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Boris M. Hessen.

Boris Mikhailovich Hessen (Russian: Борис Михайлович Гессен), also Gessen (born August 16, 1893 in Elisavetgrad, died December 20, 1936 in Moscow)[1] was a Soviet physicist, philosopher and historian of science. He is most famous for his paper on Newton's Principia which became foundational in historiography of science.



Boris Hessen was born to a Jewish family in Elisavetgrad, Russia (now Kirovohrad, Ukraine). He studied physics and natural sciences at the University of Edinburgh (1913—1914) together with his gymnasium school friend Igor Tamm. He then went to study at the St. Petersburg University (1914—1917). He joined Red Army in the Russian Civil War, and became a communist and a member of the Revolutionary Military Council (1919—1921). He also continued his physics studies at various places eventually graduating from the Red Professor's Institute in Moscow in 1928. After working in the institute for two more years, he became a physics professor and the chair of the physics department at the Moscow State University in 1931. In 1933 he was elected a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In 1931, Hessen delivered his famous paper "The Socio-Economic Roots of Newton's Principia" at the Second International Congress of the History of Science in London. This work became foundational in the history of science and led to modern studies of scientific revolutions and sociology of science.

From 1934 to 1936 Hessen was a deputy director of the Physics Institute in Moscow headed by S.I. Vavilov. On August 22, 1936 Hessen was arrested by the NKVD. He was secretly tried for terrorism by a military tribunal together with his gymnasium school teacher A. O. Apirin. They were found guilty on December 20, 1936 and were executed by shooting on the same day. On April 21, 1956 both Apirin and Hessen were rehabilitated (posthumously exonerated).

See also



  • Gideon Freudenthal, "The Hessen-Grossman Thesis: An Attempt at Rehabilitation" in: Perspectives on Science, Summer 2005, Vol. 13, No. 2, Pages 166-193
  • Loren R. Graham, "The Socio-Political Roots of Boris Hessen: Soviet Marxism and the History of Science" in: Social Studies of Science, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Nov., 1985), pp. 705-722
  • Gideon Freudenthal and Peter McLaughlin, "Boris Hessen: In Lieu of a Biography" in: The Social and Economic Roots of the Scientific Revolution, Springer, 2009, 253-256.

External links


  1. ^ The date of death is given incorrectly in most sources, such at the Russian Academy of Sciences web site [1]. The exact date was determined recently by the Russian society Memorial.


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