A Russian Childhood by Sofya Kovalevskaya (auth.)

By Sofya Kovalevskaya (auth.)

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3. His later work laid the foundation for the study of evolutionary paleontology in Russia. His brother, Alexander Onufrievich Kovalevsky (1840-190 1) was a distinguished biologist and a pioneer in the study of comparative embryology. 4. Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov, 1829-1905. Eminent physiologist, . professor at the University of Petersburg. 5. N. G. Chemyshevsky, Chto defat'? (1864). Maria Bokova-Sechenova is generally regarded as the model for the character Vera Pavlovna, Bokov for Lopukhov, Sechenov for Sasha Kirsanov.

11 Nor was Vladimir successful in obtaining the hoped-for university professorship, despite his brilliant European degree. Through a group of wealthy acquantances the Kovalevskys kept hearing stories of fabulous profits to be made in buying and selling houses. They began to construct a fantasy of getting rich quickly so that they could use their accumulated means to work independently in science at some future date. Using the inheritance that had come to Sofya on the death of her father, Vladimir entered the construction business.

The child's hunger for love was by now so desperate that she was ready to barter her freedom and the integrity of her own feelings to keep it. The episode is a remarkable insight into the ways in which child personality can be distorted when denied satisfaction of primary needs. It is interesting that the book contains no mention of Kovalevskaya' s mathematical gifts, although these broke forcibly upon the family's attention when she was twelve or thirteen years old. What is treated is the genesis of her attraction to the philosophical aspect of mathematics, developed, as she describes it, through a loving relationship with an adored, eccentric uncle under whose influence she began to look on abstract thought in general, and mathematics in particular, as a kind of enchanted kingdom which might be entered if the formulas for admission could only be deciphered.

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