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[K. Tsiolkovsky] Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky [Ciolkowski] (1857-1935)

Russian scientist, inventor and visionary of Polish ancestry (son of a Pole deported to Eastern Russia). He was the pioneer of aeronautical engineering, aerodynamics, geochemistry, and other fields of science and technology, as well as creator of foundations of astronautics and long-range visions of its future development. Most of his knowledge was self-taught, as the hearing ailment acquired in his childhood prevented him from completing education in an ordinary school. He worked independently and spent most of his life earning a living as a high school teacher. In 1881 he was elected to the Russian Society of Physics and Chemistry in St. Petersburg (on the basis of his manuscripts dealing with kinetic theory of gases and mechanics of living organisms), and in 1918 to the Socialist Academy (which later became the USSR Academy of Sciences).

Some of his ground-breaking works include:

Publication of a brochure (based on the work begun in 1875) entitled "Aerostat metallicheskiy upravlyayemyi" ("Controlled metallic aerostat"), starting a long series of articles and brochures (written until his death in 1935) describing various aspects of theory, construction and use of variable-geometry metal-fuselage aerostats of his invention (never realized in practice).
Publication of a paper "Aeroplan ili ptitsepodobnaya (avyatsyonnaya) lietatyelnaya mashina" ("Aeroplane, or a birdlike (aviational) flying machine") in the journal "Nauka i Zhizn'" ("Science and Life"), where he included many innovative ideas in the domain of aeronautics, which were realized practically many years afterward: design for a metal-frame monoplane, an autopilot device, an application of gyroscopes in airplanes, and others.
Publication of a brochure "Griezy o ziemlje i niebie" ("Dreams about earth and sky"), where, in a form of a science-fiction story, he presented a great vision of resettling the whole mankind into greenhouse settlements in space [PL only], for construction of which he planned to use the whole material of all the Solar System [PL only] planets, including Earth [PL only]. He proposed to start their construction from exploitation of asteroids - in accordance with today's ideas for development of industrial and residential infrastructure in space.
He built Russia's second wind tunnel, the first for civil purposes, which he used for many aerodynamic experiments and measurements.
Published, on the basis of his work started as early as in 1897, the paper (actually, its first part) on "Isslyedovanye mirovykh prostranstv ryeaktivnymi priborami" ("Investigation of world spaces with reactive devices") in the journal "Nautchnoye Obozryeniye" ("Science Review"), where he presented, among other things, the concept of a liquid-fuel (liquid oxygen and hydrogen) rocket, and the theory of flight of a rocket with changing mass, including the Tsiolkovsky's formula (also called the mass ratio formula or the rocket equation):
v = w ln(M/m),
v - final velocity of the rocket,
w - velocity of exhaust gases,
M, m - initial and final mass of the rocket.
The date of this publication is considered the birthdate of astronautics.
A conceptual sketch of a liquid fuel rocket from the 1903 paper by Tsiolkovsky on "Investigation of world spaces with reactive devices" (letter labels added by the author of this page):
(A) liquid oxygen tank; (B) liquid hydrogen (or hydrocarbon) tank; (C) crew and equipment; (D) burning chamber; (E) exhaust nozzle; (F) control surfaces (in the stream of exhaust gases).
Publication of the next parts of the work "Isslyedovanye mirovykh prostranstv ryeaktivnymi priborami" ("Investigation of world spaces with reactive devices") in the journal "Vyestnik vozdukhoplavaniya" ("Aeronautics News"). They included (with other work) calculations for the second cosmic velocity (the earth-escape velocity) and the energy needed to escape from Earth's [PL only] gravity field.
Publication of a brochure "Rakyetoy w mirovoye prostranstvo" ("With a rocket into the world space"), containing his complete works in the series on "Investigation of world spaces with reactive devices," with some changes and additions.
In the brochure "Earth catastrophes" (and elsewhere) he discussed the problems of great natural disasters threatening mankind and life on Earth [PL only], including the possibilities of catastrophic impacts of Earth with other celestial bodies [PL only], such as asteroids and comets.
In numerous other popular and technical papers and brochures, and also in science fiction novels - like "Na Lunye" ("On the Moon") from 1893, or "Vnye Zyemlyi" ("Outside Earth") from 1907 (subsequent, extended editions: 1916 and 1927) - he included many other scientific and technical ideas concerning aeronautics, jet propulsion and astronautics (e.g., multi-stage rockets, rocket fuels, biological and technical problems of weightlessness, the use of solar energy on Earth [PL only] and in space, the role of orbital stations, design of spacesuits). He also contributed to other scientific disciplines (biology, geochemistry, cosmology), originated many diverse technical ideas (e.g., air-cushion vehicles, sea-tide power plants, etc.), as well as extensively discussed futurological concepts of advancement of human civilization.

The fundamental idea permeating his works is best summarized by his most commonly quoted adage, "Planyeta yest' kolybyel razuma, no nyelzya vietchno zhit' v kolybyeli" ("A planet is the cradle of mind, but one cannot live in a cradle forever," from a letter written in 1911), usually cited in the form "Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever."

More information on Tsiolkovsky nad his works can be found in the biography by Andrzej Trepka "Wizjoner kosmosu - Konstanty Ciolkowski" ("Space visionary - Konstanty Ciolkowski," in Polish), Silesia Press, Katowice 1974, the site of the Tsiolkovsky Museum in Kaluga, and in the websites devoted to the history of Russian astronautics [RUS only], and the NASA history of rocket propulsion.

Named after Tsiolkovsky were [PL only]:
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Last update: 06.VIII.2001