1896 - 1914

By the end of the 19th century, Russia was firmly on the path to becoming an industrial power. A long period of peaceful development, intensive railroad construction, and the influx of foreign capital stimulated the economy. The energetic and far-sighted S.Y. Witte, who became Minister of Finance in 1892, optimized the tax system and ensured the introduction of the gold standard, which put an end to the turbulence that plagued the Russian ruble throughout the 19th century. However, the economy could not develop effectively without political stability. The young Emperor Nicholas II, who had ascended the throne in 1894, failed to take firm control of the country. He was committed to preserving the outdated foundations of the state system. The opposition to the government's course grew in society, most notably in the sphere of higher education. Political stagnation contrasted sharply with economic progress. Internal unrest caused by inept leadership culminated in Bloody Sunday and the First Russian Revolution.

In 1897, the intensive development of domestic industry resulted in a growing demand for graduates of the Saint Petersburg Practical Institute of Technology, which led SPPIT to expand and amend its curricula. Significant changes in research and science that occurred during the 20th century required that the training of technologists become more specialized. Crucial transformations affected the chemistry course, which was one of the key subjects studied at the Institute. Organic and inorganic chemistry were eventually taught separately. A.A. Yakovkin (1860–1936), who worked at SPPIT for 40 years, was invited as a professor of inorganic chemistry in 1896.

M.D. Lvov (1848–1899), who had been teaching at SPPIT since 1893, was appointed as professor of organic chemistry. Despite the fact that Lvov's tenure at the Institute was very short, it was he who initiated the construction of a new chemical laboratory. The project was completed after his death.

The Saint Petersburg Practical Institute of Technology was formed in order to train homegrown professionals for jobs in local industries. As a result, business owners paid special attention to it.
One of the industrialists who actively participated in the development of the Institute was Ludwig Nobel. Many graduates worked at the enterprises of the Nobel Brothers Oil Production Partnership in Saint Petersburg and Baku. After the death of L. Nobel, the Partnership decided to establish a prize in his name, awarded by the decision of the Russian Technical Society for outstanding achievements in the fields of metallurgy, oil production, and other related industries.

The first Nobel Prize was awarded on March 31, 1896, to engineer A.I. Stepanov, who had graduated from SPPIT in 1889. A.I. Stepanov earned the prize for his work on the “Fundamentals of the Theory of Lamp Combustion”, which discussed kerosene lamps.

At the beginning of the 20th century, in connection with the development of new technologies, curricula began to be replenished with new relevant subjects. They included the rapidly developing science of electricity, which began to play an increasingly prominent role at the time.
When the teaching of electrical engineering began at the Saint Petersburg Practical Institute of Technology, a decision was made to install electric lighting in the Institute’s premises. Given the climate of Saint Petersburg, this made a tremendous difference to the quality of the teaching process. Sketching was problematic for students who were obliged to finish their projects during class. Not permitted to finish their projects at home, students often worked in rooms with small windows and rarely available gas lighting. At first, electric lighting was installed in drawing rooms and, following an increase in the power of the power plant, electricity was also installed in workshops. Subjects such as “the device of dynamos”, “the use of electricity”, “electrometry”, and a few others were added to the curriculum. Power plant technology was taught as an elective course. The Institute soon built its own power plant. New specialties were being opened, such as “the railway business” and “airplanes”.

The increase in the number of academic subjects brought about the installation of new laboratories. The scientific revolution coincided with a period of intensive industrial development in Russia: new factories, manufactories, and production workshops were springing up all over the country. Extensive railway construction was underway. These transformations required an increase in the level of education of domestic specialists employed in the production sector. Likewise, constant industrial development called for educating more technologists. The consequence of this was the growing enrollment rate for the Institute’s first year of study. All this dictated the need to expand and re-equip SPPIT in accordance with the new standards. The main building, as well as other buildings and workshops, were to be rebuilt.

In 1903, SPPIT celebrated its 75th anniversary. 
For this historical day, 1902 graduate I.F. Fedorov wrote a book about all graduates and employees of the Institute since its foundation. The publication also provided information about the industries in which the graduates of SPPIT were employed. According to these records, the largest number of graduates of the Institute worked in railway construction (24%), as well as in mechanical (15%) and sugar (7%) factories.

In 1903, at the initiative of D.S. Zernov, a Student Science Club was established. By 1908, it was divided into four areas: electrical engineering, railway technology, thermal engineering, and metal technology. Under the mentorship of the Institute’s professors, students conducted experiments to test the latest theories, for example, the theory of the Grum Grzhimailo gas flow. Later, other clubs were formed to delve into the subjects of aeronautics and literature, and an orchestra was created. Around this time, various fraternities began to operate.

However, political events in the country seriously affected the working regime of the Institute. After the tragic events of Bloody Sunday on January 9, 1905, a student meeting was held at the Institute, following which it was decided to start a strike. As a result, classes were suspended until September 1, 1905. Similar strikes took place in other Russian universities.

No graduation took place that year, but the admission of new students was announced. In order to continue the educational process, the committee proposed switching to a subject-based learning system. It meant that students had to attend a certain set of courses in order to graduate (restrictions were imposed on the order in which the material was studied; therefore, the sequence of study was fixed for some cycles of subjects).
This was accepted as a temporary measure. However, due to the ongoing unrest in October 1905, an order was issued for the temporary closure of all universities where the rallies continued.

Classes at the Saint Petersburg Practical Institute of Technology resumed only in 1906 under a different set of conditions. The State Duma, endowed with legislative rights, started to operate in Russia. All the political struggle was concentrated there. Thus, political gatherings in institutions of higher education lost their former significance.
Despite the fact that enrollment for the first course had been completed already in 1905, it was decided not to cancel the admission of new students in 1906.
All these events inevitably affected teaching. Students completing programs in chemical specialties found themselves in a more vulnerable position compared to those completing programs in mechanics, as the former were required to complete lab work in order to graduate.

The Department of Physical Chemistry is a direct successor to the Laboratory of Physical Chemistry, organized in 1899 by the outstanding Russian chemist and Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Professor A.A. Yakovkin. That same year, he became the first to teach a course of physical chemistry at the Saint Petersburg Practical Institute of Technology. In 1926, the Laboratory of Physical Chemistry was renamed the Laboratory of Physical and Colloidal Chemistry and relocated to the building of chemical and technological laboratories. At the initiative of V.Y. Kurbatov in 1931, the Department of Colloidal Chemistry was established at the Institute as an independent structural unit. In 1955, Professor V.P. Mashovets, who was a Doctor of Technical Sciences and an electrochemist-metallurgist known for his work in the field of electrochemistry of melts, began working at the department. After the death of V.Y. Kurbatov, he headed the department from 1957 to 1971. Currently, the main research areas of the department include: physico-chemical fundamentals of materials design and technology; physicochemistry of surface phenomena and nanoscale systems; electrochemistry and ionics of the solid state; physicochemistry of the glassy state; synthesis and properties of polymers for biomedical purposes; RAFT polymerization; stability; kinetics of coagulation; and phase separation and structuring of micro- and nanodisperse systems. The department offers training in the areas of “Solid-state Chemistry and Chemistry of Materials” and “Physical Chemistry and Chemistry of Materials”. Currently, the department is headed by Candidate of Chemical Sciences, Associate Professor S.G. Izotova.

The Institute established a fixed study period for all students: 14 semesters for mechanics and 16 semesters for chemists. The trainees were expected to master their programs during that period. In reality, it took some much longer—for example, as of March 1910, 5% of the students studying at SPPIT had enrolled before 1900. After the first year of study, students took the “first minimum” exams as part of the classes they attended. Two years later, they had to pass the “second minimum”. The “third minimum” was set for chemists and mechanics at different times: after four and three years, respectively (chemists studied longer as they spent more time in laboratories). After the “third minimum”, students were given another year to earn their diplomas. It was possible to pass minimums earlier, but it became impossible to study longer than seven years for mechanics and eight years for chemists. In 1905, the departments at SPPIT were transformed into faculties. At the same time, changes affected the teaching process. For example, the teaching of physical chemistry was prioritized, the course of electrical engineering with practical classes was introduced, the course of ceramics was transformed into a course of silicate technology, and so forth. In the 1890s, distinguished scientists would join the brilliant teaching staff at the Institute. In 1899, the physics professor N.A. Gezekhus (1845-1918), who was a member of the Russian Physico-Chemical Society and renowned for his work in the fields of molecular physics, electricity, and acoustics, returned to the Institute. Teachers and graduates of SPPIT played a significant role in the formation of higher technical education both in Saint Petersburg and other parts of the country. For example, D.K. Chernov (1839-1921), N.P. Petrov (1836-1920), N.I. Tavildarov (1846-1918) and V.L. Kirpichev (1845-1913) were teachers at the Saint Petersburg Polytechnic Institute.

D.S. Zernov (1860-1922) worked at the Moscow Higher Technical School (today—Bauman Moscow State Technical University). M.V. Troitsky (1880-1929?) was a professor at the Don Polytechnic Institute. E.L. Zubashev (1860-1928) became the first director of the Tomsk Institute of Technology, V.G. Shaposhnikov (1870-1952) and V.L. Kirpichev worked at the Kiev Polytechnic Institute. In addition, V.L. Kirpichev was the founder and first director of the Kharkov Institute of Technology.

Many graduates of Technolozhka contributed to the spread of technological education in Russia.

In the last decade of the 19th century, the brilliant teaching staff of SPPIT was joined by many known scientists. In 1899, physics professor and member of the Russian Physico-Chemical Society N.A. Gezekhus (1845-1918), renowned for his works in the fields of molecular physics, electricity, and acoustics, returned to the Institute.

P.S. Seleznev (1864-1925), who had lectured on railway rolling stock starting in 1891 and supervised design works on cars and locomotives, became the chairman of the commission of the Saint Petersburg Duma on the development of proposals regarding the arrangement of factories and manufactories.

G.F. Depp (1854-1921), a heat scientist who graduated from SPPIT in 1881, taught at the Institute from 1885. In 1899, he was appointed professor at the Department of Mechanics. From 1913 to 1915, G.F. Depp was the director of SPPIT. B.L. Rosing (1869-1933), who laid the groundwork for the invention of television, also taught at SPPIT.

In 1904, amendments were made to the regulations on the Saint Petersburg Practical Institute of Technology, which accorded more status to the students: now all graduates received the title of engineer-technologist. This allowed them to join the civil service and authorized them to design and manage the construction of any building type. Graduates of the Institute became equal to graduates of other institutions of higher technological education. As in previous decades, graduates and employees of SPPIT contributed to the development of domestic science, technology, and industry. For example, P.S. Seleznev (1864-1925), a talented SPPIT graduate, led the Saint Petersburg Water Supply Department for many years.

N.A. Reztsov (1855-1914), who had graduated in 1882, established the first school of stationery production in Russia. He was the mayor of Saint Petersburg in the difficult period from 1905 to 1910. He is known as the creator of the scientific school of stationery production in Russia and the greatest specialist in this area. The paper research testing station he installed in the headquarters of the Russian Technical Society became the scientific basis for educational institutions in the pulp and paper industry.

S.P. Vologdin (1874-1926) organized a metallographic laboratory in Saint Petersburg and became a professor of metallurgy at the Don Polytechnic Institute in 1909.
Great contributions to the development of the railroad were made by Technolozhka graduates M.E. Pravosudovich (1865-1929) who led the development of a powerful commercial E-series steam locomotive, and M.V. Gololobov (1870-1919) who participated in the design of an L-series passenger steam locomotive and organized a road-roller testing laboratory at the Putilov plant. 
P.P. Kopnyaev (1867-1932) published the book “DC Dynamos” in 1904, which became the first domestic work in this field.
L.F. Fokin (1881-1937), who graduated from SPPIT and taught at the Institute from 1908, oversaw the production of benzene and toluene by coking during the First World War. After 1917, he contributed to the formation of the nitrogen fertilizer industry in the USSR.
The work of technologists in the field of heat engineering is widely known. Professor G.F. Depp organized a boiler laboratory at the Institute where he carried out interesting research on smokeless combustion, pulverized fuel combustion, and the calculation of boiler furnaces among other work.

In 1910, A.V. Ryazantsev started teaching a course on “Refrigeration” to train specialists in this field.
The rapid development of the textile industry was stirred by the work of technologists such as Professors N.P. Langov, S.A. Ganeshin, and N.G. Novikov, as well as specialists in the field of dyes, N.N. Voznesensky and A.E. Poray-Koshits. They all played a part in developing the Russian textile industry, advancing dyeing technologies, and manufacturing original dyes.

Professors A.M. Sokolov, P.S. Filosofov, V.V. Yurganov, and V.P. Mazurenko took an active part in the formation of the silicate industry.
Some graduates became well-known for their work in other fields, like the writer A.N. Tolstoy and the composer A.G. Shaposhnikov.

Despite the unstable political situation and the burgeoning revolution, the Saint Petersburg Practical Institute of Technology continued to train highly qualified specialists, conduct research, re-equip existing buildings, and construct new ones. Time has shown that the graduates of SPPIT were in-demand in Russia despite the political insurgencies that would strike the country during the 20th century.