Andrei Konstantinovich Nartov was a mechanic in the employ of Peter the Great of Russia. His life and insights give a unique perspective on the status of mechanical technology at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Of particular interest is his Theatrum Machinarum, a description of the machines commissioned by Peter the Great.
Nartov’s story was only recently researched by Soviet historians of technology. Previously, he was known primarily for the his personal reminiscences of Peter the great which was first published in 1727 but has been extensively revised. Many of his machines are maintained in the Hermitage.
Two paintings of Nartov still exist. The first is in the Kiev Museum of Russian Art. The second is the Moscow State Historical Museum (although I’m not sure of the current names of these institutions). A third painting was lost during the German occupation of the USSR during World War II.
· 1693. Nartov is born. His grave epitaph notes: b. 28 march 1680; d. Petersburg 6 Apr 1756. It is more likely, however, that we was born I 1693. He was probably of low birth.
· 1709. Starts work in Sukharev's tower, site of the nautical school. Works with experts like Alekseev and Yogan Bleer.
· 1712. Nartov begins his life as Peter’s machinist in St. Petersburg at the “Laboratory for the Mechanical Arts.” He is given oversight of the lathes created for Peter by Bleer, following Bleer’s death. The Lathe cost Peter 3582 rubles, a considerable sum at a time when a machinist’s salary was around 400 rubles. His other tasks included visiting factories rebuilding lathes produced by foreigners, taking apprentices, and meeting dignitaries. During this time Peter was a frequent visitor to the lab and became a confidant. Nartov also had access to Peter’s library which included works by Besson, de Caus, and—later—Leupold.
· 1712-1725. Nartov maintains some level of involvement in ordnance design. Some of his important contributions include a method for casting solid cannon barrels and boring them, and a method for filling blowholes in bores.
· 1716/17. Peter the Great visits France, England, and Holland. He acquires ship models and other curiosities. During this visit Peter made the connections that Nartov would require during his trip several years later. Upon his return, Peter enlists Nartov for the Admiralty mechanical workshop and for the Moscow Mint.
· 30 June, 1718. Nartov travels abroad on the orders of Peter. He Works in Prussia and then travels through Holland to London. In Prussia, he teach the Frederick-William to turn. Peter specifically requested that Nartov collect information on mathematics and technology, particularly the method of steam bending oak for ships. He is also to collect scientific instruments and models. He stays in Prussia for six weeks.
· January 8, 1719. Nartov writes that he can’t find quality lathes in England. Instead, he buys books and tools for the production of tortoise shell snuff boxes for which he spends 700 efimki. He also sends drawings of all sorts of machines i.e., “a machine for the easy boring of copper pump barrels.” The emphasis of his drawing collection is on production equipment for mining and for the admiralty: steel production, milling, cutting gear teeth, screw cutting, etc. During his stay in England he visits both the ship yards and the mint. It’s possible that he meets Isaac Newton who would have been the Master of the Mint. While Nartov fails in his mission to secure a method of steaming oak, he does see the two early products of industrialization: steam engines and slums.
· March 1719. Nartov sends a report to Moscow: “...I have not found craftsmen here who have surpassed Russian craftsmen. I showed the drawings for the machines [probably his copying lathe] which Your Imperial Majesty ordered to be made here to the craftsmen but they cannot make them.” (Britkin, pg. 41). This confession attests to the limited state of mechanics in England early in the eighteenth century. Nartov was later able to find the appropriate technicians in France. The difference between the apparent skill levels of English and French mechanics is surprising. After all, at the time of Nartov’s letter Newcomen and Avery’s steam engine had been operating since 1712 and Watt’s engine was to appear in less than 50 years.
· 18 October, 1719. Nartov travels to France where he finally finds the tools and artisans he requires to execute his lathe designs. In Paris, he becomes a guest of the French Academy of Sciences where he takes lessons from Bignon, the Astronomer de Lafay, the artist Pigeon, and the math virtuoso Varignon. These tutors were all chosen by Peter I who was made honorary member of the French Academy of Sciences during his earlier visit. In France, he visits state factories and artisan shops. During a visit to view the fountains of Versailles and the Machine de Marly—a tourist attraction also taken in by Thomas Jefferson—he discovers the “bottomless profligacy” of the French nobility [nb. This Sovietism from the original book was just too good to leave out]. The Machine de Marly was apparently only surpassed as a hydraulic system for the “mines of Zmeinogorsk in the Altai, built by Frolov.” Due to financial pressures—an ongoing concern during the whole of Nartov’s life—he did not purchase any French lathes. Before leaving Paris, Bignon provides Nartov with a letter of commendation that gave him the highest order of praise. His lathe is still maintained they Museum de Arts et Metiers.
· Late 1720. Nartov returns to Russia.
· 1720-1725. He works in the Czar's lathe shop. Nartov travels widely and visits plants and other enterprises under Peter’s auspices.
· 1720-21. Nartov develops a machine for splitting stones to be used in paving the Kronshtadt canal. He also develops a means of opening and closing the sluice gates.
· 22 January 1724. The Senate signs statutes for the Academy of Science. Peter's decried: “The subjects are to include: mathematics, up to spherical 'triangulation', mechanics, anatomy, surgery, botany, military and civil engineering, hydraulics, and others similar to that.” (Britkin, pg. 67)
· 1 December 1724. Nartov—who had been instrumental in the foundation of the Academy of Science—submitted a memo to Peter outlining an Academy of crafts:
“Most gracious Emperor, Sire! Whereas in many states, due ot the existence of academies of the various arts, there develop, under the supervision of these academies, numerous crafts for the benefit of these states, I, your unworthy servant, encouraged by untold generosities showered upon me by Your Imperial Majesty, beg to submit this most humble proposal pertaining to the establishment of an Imperial Academy of the Arts which as yet does not exist in Russia and without which the proper foundation is missing for all arts and crafts which, without such an institute, not only cannot develop for the benefit of the state but even stand in danger of dying out.
On the other hand, through the establishment of such an academy, with the Lord's help, and under the merciful care of Your Serenest Imperial Majesty, numerous and diverse crafts worthy of praise will prosper and enjoy their rightful appreciation. Such an academy could be set up by such masters as are worthy of their title and, being appointed to that academy, each for his craft will contribute their experience and knowledge for the general benefit.
And now here, as a beginning, I most humbly propose briefly the following:
- 1 -
In your Imperial Academy there should be six different orders of crafts graduating and promoting pupils to the rank of qualified craftsmen in their respective crafts, all properly certified and attested to.
2. Architect of civil engineering
3. Mechanical engineer (mills and locks)
4. Painter and draftsman
5. Sculptor of all kinds of things
At the same academy there should be also a printing shop for printing books and engravings, with appropriate printers. For the same academy, one man is needed to serve as a model for drawing.
And will it please Your Imperial Majesty most graciously... to issue to the supervisor of some academy whom Y.I.M. will deign to appoint, a ukase for carrying out the above-described matters so that the subjects of Your Majesty, as well as foreign craftsmen, should present themselves at that academy first of all for declaration of their craft and also for teaching pupils entrusted to them, so that neither the voluntary nor the conscripted pupils should excuse themselves under any pretext, under fine for lying, and should be obedient to their chief masters.
- 6 -
The number of masters, pupils and other academy servants at that academy, and also the number of chambers necessary, is shown in the roll attached hereto.
Most kind Emperor, Sire!
Your Imperial Majesty's most humble servant,
List of masters required at the academy
1. Master architect of civil engineering
2. Master of mechanics of all kinds of mills and locks
3. Master of all varieties of painting and drawing
4. Master of all varieties of sculpture
5. Master of all varieties of engraving
6. Master of iconography
7. Master of woodcutting and allied arts
8. Master of inking
9. Master engraver for special engraving work
10. Master of optical work
11. Master of fountains dealing with hydraulics
12. Master of turning and related work
13. Master of mathematical instruments
14. Master of medical instruments
15. Master of metalworkers' iron tools
16. Master of carpentry work, dealing with spires
17. Master of joinery work
18. Master of locksmiths' work
19. Master of printers' work
20. Master of forged-copper work
21. Master of cast-copper work
22. Master of tin work of all kinds
23. Master of small fittings of copper
24. Master of silversmiths' work of all kinds.
1. 24 masters
2. 240 pupils
3. 115 chambers
(Britkin, pg. 68-69)
Peter's response indicated his own thoughts on the requirements for the academy: “1. Painting and drawing. 2. Sculpture. 3. Woodcutting. 4. Inking. 5. General engraving. 6. Special engraving. 7. Joinery. 8. Turning. 9. Carpentry. 10. Civil architecture. 11. All kinds of mills. 12. Locks. 13. Fountains, etc. pertaining to hydraulics. 14. Optics. 15. Mathematical instruments. 16. Medical instruments. 17. Locksmithery. 19. Coppersmithery. 20. Watchmaking.” (Britkin, pg. 69)
· 25 January 1725. Peter dies and plans for the academy are scrapped.
· May 1725. Nartov starts work on Peter's triumphal column. It is never completed. Without Peter’s patronage, Nartov comes into increasing conflict with the “German School” at the academy of the arts.
· 1726-1734. He works at the mints. His accomplishments include fixing the scales, designing new machines for edge milling and copper rolling, and new presses. During this time he also created reports on Technical production and the organization of labour.
· 1729. Nartov creates a lathe with a mechanical slide rest driven off main feed shaft. This important innovation is often attributed to the Englishman Henry Maudslay who created a slide rest in 1794. He may have learned of the mechanical slide rest from the Encyclopédie, which fully described the slide rests of Jacques de Vaucanson. Another possibility is that he learned of the device from Samuel Bentham who spent a considerable amount of time in Russia during the 1780s where he worked on Potemkin’s estate. The difficulties in inspecting a battalion-sized work force led Samuel to conceptualize the Panopticon, a project later popularized by his brother Jeremy.
· 1732. The Academy of Arts is increasingly successful at training technicians. The Academy responded to the senate's request that individual students go to England for study: “the instrument, mechanical, and allied arts usually copied from England have been already sufficiently mastered by the Russians.” (Britkin pg. 79) This statement attests to either the relatively limited nature of English craftsmanship or to the rapidly advancing Russian capabilities… perhaps both. During his tenure at the Academy, Nartov becomes a friend and colleague of Lomonosov.
· 1733. He devises a means for raising the Czar-bell cast by Ivan Motorin. The bell weighed over 196,560 kg. His design is accepted over one designed by the committee originally tasked with the design. This accomplishment is impressive considering that the committee included Euler and Daniel Bernoulli, two of the godfathers of solid mechanics. Leitman was the third academy member.
· 1735-1742. Nartov returns to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences where he is in charge instrument and mechanical labs. He falls into disagreement with the German faction at the Academy, headed by Schumacher.
· 1736. All of the tsar's machines are brought back to working order. Forgotten machines are returned to St. Petersburg. Nartov's student—Mikhail Semenov—supervises the move and Nartov requests permission to compile a book “containing the description and the authentic mechanical explanation of all the mechanical and mathematical machines and instruments contained in the cabinet of Peter the Great.” (Brikin, pg. 80) This book may have been the origin of Nartov’s Theatrum Machinarum.
· 1738. Nartov invents a boring lathe for gun barrels.
· 1740-1756. He continues his work on ordnance. He submits a report on French methods of boring and introduces new methods for fixing blowholes and machining trunions. He also introduces screws for elevating cannons as replacements to the conventions quoin or wedge. His canon designs are used to great effect during the Seven Years War.
· 10 March 1741. He submits a memorandum to the Academy detailing the descriptions of “turning machines” created during the reign of Peter the Great. Only one manuscript copy of this work existed until it was rediscovered and printed in the 1950s by Soviet researchers.
· July 1742. Nartov travels to Moscow to complain about the German faction at the Academy. He talks to Empress Elizabeth and thereby brings down Schumacher. He become the Academy’s first advisor and is a very a zealous manager. He removes most of the Germans from the academy, including Bernoulli and Euler.
· 1742. He unites all the instrument and mechanical labs into one unit.
· End of 1743. Schumacher is reinstated to his position as head of the Academy of Arts. Nartov is dismissed and then later readmitted and made head of the office of mechanical and tool labs.
· 1747. Nartov is present at Kroughstadt canal. He may have been repairing the machines and lock mechanisms he designed over 25 years earlier.
· 1747. A fire destroys the Academy and all of Peter's lathes.
· April 16, 1756. Actual day of Nartov’s death.
Some of Nartov’s other inventions include:
1738. Machine for canon boring
1738-39. Perfected thread cutting lathe.
1739. Vodka dispenser
1739. Map printing press
1739. Fire fighting machine raising water to 23 feet 1738-1756. Worked in the artillery department. Instrumental in devices for milling trunions and boring canon barels.
Nartov had nine children. From his first marriage:
· Son. Stepan Andreevich Nartov, 1778-?. Artillery major, dies childless.
· Daughter. Anna Andreevna Nartov who married the assessor N.A. Sorokin.
· Daughter. Pelageya Andreevna Nartov.
From his second marriage to A. A Dolozova:
· Son. Andrei Andreevich Nartov 1737-1813. President of the Mining Academy, President of the Russian Academy, and President of the Free Economic Society. Godson to Peter I, who presented 300 rubles to the family, A considerable sum when a master turner’s salary was 144 rubles.
· Son. Yakov Andreevich, 2nd liet of artillery, married N.I. Zinoveva and died childless.