by Rudolf BALANDIN, member of the RAS Commission for the Study of Academician V. I. Vernadsky's Scientific Heritage
November 8, 1883 is the birthday of Alexander Yevgenyevich Fersman, Russian mineralogist, geochemist, geologist and crystallographer, Academician since 1919. Readers at large know him as a major scientist, outstanding popularizer of science, a great connoisseur of gems who described them with real poetic zeal.
According to a common misconception, creativity is mostly the lot of artists and men of letters. But there is no denying the fact that other areas of human activities know their true creators too, science being one of them. Alexander Fersman is a case in point, and an extremely talented and prolific at that. "In broadness of his interests, blended with relentless concern about benefit and glory of our Fatherland," Academician Dmitry Belyankin wrote, "Fersman reminds one of our immortal Lomonosov and Mendeleev".
Deserving of special mention is the fact that the Russian patriot Fersman, who took an active part in the two wars with Germany in 1900s, was German by birth. His father, Yevgeny Alexandrovich, an architect, graduated from the Russian Academy of the General Staff, was promoted to a high rank and taught at military schools.
As a youngster, Alexander with his friends went on geological tours of Crimea. Later he wrote: "We studied and examined each piece of rock
like a favorite corner of the garden. The eye got adjusted to color combinations, finest structural elements, thinnest veins and smallest crystals. We even tried to sketch these natural riches. In our drawings they looked grandiose. Crystals would grow into miraculous crystalline arrays, everything was getting incredibly large, magnificent, bright. Out imagination would amplify anything suggested by nature itself."
At that time young Fersman did not just admire the pictures of nature. It was then that he discovered in volcanic rock fractures sheets of fibrose tough ... Read more