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Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov – On the Relation of the Amount of Material and Weight – Functions and spin



Type of spiritual experience


In a long letter to Leonhard Euler, written on July 5, 1748 (Latin and Russian texts in Collected Works, II (1951), pp. 169-193, and Russian text in Selected Works, pp. 122-133), Lomonosov gave a detailed exposition of his views on the relationship of mass to weight. As the letter indicated, he had been led to consider this matter while preparing his essays on the nature of niter and the elasticity of air. Thus his views on this subject belong to the same period as that in which he developed most of his corpuscular ideas.

However, he did not publish these views and did not even embody them in a scientific paper. In 1755 the Russian Academy considered offering a prize for the best essay on the subject of the proportionality of the material of a substance to its weight. Although this plan was later withdrawn, Lomonosov was stimulated by the offer to put his ideas in more formal terms. He presented a paper on the subject to the Academy on January 30, 1758. The paper was then deposited in the archives of the Academy and remained undiscovered until 1908. It is evident that Lomonosov did not change his ideas greatly between 1748 and 1758, since much of this paper is a word for word repetition of his letter to Euler. The Latin and Russian texts are given in Collected Works, III (1952), pp. 349-371, and the Russian version appears in Selected Works, pp. 318-326.

A description of the experience

Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov - On the Relation of the Amount of Material and Weight  [from On the Corpuscular Theory]; Translated, with an Introduction, by Henry M. Leicester [Professor of Biochemistry]; Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1970

it is important to consider that if we assume a visible world, full of materials, then we should also assume imponderable materials; otherwise all bodies could not be lifted up or descend by the force of gravity in an ethereal fluid.

If we accept imponderable materials, then, passing from the greater to the less, it is necessary to conclude that there exist different materials which yield to other materials in specific gravity, which also follows from the analogy to other qualities which are possessed by sensible bodies. Of course, light can be taken from a body, and so can also be lessened in degree of intensity; the same holds for sound, taste, and many other qualities.

The source of the experience

Lomonosov, Mikhail Vasilyevich

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image


Observation contributed by: Rosie Rock-Evans