Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am greatly honored to be addressing you with these words of tribute to the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The history of the establishment and development of the Academy of Sciences is closely bound up with the history of Russia and its people. It is both distinctive and instructive.
On February 8, 1724, an Ukase of the Government Senate was published in the name of Emperor Peter the First, which announced the establishment of an Academy of Sciences and Arts. This decision crowned, as it were, Peter's grandiose reformatory activities.
With the perception of a politician of genius, Tsar Peter, who undertook to wrest Russia from its condition of backwardness (though he often resorted to coercion typical of its serf-owning system) realized the role that could be played by education and science in renovating Russia, consolidating the Russian state, raising the cultural level of its people, exploring its territory and natural wealth, modernizing its army and navy, and developing its industry and trade.
In accordance with this design, he urged the Academy not to concern itself with applied sciences only, but to concentrate on fundamental, theoretical study. This was not understood by many of his associates and foreign advisers, but nonetheless, this priority direction was to make the Russian Academy a world-acknowledged scientific center.
Within a mere 12 years after the Academy's establishment, the prominent French physicist Jean- Jacque d'Ortous de Mairan would say: "Since the time of its birth, the Petersburg Academy has risen to an outstanding scientific height, one that the Paris and London Academies only reached after 60 years of persistent labor."
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