He was first to sense gas in Uzbek land
01.11.2008 09:14

The 120th anniversary since the birth of outstanding scientist Alexander Uklonsky

Few people remember today that it was Alexander Uklonsky, an outstanding Russian scientist, who was in love with Asia and devoted his life and work to Uzbekistan, who first “sensed” the country’s oil and gas riches and gave a scientific justification to their presence. Working on paragenesis of sulfur and oil, the 40-year-old professor came up with the hypothesis about the presence of hydrocarbons under the loess soils of Asian deserts in 1928. It was he who pointed to Gazli as a place that held natural gas.

…In 1920, a special train arrived in Tashkent, with books and  scientific instruments as cargo and humanitarian missionaries and teachers, mainly from Moscow and St Petersburg, as passengers. At the time, the Turkmen State University was being founded in compliance with Vladimir Lenin’s decree.

Among the passengers on the “train of knowledge” was 32-year-old geology professor Alexander Uklonsky. He was born on November 5, 1888, in Gomel, to a priest’s family. It is unknown what made his father leave his native land to go to Asia, to the distant outskirts of the Russian empire. After the difficult at the time journey from the West to the East, the Uklonsky family arrived in Tashkent in spring 1901. Alexander, then 13, entered the First men’s lyceum, from which he graduated with honors. The young man went to continue his education at the Moscow University. He studied geology at the natural sciences department and was patronized by professor Vladimir Vernadsky, the outstanding Russian scientist.

Uklonsky was lucky to work under the guidance of another guru, academician Andrei Arkhangelsky. The young researcher studied the Asian soil, loess. His first research paper was titled “On petrography of the Chimgan area” and was based on information he had collected during his summer holiday in Tashkent. Having graduated with honors, Uklonsky was offered to stay at the university.

World War I took the young scientist to Nizhni Novgorod, where he headed the department of mineralogy and crystallography of the Nizhni Novgorod university till 1920. Having learned that a university was being set up in Tashkent and the “train of knowledge” was to leave for the city, Uklonsky volunteered as the humanitarian mission’s participant. So he returned to the place where he had spent his youth.

At the new university, he became professor of the mineralogy department and later headed a related department at the Tashkent Polytechnic Institute. Over the fifty years of his work, the talented scientist taught hundreds of specialists in mineralogy and geochemistry of metallic and non-metallic minerals.

Student of the prominent naturalist Vernadsky, Uklonsky developed mineralogy and geochemistry in Central Asia. His departments researched mineralogy, geochemistry and crystallography. The area of geological survey and research kept growing. Gradually, the university’s geology department set up the necessary structures: the geological committee, the geological survey committee of the Polytechnic Institute, the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, etc.

Uklonsky actively organized geological expeditions and prospective works at deposits of calcium fluoride (Aurakhmat), marble (Gazgan), sulfur (Shorsu), etc. In 1928, at the 3rd All-Soviet congress of geologists, he delivered a report on paragenesis of sulfur and oil. He published a manuscript on the subject in 1940. A harmonious research of natural interconnections between oil and sulfur became one of the crucial preconditions for searching for oil fields by the presence of sulfur and vice versa. This discovery is still broadly used by oil workers all over the world.

During World War II, Uklonsky worked hard to find raw commodities for plants that had been evacuated to Central Asia. In 1943, when the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan was set up, he became one of its first members.

Uklonsky published a total of 170 scientific works that became an important contribution to Soviet geology. They included two big studies (“Mineralogy” and “Paragenesis of Sulfur and Oil”) that covered numerous problems of hydrogeology, hydrochemistry, mineralogy, geochemistry, crystallography, etc. Years before the Great Patriotic war turned out the most productive for the scientist, and he came up with summaries on many important problems of mineralogy and geochemistry. In his geochemical analysis of Uzbekistan, he singled out the most important geochemical areas: Nizhneamudaryinsky, Kenimekhsko-Nuratinsky, Shirabad-Kugitansky, Karatyube-Malguzarsky, of the Fergana Valley, Karamazarsky and Chirchiksky.

The scientist was always interested in new methods of research and in instruments that allowed detecting unusual qualities of minerals. He created the method of mineral metachromatism, which allowed diagnosing a majority of color minerals with the help of infrared rays. He invented the diploscope, a device for detecting monocrystals, and mercury volumometers (a primitive device for determining the volume of mineral flakes), etc.

Uklonsky went down in the history of science as Central Asia’s biggest geochemist and mineralogist. The climax of his research was the theory of paragenesis of sulfur and oil, a fundamental scientific discovery of the 20th century.

The works of the academician and his students covered in detail over 400 minerals and discovered new ones. One of them was named after the researcher, uklonskovit.