Item #976 [THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE RUSSIAN TEXTBOOK ON PHYSICS] Rukovodstvo k fizike [i.e. A Guide to Physics]. Gilarovskiy P. I.
[THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE RUSSIAN TEXTBOOK ON PHYSICS] Rukovodstvo k fizike [i.e. A Guide to Physics]
[THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE RUSSIAN TEXTBOOK ON PHYSICS] Rukovodstvo k fizike [i.e. A Guide to Physics]

[THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE RUSSIAN TEXTBOOK ON PHYSICS] Rukovodstvo k fizike [i.e. A Guide to Physics]

Item #976

St. Petersburg: tipografiya Vil’kovskago, 1793. [12], 1-33, 33-34, 36-37, 37-38, 40-41, 41-42, 44-45, 45-46, 48-505, [3] pp., 8 schemes. Original full-leather. Good.
First and only edition. Scarce. One of the first original Russian textbooks on physics written by the pedagogue, Petr Gilarovskiy in 1793.
The origins of the physics textbooks in Russia can be traced back to the mid-1700s when Mikhail Lomonosov issued the Russian translation of Vol’fianskaya eksperimental’naya fizika [i.e. Wolf’s Experimental Physics] in 1744. After more than 40 years, translated works were followed by the original Russian publications, namely: Mikhail Golovin’s Kratkoye rukovodstvo k fizike [i.e. A Brief Guide to Physics] (1785) and I. Ebert’s Kratkoye rukovodstvo k fizike [i.e. A Brief Guide to Physics] (1787). However, both editions were compiled for the elementary schools and didn’t meet the requirements posed by the new educational reforms of Catherine the Great (1729-1796). In the late 1750s, the Empress launched a number of new initiatives to improve general educational level: established the Page Corps military academy (1759), founded the first educational institution for women (1764), and importantly, arranged a Commission of National Schools (1782). Aimed at organizing a national school network and raising teacher qualifications, the Commission faced a major impediment which was the lack of advanced textbooks for pedagogues. Against this background, Gilarovskiy’s Guide served as the very first Russian book on physics to be approved by the new educational standards of the Empire and to set the tone for the future editions.
Petr Gilarovskiy started his teaching career as a pedagogue of Russian Syllable and Latin in the Page Corps. In the late 1780s he became a pedagogue of physics in the Saint-Petersburg teacher’s gymnasium, the first institution in Russia to train pedagogues for secondary and elementary schools. Having realized the discrepancy between the educational material and the needs of the gymnasium, Gilarovskiy decided to compile the first original Russian publication to provide guidelines to pedagogues. The author presented the manuscript of the edition to the Commission of National Schools, which found that “the work was much more complete than the previous manuals on physics”.
Published in 1793, the textbook immediately received widespread acclaim and became broadly distributed in various institutions around the country. From the general properties of the bodies (impenetrability, porosity, compressibility, expansivity, elasticity, motion, etc) to the description of water, gases, fire, and air, Gilarovskiy provides an overview of the basic principles of physics and offers rich historical material on the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Otto von Guericke, Galileo Galilei, Evangelista Torricelli, René Descartes, Isaac Newton, Leonhard Euler, etc. The textbook also showcases experiments of Benjamin Franklin, Pieter van Musschenbroek and Georg Wilhelm Richmann on the study of atmospheric electricity and comprises information on the “tools” for studying electric power (Leyden jar, electrophorus, electrometer). Importantly, appendix of the book includes numerous mathematical proofs and experiments corresponding to the methodological problems mentioned in the edition (solar parallax, solar altitude, etc). The appendix is supplemented with more than 105 figures illustrating different components and equipment used during the experiments (curved mirror, concave mirror, etc).
Unlike previous publications, Rukovodstvo k fizike not only concentrated on physics, it also addressed elements of chemistry and astronomy as well. It is interesting to note that the textbook became the first original Russian publication to meticulously analyze Copernicus’s theory and christen it as generally accepted.
Although in 1796 Gilarovskiy published his second work, Sokrashcheniye vysshey matematiki [i.e. Shortened Higher Mathematics], Rukovodstvo k fizike remains his magnum opus and is up to date considered as a turning point in the history of Russian textbooks on physics.


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