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 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Born:   September 17, 1857
Deceased:   September 19, 1935

Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky, father of Russia space industry, lived an interesting life, opening new horizons to the mank


Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky is born on September 17, 1857 in Izhevskoye village near the city of Ryazan in the family of middle-class Polish nobleman Eduard Tsiolkovsky and Russian Maria Umasheva. His mother, being a well-educated woman, teaches him to read and to write, as well as to count. At the age of 9, little Kostya catches scarlet fever, which gives complications, resulting in hearing loss. Deafness brings sorrow to Tsiolkovsky’s childhood, preventing him from playing and having fun with other children.

In 1869 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky enters a grammar school, but isn’t a successful pupil there, because it’s hard for a nearly deaf boy to study many new subjects. His mother dies in 1870, and grieving boy loses interest in studies, being dismissed from the school the following year. This is the time, when Konstantin Tsiolkovsky finds consolation in self-education he reads books and builds various devices, astrolabe and locomotives among them. His father notices son’s talents and decides to send him to the capital, where Konstantin finds a flat and learns hard, living from hand to mouth. During his first year in Moscow, Tsiolkovsky studies physics and elements of mathematics, and the second year brings young genius differential and integral calculi, higher algebra, analytic and spherical geometry.


However, life in the capital is too expensive, so Tsiolkovsky, who fails to earn money himself, returns to Vyatka and starts private tutoring, continuing his education in the city public library. In 1880 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky passes necessary tests and becomes a teacher, where marries Varvara Sokolova. The family rents a house, where Tsiolkovsky continues his physical experiments. Being far away from Russia’s science centres, deaf researcher starts his studies in his field of interest – aerodynamics. He starts with elaborating basis of the kinetic theory of gases and sends his calculations to Russian Physical and Chemical Society to Saint Petersburg; however, Dmitry Mendeleev in his letter tells him that this theory was discovered 25 ears ago. Tsiolkovsky humbles with this strike and continues studies, while Saint Petersburg’s scientists become interested in talented teacher from Vyatka and invite him to Saint Petersburg.

In 1892 Tsiolkovsky moves to Kaluga, where he builds a special tunnel for measuring various aerodynamic properties of aircrafts, using his family savings for this, since Physical and Chemical Society doesn’t offer him a research fellowship. Tsiolkovsky builds about 100 models and tests them. After some time, the Society pays attention to the genial works and grants Tsiolkovsky a fellowship, which he uses to build a new, improved tunnel. During his aerodynamic experiments, Tsiolkovsky starts paying more and more attention to problems of space. In 1895 his book “Grezy o Zemle i Nebe (Dreams of Earth and Sky)” comes off the press, and in 1896 he starts writing his main work “Research into Interplanetary Space by Means of Rocket Power”, discussing issues of rockets in space – navigation systems, fuel supply and delivery and others.

First 15 years of XX century are ordeals of scientist’s life – his son Ignatiy commits suicide in 1902; and in 1908 the Oka River floods his house, spoiling many mechanisms. The Physical and Chemical Society doesn’t appreciate his revolutionary ideas and models. However, when communists gain the power, Tsiolkovsky’s life changes radically. He is granted a merit pension and offered an opportunity to continue his experiments, which Soviet government finds extremely interesting.

Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky dies in Kaluga on September 19, 1935.

Scientific achievements.


Main works of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky deal with four major problems: scientific basis for full-metal balloon (airship), streamlined airplane, air-cushion train and for interplanetary rocket. After meeting Nikolay Zhukovsky (father of aerodynamics), Tsiolkovsky turns to guided flight mechanics, which results in design of a guided balloon (word “airship” wasn’t invented at the moment). Tsiolkovsky is the first to suggest an idea of a full-metal balloon and builds its working model, after that the scientist creates a device for automated flight control and regulating circuit of its lift. Tsiolkovsky publishes his results in his work “Guided Metal Balloon” of 1892; however, state authorities refuse to support the researcher. In the same year the scientist gets involved into building aircraft, heavier than air, and anticipates planes, which would appear 15-18 years later. Tsiolkovsky builds first wind tunnel in Russia, develops experimental methods for it and tests models there. Tsiolkovsky derives a formula, showing relation between rocket’s velocity at any moment, fuel’s specific impulse and rocket’s mass in initial and end time, which is known as basic equation for rocket propulsion. In 1903 he publishes the book “Research into Interplanetary Space by Means of Rocket Power”, where proves that rocket is the only vehicle, which is able to fly to space, and lists basic elements of rocket theory and liquid-propellant engine. Tsiolkovsky suggests an idea of onboard navigation system, using Sun and other celestial objects; he analyzes rocket behaviour under zero gravity and solves the problem of spaceship’s landing to planets, lacking atmosphere. Konstantin Eduardovich founds the theory of interplanetary navigation, showing possibility of reaching orbital velocities and interplanetary flights. He studies problems of Earth’s artificial satellites and medical and biological issues of long-term space flights. Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky suggests heaps of ideas, which are later used in rocket production. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky passionately supports the theory of diversity of life forms in the Universe. He also writes science fiction.


Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian science Russian scientists space exploration   

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