Friday, January 9, 2015

Russia's Underappreciated Contribution To The Geosciences

Nature Geoscience has a short editorial that pays tribute to Russia's scientific legacy, more specifically that in geology. Political differences and language barriers have isolated Russian science and scientific literature from the rest of the English speaking science community.

Consider this:

Lomonosov is the author of one of the most important treatises of geology that those of us who were educated in the West have probably never heard of. On the Strata of the Earth was published in 1763 and many of the ideas put forth in the book predate — by a quarter century — similar theories from James Hutton and others considered today, in the West, to be the founders of modern geology. Instead of being heralded alongside his European counterparts, Lomonosov's contribution to the geosciences has been buried, partially due to the fact that On the Strata of the Earth, like Lomonosov's other texts, was published in Russian.

One can quibble that Nicholaus Steno preceded both of  them, but the point is well made. It  is  of some urgency that Russian scientific literature be made more accessible to the rest of the world:

At this time of renewed tensions between Russia and the West over the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine and the risk of renewed isolation of Russian science, it is especially important that the scientific divide of language and politics be lifted so that the body of literature can grow from a stronger, united base.

read more here...

I remember a guest lecture by a Russian petrologist during my graduate student days in Pune, India. He gave an engrossing talk on retrograde metamorphism with examples from Russia and also from the early Proterozoic mobile belts (ancient orogenic mountain belts) from Central India. He loved those old  Zeiss natural light petrology microscopes our department used then (and still does!). Kept saying the mineral colors appear "natural".


  1. Even my prof says , Russian literature is best in its class esp in economic minerals & fluid/melt inclusions

  2. interesting but not unexpected given Russia's vast mineral deposits..

  3. It's worth noting that the Geological Society of America published a translation of Lomonosov's On The Strata of the Earth in 2012. More information can be found at