Tomsk State University. Physical Department.
Laboratory of training physics experiment
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History of The  Physics  Laboratory (Demoroom)

Historical Parallels. Notes about the All-Russian Meeting

of physics instructors on June 5 – 9th, 1917 (*)

Mikhailichenko Yu. P.

Tomsk State University, Physics Department



The journal «Physics review» which had been recommended for commercial educational institutions of the agency of Department of Trade and Industry was being published in Kiev since 1900 to 1917. In the last 3-4 issues for 1917 that scientific and methodical journal provided the information about “the All-Russia (urgent) Meeting of instructors in physics chemistry and cosmography on June 5 – 9th, 1917” [1, p.156-162]. The Meeting was urgent, probably, because “Russian school was appeared free and the scientists faced with the choice of one of uncountable equally possible directions”.

“There were four problems on the agenda: 1. The current situation of ... sciences in high school...; 2. The goals and directions of teaching of ... sciences; 3. Curricula and teaching situation; 4. Activity arrangement of academics ... .” 417 participants took part at the Meeting and 32 papers were contributed. “The panel of Selection Committee consisted of the chairman A.A.Eikhenvald, companions of the chairman Yu.V.Woolf and V.D.Davydovsky, a business correspondent N.V.Kashin, companions of the business correspondent D.I.Sakharov and N.E.Uspensky and a treasurer E.G.Leist”. “In respect of both dining and lodging the Muscovites accorded a usual hearty welcome to their visitors despite exclusively adverse contemporary conditions.”

According to F.N. Indrekson's speech it is possible to judge the common educational problems of that time [3, p.172]: “... What sort of school we should expect domestically, in Russia, regarding that 80% of inhabitants are illiterate. You know that it is offered to carry out general education. The most the government can give to all citizens is a free teaching course of a high elementary college (in Russia it is rather more than 4 years of an elementary school). The curricula of those colleges had been developed under the count P.N.Ignatyev and since the August, 1916 were put into operation in the form of a test program for a term of three years”.

Among those problems the very first point of “General resolution” was as follows: Point I.1. “All teaching in high schools should be conducted so that it was the continuing joyful work arousing creative activity of pupils. Physicochemical sciences with their inductive methods and experimental fields in this respect are of great pedagogical importance.” Point III.1.: “the Meeting recognizes as desirable a synthesis of related subjects in school course for the purpose of formation of integral scientific pupils’ outlook.” Point IV.1: “For saving public funds purposes the Meeting recognizes as desirable establishing the central educational physics and chemical-analysis laboratories and rooms, and astronomical observatories for educational institution access ...” Point V.: “The All-Russia Meeting ... finds it necessary: 1. The annual short-term course for instructors in physics, chemistry and cosmography sciences and their methods, as well as some manual labor course for the instructors to acquire special skills in devices designing, etc.”

To judge by the up-to-date position, these resolutions were accepted for the purpose of thorough methodical development. That is what noted then the author of “Physics Methods” and physics courses N.V. Kashin: “... when discussing the problem concerning the course structure we should determine precisely where is the fidelity criterion of our statements in the field of methods. And here we, physics instructors, are in very favorable conditions, since methods – the technique of physics teaching – has a direct and natural support in science methodology. I had the experience in developing that thought in the “Physics Methods” in detail, but now I can only note that the induction and deduction methods, which combination is the best guarantee of reliability and accuracy of knowledge extracted by researching, correspond deeply and inherently to that sequence which should be included in the physics curriculum of high school for psychological and pedagogical reasons.” [1, p. 164]. 

In the Resolution for physics teaching the minimum program and (Point I) had been approved: 1. course division into two stages; 2. modeling the first stage on the basis of practical work; 3. modeling the second stage on the basis of instructor class experiments and conducting practical work simultaneously

Meeting members attended the factories of Shvabe and Tryndin who were producing physical and chemical devices and perused the demonstrations of apparatuses on electricity by B.Ju. Kolbe. D.F. Nevzorov and N.V. Rose arranged a small exhibition of precision physical and meteorological instruments being produced by workshops at the Main physical observatory in Petrograd. There were excursions to a tram and telephone stations, organized for the participants. After the Meeting closing, reading papers took place, among them being A.A.Eikhenvald’s: “Magnetism in nature” which was followed by “…extremely interesting and talented performed demonstrations.”

At the end of the journal [1] there were some advertisments: Tutorial worshops of Vjatskoe gubernskoe zemstvo; Parisian optical and measuring instruments production factory by Pellin; “Tryndin’s Sons” shop and factory on full equipping physical and chemical laboratories. Precision instrument Workshops at the Main physical observatory provided their services to schools and scientific institutions. Russian society in Kiev “General Electricity Company” offered measuring devices and dynamos for physics laboratories equipping. 

At present having read this article, there is no any doubt about necessity of wide application of demonstration methods and development of educational practical work in teaching physics in Russia as far back as 1917. It should be supposed that a much deeper examination of domestic experience in physics teaching would be rather useful both by the analysis of curriculum changes of experimental physics course and by following the development of teaching methods. 


1. Physics review. Kiev. 1917, v. 18, No 3-4, 176+VIII p.  


(*) Published in the «VI-th Conference of the Commonwealth of Modern Physics Laboratory ",

Samara, 12-14 September 2000, Moscow, 2000 p. 79 – 81  

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