Petrov, Vasilii Vladimirovich

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Petrov, Vasilii Vladimirovich


Born July 8 (19), 1761, in the city of Oboian’, in what is now Kursk Obast; died July 22 (Aug. 3), 1834, in St. Petersburg. Russian physicist and electrical engineer. Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1809; corresponding member, 1802).

Petrov attended the Teachers’ Gymnasium in St. Petersburg. From 1788 to 1791 he taught mathematics, physics, Russian, and Latin at the Kolyvan’-Voskresen’e Mining School in the city of Barnaul. From 1793 to 1833 he was on the staff of the Medical and Surgical Academy in St. Petersburg. His early works dealt with the theory of combustion. Petrov was one of the first Russian investigators in electrical engineering. In 1802 he constructed the largest galvanic battery of the time, a voltaic pile consisting of 2,100 copper-zinc cells, with which he discovered the electric arc phenomenon. He suggested such possible applications for electric arcs as illumination, electric smelting, the electric welding of metals, and the recovery of metals from their oxides. Petrov established the dependence of the strength of a direct current on the cross-sectional area of the conductor and made extensive use of paralleling in electric circuits. He investigated the chemical action of current and measured the electrical conductivity of various substances. Petrov suggested the covering of electric conductors with insulation. He studied electrical discharges in a vacuum and investigated the phenomenon of luminescence. He also devised original electrical instruments for studying electrical phenomena in various gaseous mediums. Petrov’s studies laid the basis for research on practical applications of electricity.


Akademik V. V. Petrov, 1761-1834: K istorii fiziki i khimii v Rossii v nacha le XIX v. Collection of articles edited by S. I. Vavilov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940.
Eliiseev, A. A. V. V. Petrov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Shatelen, M. A. Russkie elektrotekhniki vtoroi poloviny XIX veka. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.