Nature Mathematized

Volume 20 of the series The University of Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science pp 279-289

V. V. Petrov’s Hypothetical Experiment and Electrical Experiments of the 18th Century

  • V. P. KartsevAffiliated withInstitute for History of Science


It is only in our time that the name of Russian academician Vasily Vladimirovich Petrov (1761–1834) — the discoverer of electrical arcs (1802) — became widely known among foreign historians of physics. It should be noted though, that in Russia itself academician Petrov was forgotten soon after his death and that his works fell into oblivion.1 No documents elucidating his private life were preserved, no portrait of him was left, and his burial-place was lost. V. V. Petrov’s now so well known book “News of the galvani-voltaic experiments which professor of physics Vasily Petrov had conducted by means of a particularly huge battery consisting at times of 4200 copper and zinc disks and installed at St. Petersburg Medicine and Surgery Academy”, published in 1803 in St. Petersburg, was by chance discovered in a library in the town of Vilno at the end of the last century. Familiarization with the book showed that for the first time in world literature it described a series of physical phenomena of paramount importance related to electricity.