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N. S. Kurnakov

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Professor N. S. Kurnakov (c1861-1941)

1941 Obituary [1]

By the death of Professor N. S. Kurnakov on March 19, at the age of eighty, Russia has lost a pioneer physical chemist whose work and influence, great in his own country, extended far beyond its borders.

His early training some sixty years ago in the St. Petersburg Mining Institute must have largely influenced the trend of his subsequent work, which was mainly concerned with the applications of the principles of the phase rule to the study of binary systems, more especially alloys and salt mixtures, and with the development of the mineral resources of Russia.

Kurnakov was one of the first to devise and use recording pyrometers for the thermal study of alloys and binary mixtures generally, and he was particularly interested in the variations of viscosity and of hardness which accompany changes of composition in such systems.

He founded one of the chief schools of inorganic chemistry in the U.S.S.R., and right to the end of his life was director of the Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. Kurnakov's work, carried through with the assistance of numerous younger collaborators, many of whom are now contributing materially both to the defence and the development of Russia, is an admirable example of the fact that the development of scientific knowledge and the growth of industrial practice are closely related and largely mutually dependent.

The work and ideas embodied in his treatise "An Introduction to Physico-Chemical Analysis" enabled him to play a great part in discovering and developing the resources of the salt lakes in the Crimea and on the Caspian, the deposits of potassium and magnesium in the region between the Volga and the Emba Rivers, and the deposits of bauxite at Tikhvin, upon which the Russian production of aluminium largely depends.

His concern with the exploitation of Russia's resources in platinum and other noble metals led to researches on their compounds, which in turn yielded important developments in the extraction and purification of these metals.

Though little known personally to his British colleagues, Kurnakov was greatly esteemed and honoured in the U.S.S.R.: he held the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and was very recently awarded a Stalin Prize. - H. V. A. BRISCOE.

Professor Kurnakov was elected a member of the Institute in 1914.

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