The university starts with ... the library
The university is a scion of Odessa. Its foundation was laid by the city fathers: count Langeron founded the university's predecessor in 1817 - the first in Odessa and the second in Russia lyceum, count Richelieu "donated" the lyceum his name and means for the library. Richelieu , being a fellow-countryman of the main European universities, understood perfectly that the higher education centers tended to form around the most significant book depositories. "The library is an investment into the future" - Richelieu decided. Count Vorontsov, count Stroganov, surgeon Pirogov, professor Yaroshenko and hundreds of renowned Odessa residents agreed with him. It became a good tradition in Odessa to share personal book collections with the library.
By the time the imperial Novorossiyskiy University was founded, the library had an estimated 28500 items. At the moment it consists of more than 4 million volumes, the unique antique editions of the 15th-18th centuries - and about 9000 of the rarest and the most valuable books.
The first bell
The first bell (the first ring of the university church's bell) was heard by the students of the physics-mathematical, historic-philological and law departments of the Odessa University on the 7th(20th) of September, 1865. During the lectures side by side with the aristocratic students there were sons of merchants, petty bourgeois and peasants. Armenians, Jews, Georgians, Poles, Moldavians, Greeks and Bulgarians were studying together with Russians and Ukrainians. In 1865,175 freshmen entered the university, in 2010 - almost 2200, and now it is not so easy to make a full list of them. Wearing students' uniforms was available to young men exclusively. Nevertheless, in 1913 first female entrants were enrolled. The administration stated that the presence of women had a beneficial effect on the university's moral health. By the way, only 10 years later Oxford started enrolling female students.
The golden age of investigations
Jules Verne was not lucky enough to live in Odessa at the end of the 19th century. Even if he happened to, the world would have become familiar with a greater number of fascinating plots... Probably, it's the Odessa National University scientists who would have definitely become prototypes of Captain Nemo and Cyres Smith. Here are several variations of the novel's opening.
Physics professor of Novorossiyskiy University Vasiliy Lapshin was the first to discover sea depths over 1000 meters in 1868 on the frigate "Lioness". He supervised the project of installing the telegraph cable on the Black Sea floor.
In 1870s Nobel Prize winner and Zoology chair professor Ilya Mechnikov had been discovering secrets of immunity at the university, and in 1886 he became head of a bacteriological station, which was the first in Odessa and the second in the world. There he saved hundreds of patients, which had terrible diseases.
In 1892 Novorossiyskiy university alumnus and Mechnikov's student Vladimir Havkin created the first anti-cholera vaccine, with the help of which he managed to stop the epidemics of cholera in India and not let the disease spread in Europe. Five years later, in 1897, the scientist was the first to inoculate people against plague and organize an anti-plague laboratory in Bombay.
In 1893, three years before Lumiere brothers, Novorossiyskiy University's mechanic Iosiph Timchenko created a motion-picture camera. In foyer of "France" hotel he showed the Odessa audience two fist films in the world - "The Spearthrower" and "The gallopping horseman". Several years before the ingenious mechanic created the first electric watch, a mechanical programming device for observing orbits of celestial objects with the help of a telescope. Moreover, he created meteorological devices, microsurgical instruments for eye operations, and even the principle for creating the first automatic telephone station.
In 1900 the history professor of Novorossiyskiy University Ernest von Stern first discovered the Black sea Troy - Tira - during an excavation. Tira is the most ancient town of Dniper and Prut's interfluves – it is 2500 years old.
In 1903 a renowned ophthalmologist Vladimir Filatov successfully carried out the first eye cornea transplantation operation in the world, opening a new page in eye disease therapy in the Odessa University clinic...
In the 21st century over 1380 I.I. Mechnikov Odessa National University scientists continue developing their predecessors' traditions in 28 directions, among which are 4 research institutes, 8 research centers, 14 problematic and branch research laboratories.
The first scientific front
There was a time when two universities existed in Odessa with the same address - 2 Dvoryanskaya Street. One of them was in fact situated in Maykop, and later in Bayram-Ali, the second stayed in its place. That was the time of the Great Patriotic War... Tens of lecturers and students went to the front, and those who stayed, were making fortifications in the besieged Odessa.
The decision to evacuate the university with its scientific treasures was taken in July, 1941. The journey turned out to be long - first to Kuban, then to Turkmenia. It is recorded in archive documents that in the beginning of the academic year 1942/43 only 266 students, 8 professors, 18 assistant professors, 2 senior lecturers, and 16 laboratory assistants were left, out of the previous amount of 1000. Studies were arranged into two shifts, the time of specialist training was reduced to 4 years. Nevertheless, the university did not cease to work. Five generations of students graduated during the evacuation, the library funds increased, rector Savchuk managed to equip a chemical and biological laboratory, a Geography lecture-hall. University scientists assisted Turkmenian lecturers in their research.
The university was opened again in its temporary home. That was an experiment as higher education institutions in the other towns of the occupied Ukraine did not function. At the university opening ceremony chief of the town's occupation authorities German Pyntya said:"Life in Odessa has become better than in any other town of Western Europe...". Odessa residents did not believe him - an underground intelligence group of students and lecturers was formed and operated under command of a well-known agent N.A.Geft.
The university started working fully only after the liberation of Odessa and the faculty's return from the evacuation zone. The order to name Odessa State University after the Nobel Prize winner Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov came with the first telegrams in 1945.
Heave the anchors!
On the occasion of ONU's centenary the first North Pole researcher, a polar hero Ivan Papanin presented "Zhiguli" to the university. A small, brisk "Zhiguli" coped with sea waves easily, which is not really surprising for a trawlboat. Odessa scientists called this first vessel of the new university fleet "Academician Andrusov" in honor of a celebrated mineralogist, the university alumnus.
"Academician Andrusov" accomplished scientific tasks in the estuaries of the Danube, Dnister and Dniper. "Odessa University", however, tended to explore the shelf of the Black Sea. Geology professor Ivan Sulimov recalled his voyages on its board: "Apart from the crew, which consisted of seven people, up to ten lecturers and students were placed on the vessel. The vessel looked unsightly, that's why its nickname was "Black prince". Those were the most romantic voyages for students". Scientists used to carry out their researches simultaneously with captain Cousteau, at the time when the first sea treasures were found. "Odessa University", as well as the world famous "Calipso", contributed to that epoch.
From the beginning of 1981 two ships of the chair of general and marine geology of Odessa State University - "Mechnikov" and "Antares" had been on expeditions in the Mediterranean sea, Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Odessa researchers under the flag of "Mechnikov" in thousands kilometers from alma mater had been studying sea ecology and its minerals and learning to predict earthquakes. University assistant professors, who were chiefs of trips are G.G.Tkachenko and O.P. Cherednichenko - they felt equally comfortable at the chair and on the deck.
... Anchors stand along the university hydro biological station alley. They were raised to the surface by the station officials who specialized in underwater hydro biological research. The smallest anchor - about half a meter high, the biggest one - about 2,5 meters. Who knows, maybe the route of the university's 21st century flotilia will start from this alley.
The island of heroes
Imagine a picture: night, a smooth stone surface of the island, Milky Way from one edge of the horizon to the other, the rhythmic sounds of waves... And the sound of "Windows" loading!
These are Odessa National University scientists, who record the results of their daily investigations in databases. At the modern research station of the Odessa National University "Zmeiny island" in the very heart of the Black sea: geologists, biologists, hydro biologists, archaeologists do research and practical work. Interchanging, scientists analyze weather, the state of sea water and the stones which the island consists of. It is here that many inventions are tested, such as bacteria that devour oil in water and soil. At the height of the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, BBC and British Petroleum took interest in this elaboration of Odessa National University scientists. Before that with the help of a product based on useful bacteria the scientists managed to clear the island's soil from pollution and restore its initial vegetation mantle. Odessa university botanists managed to plant and grow acacia, pine and lilac bushes, which are blossoming on the island even in August.
At night a lighthouse church illuminates the Odessa National University scientific research center and the whole Zmeiny - the island of heroes, dreamers and pioneers.
To be continued...
Translated by Maryna Tchianova