Frants Iulevich Levinson-Lessing

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Levinson-Lessing, Frants Iul’evich


Born Feb. 25 (Mar. 9), 1861, in St. Petersburg; died Oct. 25, 1939, in Leningrad. Soviet geologist and petrologist. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1925; corresponding member, 1914).

Levinson-Lessing graduated from the physics and mathematics department of St. Petersburg University in 1883 and began giving lectures there in 1889. Through his lectures Levinson-Lessing educated several generations of Russian and Soviet petrologists and geologists. Between 1892 and 1902 he was a professor at the University of Iur’ev (now the University of Tartu). Then between 1902 and 1930 he served as a professor at the St. Petersburg (Leningrad) Polytechnic Institute, where he organized the first laboratory of experimental petrology in Russia. From 1902 to 1920 he was also a professor at the Advanced Courses for Women in St. Petersburg and in 1921 became head of the subdepartment of petrology at Leningrad University.

In 1919, Levinson-Lessing was selected as petrologist for the Geological Committee. Between 1925 and 1939 he did a great deal of scientific and organizational work in the Academy of Sciences of the USSR: he was organizer and chairman of the division of rock building materials and the soil division of the Commission for the Study of Natural Productive Forces, director of a geological museum and of the V. V. Dokuchaev Soil Institute (1925–29), organizer and director of the Petrologic Institute (1930–38), organizer and first director of the Kamchatka Volcanology Station, chairman of the Commission for Comprehensive Study of the Caspian Sea (1934–39), chairman of the Azerbaijani and Armenian branches of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, and director of the academy’s commission in Transcaucasia (Armenia). He took an active part in hydrogeological investigations at Svir’stroi in 1920–23.

Levinson-Lessing’s main works dealt with theoretical petrology and questions of petrogenesis. He believed that there are two primary magmas—granitic and basaltic. Along with crystallization differentiation of magma (crystallization during the process of solidification) he recognized liquation of magma—that is, its separation into two immiscible liquids of different chemical composition. He substantiated the theory of petrologic formations (1888) and the first rational chemical classification of rocks (1898). Levinson-Lessing established the mechanism of formation of extrusive cones and their relationship to intrusions. He was the author of numerous works on crystallography, mineralogy, volcanology, general geology, stratigraphy, paleontology, soil science, and the history of geology. The Collection of Chemical Analyses of Russian Igneous and Metamorphic Rocks by Z. N. Nemova (1930) and the first Russian edition of the Petrologic Dictionary (1932) were prepared under Levinson-Lessing’s direction.

The Academy of Sciences of the USSR has instituted a prize named in honor of Levinson-Lessing, which is awarded periodically for the best works on petrology.


Petrografiia, 5th ed. Leningrad-Moscow, 1940.
Izbr. trudy, vols. 1–4. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949–55.


Beliankin, D. S. “Otechestvennaia petrografiia i F. Iu. Levinson-Lessing.” Izv. AN SSSR: Seriia geologicheskaia, 1949, no. 6.
Ginzberg, A. S. “Znachenie petrograficheskikh rabot F. Iu. Levinson-Lessinga dlia russkoi i mirovoi nauki.” Ibid., 1952, no. 5.
Lichkov, B. L. “Idei F. Iu. Levinson-Lessinga o vekovykh kolebaniiakh zemnoi kory v svete sovremennykh vozzrenii.” In Ocherki po istorii geologicheskikh znanii, collection 5. Moscow, 1956.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.