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Biography of Nikolai Lobachevsky

One of the most influential figures in Russian science, Nikolai Lobachevsky was a mathematical physicist and the inventor of non-Euclidean geometry. While serving as a professor and rector at Kazan University, he was responsible for implementing a number of changes that elevated his alma mater to the ranks of the most prestigious educational institutions in the nation.

Nikolai Lobachevsky, a mathematician, is considered to be on par with the names of other prominent scientists who have brought Russian science to the attention of the rest of the world. In addition to being one of the pioneers in the field of non-Euclidean geometry, Nikolai Ivanovich was responsible for a number of groundbreaking scientific discoveries that were ultimately for the benefit of all people.


Nizhny Novgorod would be the location of the scientist’s birth on December 1st, 1792. Ivan Maksimovich, the boy’s father, was employed at the geodetic department, and Praskovya Alexandrovna, the boy’s mother, was responsible for running the family by herself and taking care of the children. Nikolai, who would go on to become a prominent figure in the field of science, was the middle child of the couple’s three boys.

When Ivan Maksimovich passed away at the very beginning of his life, all of the concerns regarding the children were placed on the shoulders of Praskovya, who had recently become a widow. At the beginning of the 19th century, a lady was required to send her children to the Kazan gymnasium, where they were “officially supported by commoners.” This was the case in other countries.

Kolya demonstrated great academic achievement, getting high ratings in all courses. The young guy displayed great success in the exact sciences, as well as in the study of foreign languages. It was evident to professors even then that a good student will combine his biography with research and achieve tremendous success in scientific activities.

After graduating from high school, the young guy became a student at Kazan University. His initial focus was physical and mathematical studies, but subsequently he developed a penchant for pharmacology and chemistry.

If the professors had no concerns about Lobachevsky about his academic performance, his behavior was not always diligent. Together with his companions, the young man did all sorts of pranks, which is why he even got into difficulty with the police. Once the boys even ended themselves in a punishment cell for launching a makeshift rocket.

In his final year of studies, the student was almost dismissed from the institution owing to hooliganism, disobedience and “signs of godlessness.” Fortunately, this did not happen and the young scientist graduated from the university with honors. Having acquired a master of physical and mathematical sciences, Lobachevsky remained at the university and continued to perform research activities.


In the summer of 1811, the attention of Russian scientists were fixed on the sky through which a comet was traveling. Nikolai did not stand aside either: he attentively watched the heavenly body and wrote down what he saw in a notepad. Soon the young scholar submitted to the scientific community his first work entitled “The Theory of the Elliptical Motion of Celestial Bodies.”

Two years later, Lobachevsky was employed as a teacher of geometry and arithmetic. In 1814, the instructor became an adjunct in the subject of mathematics, and a couple of years later he was promoted exceptional professor.

This post allowed the scientist to teach trigonometry and algebra to pupils. The university management praised the professor’s remarkable organizing skills, and he quickly took the role of dean of the physics and mathematics department.

Having established sufficient influence among colleagues and pupils, Lobachevsky became a critic of the current education system. He was upset by the fact that the exact sciences were given secondary attention, while theology was in first position.

It was around that era that Nikolai Ivanovich released a methodical handbook on geometry, in which he outlined the merits of the metric system. This study disputed the Euclidean canons, hence the book was exposed to intense criticism from conservative scientists.

When Nicholas I gained the Russian throne , the university trustee Mikhail Magnitsky was fired, and Mikhail Musin-Pushkin accepted the role in his place. The latter was recognized for his strong temperament, yet at the same time he was considered as fair and had a moderate religious viewpoint.

In 1827, the university had a secret ballot, as a consequence of which Nikolai Lobachevsky acquired the office of rector. In this job, the professor carried out a lot of significant reforms: he restructured the teaching staff, erected new educational structures, introduced books to the library, and outfitted labs. Here we must give thanks to Musin-Pushkin, who immensely appreciated the mathematician and did not interfere with his work.

The scientist’s contemporaries noted that he was an extraordinarily able-bodied person who was not scared of any task, even hard work. He quietly substituted nearly any teacher if the necessity arose: he could deliver lessons on algebra, geometry, mechanics, physics, astronomy and many others.

All this period, Nikolai Ivanovich continued to create non-Euclidean geometry. In the early 1830s, he gave a scientific paper, “A Concise Exposition of the Principles of Geometry,” which sparked a storm of criticism from the scientific community. The professor’s authority was significantly undermined, but he stayed in the post of rector.

In 1934, Lobachevsky became the creator of the publication “Scientific Notes of Kazan University,” where he published his scientific works. Colleagues continued to regard the professor with mistrust, but at the same time like-minded people began to coalesce behind him. All this time, trustee Musin-Pushkin offered his subordinate with every conceivable help.

Towards the end of the 1930s, the institution was visited by the king, who was delighted with what he witnessed. The autocrat granted Nikolai Ivanovich the Order of Anna, 2nd degree, which permitted the scientist to claim hereditary nobility. Two years later, the mathematician became a nobleman and got a coat of arms with the inscription “For services to science.”

Lobachevsky held the role of rector of Kazan University for approximately two decades. During this period, he carried out a number of key improvements that allowed the educational institution to become one of the most sophisticated in Russia.


In 1832, the professor married Varvara Alekseevna, who was twenty years younger than him. Studying the personal life of the scientist, biographers never came to a consensus on how many children were actually born in the household.

According to several historians, seven heirs lived to adulthood, although the number of those who died in infancy remains in debate.


In 1846, Nikolai Lobachevsky was ousted from his job as rector of Kazan University. After this encounter, the scientist began to be tormented by sad happenings that weakened his health.

Nikolai Ivanovich’s eldest son died of TB, since he was unable to get proper medical care due to the professor’s awful financial circumstances. By that time, Lobachevsky was entirely wrecked.

The mathematician spent the latter years of his life essentially in darkness, his vision deteriorated that dramatically. Without earning acknowledgment in the scientific community, the brilliant researcher died on February 12, 1856, exactly 30 years after the publishing of the entire form of non-Euclidean geometry.

The works of the genius were acknowledged barely 10 years after his death. This happened primarily because to the scholarly effort of Henri Poincaré, Felix Klein and Eugenio Beltrami, who established that Lobachevsky’s teaching is neither inconsistent and erroneous.

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