AD is launching a new category “Urban Legends”, in which it will look into museums-apartments of famous people, show authentic interiors and tell interesting stories. The memorial apartment of Timiryazev opens a series of publications, where you can learn a lot not only about the life of the great scientist, but also about the life of the Russian intelligentsia of the late XIX — early XX century.

Nathalie Gertz

Kliment Arkadyevich Timiryazev moved to an apartment house in Sheremetyevo (nowadays — Romanov) Lane in 1899. Before that, he had lived in the neighborhood for twelve years, but he changed his place of residence because the years were taking their toll: the former apartment was on the third floor, but his heart began to ache, and it became increasingly difficult to climb, so he moved to the first. The rent for housing, rented out together with a trusted servant, was one thousand rubles a year — quite a significant amount at that time. But the scientist was also a fairly wealthy man — at the best of times he received three thousand rubles in salary at the Imperial Moscow University and the Petrovsky Agricultural and Forestry Academy, which now bears his name, and another thousand in fees from the publication of popular scientific articles.

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

A fragment of the desktop in the office of Kliment Arkadyevich. 

Photo: Natalie Hertz

However, there are no signs of luxury in the apartment. The most elegant are carved cabinets in the Russian style from Abramtsevo workshops, and the most expensive are two chairs made of straw, covered with gilding, ordered in the UK for playing the piano. The bedrooms look almost Spartan, and the living room is remarkable not so much for things as for the circle of people who visited it – Timiryazev was friends with Polenov, Isaac Levitan, Gorky, Mendeleev and many other famous contemporaries.

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

Family photos, pillboxes and working tools on Timiryazev’s desk.

One of the walls is completely covered with phototypes of works from the Dresden Gallery, bought during a trip to Germany (then it was a new, advanced technology). On the wall opposite there are British landscapes; the scientist’s mother was of English blood, so he spoke English as his native language and in his youth earned money by translating notes from the rubric “Incidents” in the Times and sold them to St. Petersburg newspapers. Thanks to this, from the age of fifteen, Timiryazev thoroughly helped his family — he came from a noble, but poor family.

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

The office of Timiryazev Jr., which has now been converted into an exhibition telling about the history of Darwinism, but has also retained part of the original furnishings.

Photo: Natalie Hertz

Having already become a well-known scientist, Kliment Arkadyevich helped the needy a lot, in particular, he organized charity evenings in their favor — a circumstance that greatly helped the museum already in our days, during the construction of the Romanov Dvor business center. The old apartment house that turned out to be on its territory was subject to demolition with all its guts, including the former apartment of the scientist. But when the owners of the site, entrepreneurs with Armenian roots, found out that there were Armenian refugees among Kliment Arkadyevich’s wards, they decided to preserve the museum. The old house was dismantled brick by brick, without touching the memorial apartment, and then a new building was built around it.

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

A fragment of the living room. In the foreground is the table of the wife of the scientist Alexandra Alekseevna Gottwald. In the back is my son’s office. 

Photo: Natalie Hertz

The apartment received the museum status in stages. We started with an office, the furniture of which has been preserved, exactly as during the life of the owner. Timiryazev worked unusually, sitting with his back to the doors, facing the bookshelves. The scientist’s library numbered six thousand volumes; he bought rare books from antiquaries, collected miniature editions, and when in 1911 he bought the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, he specially ordered a bookcase for it — it still stands in the corner of a room overflowing with things.

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

The bedroom of Kliment Arkadyevich and Alexandra Alekseevna.

Photo: Natalie Hertz

The entire apartment became a museum only in 1955, after Timiryazev’s son, Arkady Klimentievich, passed away. The personal life of the scientist was dramatic, even though the series was filmed. He fell in love with his colleague’s wife, Alexandra Gottwald, and since her husband did not give her a divorce, they lived in a civil marriage until his death, for more than thirty years — at that time it was called “in sin”. In order to legitimize their son, the lovers had to go on an adventure: for the first eight years of his life Arkady Klimentyevich was listed as a foundling, and only in 1888 Timiryazev Sr. received the highest permission to adopt a boy.

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

A fragment of the bedroom: a washbasin and a wheelchair, which Timiryazev used in the last years of his life. 

Photo: Natalie Hertz

This story alone is enough to suspect that the great Russian scientist was a passionate, purposeful person and, moreover, a supporter of progressive views. In his youth, he became interested in the ideas of social justice — in 1861 he was expelled from the university for participating in student unrest, and in 1867 he read the newly published Capital in the original Marx. Timiryazev accepted the revolution with enthusiasm and even became a deputy of the Moscow City Council at the insistence of Maxim Gorky. He was also the first to popularize the theory of natural selection in Russia — his son’s former office has now been converted into an exhibition telling about the history of Darwinism in Russia. Among the exhibits is a photograph of Darwin, personally presented by him to Kliment Arkadyevich during a meeting at Darwin’s estate Down House near London. In the correspondence, the British scientist described his guest as “a good guy from Russia.” Darwin’s theory was often the subject of disputes between Timiryazev and Tolstoy – Lev Nikolaevich advocated non-resistance to evil by violence, so the theory of evolution with its struggle for survival was unsympathetic to him.

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

Interior details of the bedroom of Timiryazev and Gottwald.

Photo: Natalie Hertz

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

Interior details of the bedroom of Timiryazev and Gottwald.

Photo: Natalie Hertz

Timiryazev’s own scientific activity was devoted to the study of photosynthesis: he described the role of solar energy in plant life, proved that the law of conservation of energy applies to wildlife and was the first to begin experiments with growing plants in artificial soils. But despite his contribution to world science, he did not become a Russian academician. As, by the way, his teacher Mendeleev — they say both paid for a difficult character. But Kliment Arkadyevich had membership of the Royal Society of London for the Development of Knowledge about Nature – before the Nobel Prize, this was the highest recognition of merit in the scientific world.

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

Photo: Natalie Hertz

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

Photo: Natalie Hertz

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

Photo: Natalie Hertz

Timiryazev’s interests were not limited to science and politics: he played the piano perfectly and was engaged in photography — cameras and pictures are stored in the room of his son, who shares his father’s passion. One of the photographs in which Kliment Arkadyevich managed to capture the play of the sun on the water was especially appreciated by Levitan.

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

A desk in the bedroom of Timiryazev Jr. Like his father, he was fond of photography — some of their pictures are hung on the walls of the apartment.

Photo: Natalie Hertz

The apartment of the scientist leaves a complete feeling that its owner lived a life that can only be envied – interesting, versatile, rich in feelings and emotions. And his life was organized in such a way that you can take an example in a hundred years: nothing superfluous, only things that are really needed — for business and for the soul.

Городские легенды: мемориальная квартира Тимирязева

Photo: Natalie Hertz

Original content from the site

Written by