Polzunov, Ivan Ivanovich

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Polzunov, Ivan Ivanovich


Born 1728 in Ekaterinburg, present-day Sverdlovsk; died May 16 (27), 1766, in Barnaul. Russian heat engineer, one of the inventors of the steam engine and the designer of the first installation powered by steam in Russia.

Polzunov was the son of a soldier of peasant origin from Turinsk. In 1742, after graduating from the first Russian metallurgical school, in Ekaterinburg, he was apprenticed to N. Ba-kharev, chief engineer of the Ural works. In 1748 he began working in Barnaul as a technician in charge of the records for the output of metal and in 1750 was promoted to the position of assistant batcher. Polzunov read the works of M. V. Lomono-sov in the library at the Barnaul works and studied the principles of steam-pump design. In 1763 he designed a steam engine with an output of 1.8 hp, or 1.3 kilowatts (kW). This was the first two-cylinder engine in the world in which the action of both cylinders was to be joined to a common shaft, thus making the engine suitable for a variety of uses.

A. I. Shlatter, president of the Berg-Kollegiia, remarked that Polzunov’s design “must be considered a new invention,” but he failed to appreciate the advantages of the engine. He proposed instead, based on European experience, to combine the new engine with water wheels.

Polzunov also designed an installation for operating the bellows of a smelting furnace. The installation had a record output of 32 hp (24 kW), and it became possible for the first time in industrial production to do entirely without water wheels. The uniqueness of this creation was recognized by the Russian scientist and naturalist E. G. Laksman, who visited Barnaul in 1765. He wrote that Polzunov “is a man who brings honor to his fatherland. He is now building a fire machine [steam engine] that is entirely different from Hungarian and English machines.” A week before the trial run of the installation, Polzunov, weakened by the strains of his work, died of tuberculosis.

The Sverdlovsk Mining and Metallurgical Technicum (awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor), one of the oldest such schools in the country, has been named after Polzunov, as has the Central Research Institute for the Design and Construction of Boilers and Turbines in Leningrad.


Danilevskii, V. V. I. I. Polzunov: Trudy i zhizn’ pervogo russkogo teplotekhnika. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940.
Konfederatov, I. Ia. Ivan Ivanovich Polzunov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1951.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.