During his lifetime he was called “Russian Edison”, “the first engineer of the Russian Empire”. He became the author of the mass of the original structures, many outstanding technical inventions that are used throughout the world so far, was included in the list of the hundred most outstanding engineers of all times and peoples.
Born Russian engineering genius in the provincial town Grayvorone Kursk province 16 (28) August 1853 year. His mother was a poor noblewoman, his father - director of the branch of the St. Petersburg State Bank. Even in childhood, a boy showed up remarkable abilities. When his father was transferred to the service in the capital, then eleven-year-old Vladimir entered the Fifth Petersburg Gymnasium, where he graduated with a brilliant certificate. It immediately showed his talent and inclination to the exact sciences, especially - to mathematics.
He became famous for having proved the Pythagorean theorem at the age of eleven in a way that he invented himself. The surprised teacher praised him, but put a “two”, saying: “That's right, but immodest!”
After graduating from the gymnasium, Vladimir, on the advice of his father, entered Moscow’s Imperial Technical School, MITA, now known as Moscow State Technical University named after N.E. Bauman. I had to live in a dormitory on a barracks regime, I rarely saw my parents, the requirements at MITU were the most stringent, and the workload was enormous, but specialists were first class. The teachers were the same first-class: the creator of aerodynamics Zhukovsky, the famous mathematician Letnikov, an experienced mechanic Lebedev. As a student, Shukhov registered a remarkable invention - a steam nozzle. She was so simple and original that the great chemist Dmitri Mendeleev placed her drawing on the cover of his book Fundamentals of the Factory Industry. And Ludwig Nobel, the head of a huge oil concern and brother of the founder of the prestigious award, immediately acquired a patent from Vladimir for its production.
In 1876, Shukhov graduated from college with a gold medal, and academician Pafnuty Chebyshev immediately invited him to teach mathematics at St. Petersburg University, but was refused. Shukhov was more attracted not by theoretical science and not by the teaching department, but by invention, practical engineering activity. This decision was strengthened when, as the best student, he was sent from school to the World Exhibition in the USA.
There, in Philadelphia, he met Alexander Bari, a talented entrepreneur of Russian origin, who received a delegation from Russia. Seeing the rapid progress of technology in the United States and various technical innovations, Shukhov was determined to start inventing at home. Returning from America, he first joined the drawing office of the Warsaw-Vienna Railway in St. Petersburg. And then, on the advice of a family friend, the famous surgeon Nikolai Pirogov, he also signed up as a volunteer at the Military Medical Academy.
Bari, a US citizen, also came to Russia, realizing that it was there that rapid technological progress now begins. He invited Shukhov to work in his office for the post of chief designer and chief engineer. This union of the ingenious inventor and skillful entrepreneur with the American business acumen lasted for many years. Shukhov, of course, understood that Bari was exploiting his talent and earning millions on his inventions, but the money was not the main thing for him: he had the opportunity to freely implement his most daring technical ideas.
“They say that Bari exploited me,” Shukhov wrote later. - It's right. But I also exploited it, forcing me to fulfill my even boldest sentences. ”
Then the oil boom began in Russia, and Bari suggested that Vladimir Grigoryevich head his branch in Baku, where this industry was rapidly developing. He agreed, but the first impressions of the crafts from a visitor from the capital were terrible, they seemed to him a picture of “gloomy hell”. There was no equipment, oil was transported on donkeys, and stored in puddles - right on the ground. However, the young engineer did not give up, but became the author of many inventions. For the first time in the world, it burned liquid fuel with the help of a nozzle invented by it. He patented an industrial unit for the distillation of oil, for the first time involving cracking. Created original riveted and cheap oil storage tanks, pumps, gas holders, metal floors for workshops. He became the creator of the oil tanker fleet Russia - steel barges in which they began to transport oil, they were more reliable than foreign-made tankers. He supervised the construction of Russia's first oil pipeline from the Balakhani fields to the oil fields to Baku. The Shukhov Formula, which justifies the way oil is pumped through the pipeline, is still used today.
Curious that metal Tanks for storage of oil existed before Shukhov in the United States, but - made in the form of a cube, and expensive to build.
The Russian engineer was the first to propose cylindrical storage tanks of the original design, which were unusually cheap and were much stronger.
Know-how was that at the base, where the pressure was greatest, the thickness of the walls in the tanks was greater than at the top. So they make them today. In the film “White Sun of the Desert” in such a storage facility, Red Army soldier Sukhov hid the wives of the bandit Abdullah.
But the main and most ingenious invention of the Russian engineer in the “oil industry” was the cracking process, with which the distillation of oil could produce not only kerosene, but also gasoline, engine oil, diesel, fuel oil, asphalt and a lot of other valuable products. He patented cracking back in 1891. Vladimir Shukhov became the author of many other technical innovations. Literally all the major construction projects of the first Soviet five-year plans — Kuzbass, Magnitka, Chelyabinsk Tractor Works — are associated with his name.
But truly world-wide fame brought engineer construction of steel towers of the original design. In total, they were built about two hundred. The most famous was the Shabolov Radio Tower in Moscow. He received an order for it from the Council of People's Commissars in 1919. The Bolsheviks needed a shout with which they could convey their ideas to the world proletariat. Shukhov’s project envisaged an unprecedented construction in the world of 350 meters in height, which was taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris - 305 meters, but at the same time it would be three times lighter. However, in the country ravaged by the Bolsheviks there was an acute lack of metal, and therefore the authorities "cut down" the height to 152 meters. The tower was erected with the help of the unique “telescopic mounting” method invented by Shukhov. For a long time, this openwork tower, striking the imagination of its contemporaries, was the tallest building in Russia.
But Shukhov designed not only towers. Under his leadership, more than 400 was built - four hundred! - bridges, including through the Volga, Oka and Yenisei.
According to his project, the first revolving stage in the world of the Moscow Art Theater was built, the imaginary openwork metal vaults of the Moscow GUM, Main Post Office, Petrovsky Passage, the Museum of Fine Arts and many other original structures were designed. Such hanging coatings with spans covered with unique metal mesh shells were used by him for the first time in the world during the construction of Russian pavilions at the All-Russian Nizhny Novgorod exhibition in 1896. These designs Shukhov ahead of time, at least for 50 years, the famous hanging roof elevator in American Albany appeared only in 1932 year ...
The very idea of such mesh structures and imaginary hyperboloid towers came to mind a Russian engineer at the sight of an upside down simple willow basket of twigs.
“What looks beautiful then is firmly,” he said, always believing that all technical innovations are born under close observation of life and nature.
In 1999, the famous English architect Norman Foster received the title of honorary peer and lord for the reticular overlap of the courtyard of the British Museum. But he always openly admitted that he was inspired in his work by Shukhov's ideas. In 2003, a gilded model of the Shukhov tower was installed at the exhibition “The Best Structures and Structures in the Architecture of the Twentieth Century” in Munich.
The architectural ideas of Shukhov were a real breakthrough and later influenced the development of world architecture, were picked up by such world-famous architects as Le Corbusier, Gaudi and Niemeyer. All of them widely used his hyperboloid constructions in his work. And Shukhov's retina shells are used in practice by current celebrities of architecture. It is no coincidence that the tower on Shabolovka is recognized by international experts as one of the highest achievements of world engineering art. An international scientific conference held in 2006 in Moscow with the participation of architects from 30 countries of the world named the tower among the seven architectural masterpieces of the Russian avant-garde.
They still remember the Russian engineer in Samarkand, where in 1932, he spent “straightening” the famous “Ulugbek tower” - the minaret of the madrasah, built in 1417-1420 and sagging after a strong earthquake. The operation was successful, although foreign experts unanimously predicted that the minaret, deviating from the axis by the 1,5 meter, would surely collapse. Who knows, if the Italians had invited Shukhov at that time, they would have no problems with the “leaning” Tower of Pisa ...
But Shukhov, whom many of the diversity of talents considered not only Edison, but also "Russian Leonardo", was fond of not only technology.
He was an avid sportsman, participated in cycling, skating and skiing, played chess, loved to read poetry, designed furniture, was an excellent photographer: “I am an engineer by profession, but a photographer in my heart,” he said. Among his friends were not only people of technology and science, but writers, actors, artists. His colleagues wrote in the address written for him on his birthday: “You have always been an accessible and sympathetic for us not only the boss, but also a comrade. And a teacher. Everyone could safely carry their grief to you and their joys in the confidence that everyone will find a lively response from you ... ”
The engineer's first love was the famous actress of the Moscow Art Theater Olga Knipper, who later became the wife of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. Then he met the 18-year-old green-eyed beauty Anna Mezentseva. At first, Shukhov's mother did not agree to the marriage, but then she gave up. They lived together a long life, Anna brought him two daughters and three sons.
Alas, the heyday of the great engineer’s technical creativity came to Russia in terrible years. In 1917, he did not leave the Motherland, although his sons fought in the White Army, and at one time he collaborated with Kolchak. Engineers in the USSR were in short supply, and they did not touch him for the time being. But when one of the sections collapsed during the construction of the Shabolovskaya Tower, the KGB officers were here, as here.
The verdict was soon - “conditional execution for sabotage”: they didn’t find a replacement for Shukhov at a unique construction site, and therefore offered to continue work, postponing for the time being the execution of the sentence. And in such terrible conditions Shukhov was able to continue and successfully complete the unparalleled construction. Then it turned out that the cause of the collapse was the "fatigue" of the defective metal. And the sword of Damocles, hanging over the head of a genius, was removed. Moreover, the whole of Moscow came to admire its unique tower.
But Shukhov was calm, in his diary he wrote: “We must work regardless of policy. Towers, boilers, rafters are needed, and we will be needed. " Although, who knows what really happened in his soul?
Unfair accusations, fear for children, the death of his wife, and forced retirement from the service all the same undermined his health. He was evicted from his home on Smolensky Boulevard, and he was forced to move to his office with his family. The last years of his life a great engineer spent in solitude. But Vladimir Grigorievich always remained a Russian patriot. He received a lot of the most flattering job offers abroad, but he rejected all of them. And all rights to inventions and fees transferred to the state.
The end of the life of an engineering genius was tragic. Relatives recalled that many years before his mother had a terrible visionary dream: she saw her son, enveloped in a fire in the family crypt. But then it happened in real life ... As usual in the morning, 29 January 1939, Shukhov shaved and sprinkled a lot with strong cologne. At the same time he turned awkwardly, and a cologne-soaked shirt flashed on him from an accidentally knocked-over candle on it. The engineer received severe burns, the attempts of doctors to save his life were not crowned with success. He died on February 2 of the year 1939 and was buried in the Novodevichy cemetery.
... Vladimir Grigorievich called himself a "man of life."