In 1845 he received one of Russia's top military ranks - of General of Infantry - and became member of the Military Council. The range of his interests was very broad and included, among other things, numismatics. The publication of a catalogue of Russian coins was rewarded with a title of an Honorary Member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. In 1857 he published a big work entitled Russian Coins Over 3 Centuries - From Ivan the Terrible to Alexander II. Later on his collections turned up in the Hermitage Museum.
Like his father, Fyodor Schubert was fond of music and played well the violin and piano. He even founded a Symphonic Society which held sessions at his house on Vasilyevsky Ostrov (the house is still there) and at the residence of his father-in-law, Baron A. Ralle. In 1849 he organized a Chorister's Union which he headed for ten years. His home was always open to the numerous friends and acquaintances, including musicians and literary figures, prominent scholars, officers of the General Staff and simply comrades-in-arms.
Among them was the famous hero of the 1812 War with Napoleon, guerilla leader and poet Denis Davydov. After one visit to the "old friend and comrade", when the latter was not at home, the war hero left him a note asking for some textbooks on practical cartography. He signed the note with the words: "I shall be very, very much obliged to you, yours cordially devoted, Denis Davydov".
Fyodor Schubert was one of the founders of what was called the Society for the Promotion of Painters. And he was a fairly good artist besides (preserved is an album of his drawings with panoramas of German cities and of his summer house in Pavlovsk near St. Petersburg). Fruitful and creative was his friendship with the famous architect Alexander Bryullov and the two also shared family bonds, being married to two sisters. Under the influence of Schubert, the architect developed a keen interest in astronomy and even had a telescope installed on top of his country house. And that helped the architect win a contest for architectural designs of the famous Pulkovo Observatory In 1860 Fyodor Schubert's health took a turn for the worse and doctors insisted on his changing the humid climate of the Russian capital. He resigned and left for Germany where he suddenly passed away in Stuttgart in 1865. He was buried there and his name was given to a cape and a gulf at Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean.
Fyodor Schubert had a family of four and his only son died leaving no children. But his female line left quite a trace in our history His elder daughter Elisabeth was the mother of two outstanding personalities: Sophia (Sonya) Kovalevskaya - a Nobel Prize Laureate and Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Academy-who is remembered as the first woman-mathematician, and Anna Kovrin-Jacquelard - a writer and a participant in the historic Commune of Paris revolt of 1871, and a friend of the Russian classic Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The son of the younger sister - Alexandrine - became a prominent zoologist (Nikolai Adelung). Today descendants of the Schuberts family reside in Germany and Sweden.
Permanent link to this publication:
LUnited States LWorld Y G