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Alexander Leonidovich Chizhevsky

Born 1897-01-26
Died 1864-12-20

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Soviet biophysicist, pathophysiologist, poet, artist and philosopher; born January 26, 1897 (February 8 by Gregorian calendar); Zehanove?, Russia, died December 20, 1964, Moscow, USSR.

Biography of Alexander Leonidovich Chizhevsky

Alexander Leonidovich Chizhevsky was born in the small town of Tshchanovets (Zehanove?), Gradno region, in the Russian part of Poland, now in Belorussia.,  to the family of a Russian artillery officer. His father, Leonid Vasilievich (1861-1929), (later a general in the Russian Army (1916) and the Red Army.  He was a talented inventor who implaned into Alexander’s mind analytical engineering approach.

Alexander’s mother Vadjhde Alexandrovna (born Neviandt) (1875-1898) had died from tuberculosis before her son had reached his first birthday, so Alexander was brought up by his aunt Olga V Chizhevskaya-Lesly and later by his grandmother, who was an unusually well educated woman for hr time.  

Alexander was a sickly boy so his anxious father sent him abroad with his aunt and grandma to Italy and Southern France for some months every year until 1906. Additionally during Leonid’s holidays they travelled in Italy, France, Greece and Egypt.

In December 1906 Leonid was moved to the town of Bela in the Sedletsky region where his son entered the primary school. The home education he had received had included natural and precise sciences but he was mostly interested in the humanities, enjoying music, poetry and painting. Aged four he learned by heart Russian, German and French verses which his grandma made him read aloud and little by little he started to write verse himself.

 In 1913 Leonid Vasilievich was appointed to the city of Kaluga where Alexander entered the private modern school of F.M.Shakhmagonov. Being at high school the boy dreamed over becoming a professional artists or man of letters, although he was already expressing a keen interest in scientific matters, particularly astronomy. He had already produced a treatise “The Shortest Astronomy by Dr Chizhevsky compiled by Flammarion, Klein et al.”

Life changing events occurred in 1914-15 when Alexander met Konstantin E. Tsiolkovksy and their teacher-pupil relationship developed into friendship over the years. On 19th July (1st August—Gregorian) 1914 Germany declared war against Russia and Leonid’s battalion took the field.

Alexander graduated from  Kaluga technical college, where he was strongly influenced by one of his teachers, the famous founder of cosmonautics K.E. Tsiolkovsky. Chizhevsky was deeply involved in Astronomy and went in for solar electromagnetism. He always was a person of very broad academic and cultural interests. He entered Moscow Higher School of Commerce and later moved to Moscow Archeological Institute, but World War I ruined his plans.

In 1915 Chizhevsky finished the modern school and with various interests he could not decide what to study—at Moscow’s Institute of Commerce or of Archaeology. However before leaving he spent the summer of 1915 observing the Sun and these actions played a decisive role in his future activity. Chizhesky noted and proved that periodical changes in solar activity were also important for the organic world, a revolutionary hypothesis at the time though difficult to imagine otherwise now.
    Once at the Institute of Commerce Alexander naturally hoped to report on the Sun’s activities/ His report “The influence of perturbations of the Sun’s electrical regime on biological phenomena” caused ructions amongst scholars at that time. At this time Chizhevsky was also rubbing shoulders with such Russian poets as Ivan Bunin and Valery Brusov.

 In 1916 Alexander joined the Russian Army as a volunteer, fought for 2 years on the Galician front, was wounded and awarded The Cross of St. George for courage. After the October Revolution of 1917 Leonid served in the Red Army.

Between 1917 and 1923 Chizhevsky lectured on The History of the Development of Precise Science in the ancient world and the History of Archaeological Discovery. He was also attending lectures in the Physics and Mathematics Departments and he took part in the work of the Nature Research Society in Kaluga.

In 1918-1922 he completed his education at Moscow University, first - at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics,  and later –  at the Faculty of Medicine. By 1918 he had gained the title of Educated Archaeologist and was made a member of the Moscow Institute

In 1915 Chizhevsky, being a student,  had started his research of correlation between solar activity, epidemics and social disasters. By 1924 Chizhevsky came to the conclusion that not only biological, but also social and historical phenomena on Earth are controlled by cyclic electromagnetic and radiation activity of the Sun.

 In the early 1920s Chizhevsky published his book Physical Factors of Historical Process, so causing impetuous criticism. “They flung mud at me,” he later wrote, “I was nicknamed not only “sun-worshipper”—which I took for granted but also “obscurantist”! So this publication was of great  and mainly negative significance for Chizhevsky’s scientific and personal fate.

 In 1918 Chizhevsky had started to research the individual elements of a possible Earth-Sun connexion mechanism. He considered the problem of air ionisation a priority. Since there was no hope of working for a government organisation, Chizhevsky decided to create a laboratory at  home using his own meagre means and by the end of 1919 the first scientific results had been obtained and in December of that year he presented a report at the Kaluga Nature Research Society.

This report brought him into contact with the outstanding Russian physicist and academician Peter P. Lazarev (1878-1942). Lazarev familiarised himself with Chizhevsky’s results and supported the young man in any way he could, permitting him to worked at Lazarev’s Biophysical Research Institute.

Chizhevsky sent his report to many foreign readers and he was delighted to receive a reply from Svante Arrhenius, the Nobel Prize Winnerswho invited him to work for him, but this did not come to fruition, despite help from Lunacharsky and Maxim Gorky. Chizhevsky then found himself unemployed as hoping to go abroad he had resigned from all his posts. However with a year Lunarcharsky had come to his rescue and Chizhevsky was working for the Literature department of the Ministry of Education in a sinecure.

 In 1922-24 Chizhevsky occupied the post of temporary consultant at the Institute of Biological Physics at the Ministry of Health and between 1923-1926 he was the chief expert in biology and medicine and a member of the technical council of the Inventors Association. In 1923 he also obtained a post at Vladimir Durov’s Practical Zoo / Psychology Laboratory and he became a member of the its academic council, so making many observations of animals. Durov was interested in experiments on the influence of air ions on animal and human behaviour and regularly involved Chizhevsky in his experiments.

Gradually this research attracted international attention with French scientists amongst the first to express and interest in the problems of air ionisation and space biology. In 1929 Chizhevsky was elected a member of Tulan Academy of Sciences and invited to lecture on Biophysics and Columbia University New York in the United States.

Between 1924 and 1930 Chizhevsky compiled very extensive statistics pm man years’ dynamics of different biosphere processes and came out with a deduction of their connection with cycles of solar activity.

He now began to receive support from the Soviet government and in 1931 the Central Research :Laboratory was established with government funds, under Chizhevsky’s direction. Dozens of scientific articles on the problem of ionisation and related matters were published by him.

In 1937 he was invited to organise two aero-ionisation laboratories at the Palace of Soviets Buildings and here he got an opportunity to explore the problem very comprehensively. This work is not well known: many solutions had been founded but interrupted by World War Two, work began on them again in the 1950s.

Chizhevsky is the founder of heliobiology and the term cosmic weather was suggested by him.

Chizhevsky was the first to carry out research on the electromagnetic properties of erythrocytes in circulating blood. A pioneer in biophysics of microcirculation, he suggested an explanation for the mechanisms of Rouleau and other pre-static phenomena (1932), which is broadly used in the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test. He also discovered metachromasia in bacterial cells (1935).

Chizhevsky was elected Honorary President of the 1st World Congress in Biophysics and Cosmic Biology (1939) and nominated by scientists of different countries for the Nobel Prize. In 1942 the scientist was imprisoned for 8 years, and later exiled. In 1954 he was released, but continued his research in Kazakhstan at the city of Karaganda, far from the main academic centers. He devoted this period to studies in flow structure of moving blood and after liberation in 1955 even asked officially to prolong his exile “because the program of local research has not yet been completed”. 

Chizhevsky was arrested in 1942 on account of some of his previous writings,  falsely accused of anti-Soviet conspiracy, and spent eight year in a GULAG being released only in 1954 and resettled in Karaganda in Kazakhstan where he lived until rehabilitation in 1958. He did more scientific work in the coal mines of Karaganda and on his return to Moscow he introduced the aerionic therapy into some medical establishments, founding a scientific research laboratory on air ionization and air conditioning.

He was elected member of 18 Academies in USSR, USA, France and some other countries. Some of his archived works including poetry were only published posthumously because of censorship in the USSR. He remained as scientific consultant and head of the Sojuzsanteknika laboratory until his death on 20th December 1964 whereupon he was buried in the Russian capital. His achievement was only fully appreciated after his death. In 1965 the Soviet Academy of Sciences formed a special commission to look into his archives.

He was also a gifted poet, a prolific philosopher in the spirit of Russian Cosmism and an original painter. Historians of science called this polymath: “Soviet Leonardo”. 

Alexander Leonidovich Chizhevsky’s last name was commonly spelled Tchijevsky in latin letters.

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