The Cycle of Life:
An History of Experimental Ecology

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Lloyd Ackert, From the Thermodynamics of Life to Ecological Microbiology: Sergei Vinogradskii and the 'Cycle of Life', 1850-1950 (Ph.D. Thesis, Johns Hopkins University, 2004)

From Law to Music

In my Ph.D. Thesis, I discuss present a biography of the Russian micro-biologist Sergei Vinogradskii (Winogradsky) to show how the holistic concept of a "cycle of life" moves from 19th century plant physiology and organic chemistry into 20the century ecology. Vinogradskii came to science only after trying two other careers. He first followed "the beaten path," and joined his brother at the juridical department. Unlike his brother, who "immediately felt a lively interest in encyclopedic or governmental law," Vinogradskii experienced "a deadly boredom" from his very first law lecture. Ignoring his family's protests, he applied to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he studied with Theodor Leschetizky whose "modern" methods of piano instruction were attracting students from around the world. For Vinogradskii "everything else paled, and lost its fragrance;" his new goal in life became "making himself into a musical artist - a virtuoso." For the first time in his life he felt in control and independent; "no one held him back ... no one subjected him to criticism."

"From Music to Science"

This new, exciting life in music, he would soon learn, had its tedious side. He attended lectures and took his exams, but without any "vital spirit." The initial pleasure of his decision, like everything else, soon waned. Self-criticism shadowed him during his "very ordinary beginning" in musical work. Increasingly, though, Leschetizky's dynamic personality and the novelty of his methods reinvigorated Vinogradskii's genuine interest in the piano. Not even the masterful Leschetizky could mold a genius from Vinogradskii's mundane clay. During annual evaluations the Conservatory recognized that although Vinogradskii had talent, "it was the talent of a Salieri, a long way from that of a Mozart."
Vinogradskii worked zealously, he later recalled, but "without that fire of the unconscious or subconscious inspiration that characterizes genuine artistic natures." The decision to leave the Conservatory, whether forced by its "authorities" or initiated himself, was for Vinogradskii the only possible recourse. In the fall, he matriculated at St. Petersburg University.

One Large Case in 4 Parts

A. Sergei Vinogradskii (1856-1953)
B. Theodor Leshitizky (1930-1915
  Malwine Brée, The Groundwork of the Leschetizky Method (1969)
  Burkhard Muth, Theodor Leschetizky (2003)
  Comtesse Angèle Potocka, Theodore Leschetizky (1903)
  The Thomas de Hartmann Papers
C. Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
  Lorraine Byrne, Schubert's Goethe Setting (2003)
D. Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300-1377)
  David Hahn, "Numerical Composition" (1993)
  Elizabeth Leach, Machaut's Music (2003)
Lloyd Ackert
Whitney Humanities Center
Yale University
53 Wall Street
P.O. Box 208298
New Haven, CT 06520
Office: (203).432.3112

The Music library is located in the Sterling Memorial Library to the right of the circulation desk:

Music Library
Yale University Library
120 High Street
PO Box 208240
New Haven, CT 06520-8240 USA
Phone: (203) 432-0492 FAX: (203) 432-7339