[MENDELEEV ON AERONAUTICS] O soprotivlenii zhidkostey i o vozdukhoplavanii [i.e. On the Resistance of the Fluids and the Air Flying]
Issue 1 [and all]. St. Petersburg: V. Demakov, 1880. , 160, 80 pp., 14 folding plates, printed separately at the cartographer A.Iliyin in Saint-Petersburg. Contemporary quarter-leather binding. Slightly foxed. Pre-revolutionary stamps of Tiflis Arsenal on the title page, p.1 and front endpapers.
The most important Mendeleev’s work on the aeronautics. His interest in the topic has emerged in 1850s, when he finished up his dissertation ‘On the Specific Volumes’ (1856), after which he suggested that to prove the theories from the work it’s important to get to upper atmosphere. This led to the project of aerostat that Mendeleev presented in 1875 with the purpose to go to the stratosphere where he designed a cabin for the researcher, supplied with the compressed air. Later he even proposed the plan for 10-15 experimental flights but 30 000 rubles needed for that were not found. In 1878 he has made his first air flight in Paris, on Giffard airship, and met with Dupuy de Lôme and then with James Glaisher in London. Coming back home Mendeleev finished this work, which became the first work in Russian on the subject. The founding father of modern aerodynamics Nikolay Zhukovsky (1847-1921) later claimed that this book ‘became the foundation for the later development of the air flying and the ballistics’.
In 1880 Mendeleev finds the 7th department of Russian Technical Society, dedicated to the aeronautics. In 1887 Mendeleev undertook the famous flight on the hot air balloon near Klin to witness the full solar eclipse. The weather conditions were poor and he was suggested not to participate, but instead the scientist insisted and decided to fly by himself, as the balloon was not capable to carrying another person. Later he claimed that he did so to prove that the scientists are capable of putting their life at danger for the sake of their cause and also wanted to prove that to control the aerostat is easier than ride on the unfamiliar horse. However after Mendeleev has finished his observation and was ready to land the hot air balloon, it turned out that the robe that held the relief valve is tied up and to untie the knot he had to climb over the basket to do so. Calmly done so, Mendeleev managed to land the aerostat safely.
Being passionate about the air flying throughout his whole life, Mendeleev later helped both Zhukovsky and Tsiolkovsky in the beginning of their scientific careers. In ‘On the Resistance of the Fluids and the Air Flying’ he states ‘‘Russia doesn’t have that much access to the world oceans as other great countries do. But Russia does have the vast ocean of air. That’s why we need to bloodlessly conquer it and by doing it we could start the epoch of the new education’’.