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Vladimir Grigorievich Shukhov

Vladimir Grigoryevich Shukhov ( ), ( - February 2 1939) was a Russianmarker engineer-polymath, scientist and architect renowned for his pioneering works on new methods of analysis for structural engineering that led to breakthroughs in industrial design of world's first hyperboloid structures , lattice shell structures, tensile structures, gridshell structures, oil reservoirs, pipelines, boilers, ships and barges.

Besides the innovations he brought to the oil industry and the construction of numerous bridges and buildings, Shukhov was the inventor of a new family of doubly-curved structural forms. These forms, based on non-Euclidean hyperbolic geometry, are known today as hyperboloids of revolution. Shukhov developed not only many varieties of light-weight hyperboloid towers and roof systems, but also the mathematics for their analysis. Shukhov is particularly reputed for his original designs of hyperboloid towers such as the Shukhov Towermarker.


Vladimir Shukhov was born in a town of Graivoronmarker, Belgorodmarker uezd, Kurskmarker gubernia (in present-day Belgorod Oblast) into a petty noble family. His father Grigory Ivanovich Shukhov was a minor government official, promoted for his efforts in the Crimean War. For a while Grigory served as Mayor of Graivoron and later as an administrator in Warsawmarker.

In 1864 Vladimir entered Saint Petersburgmarker gymnasium from which he graduated with distinction in 1871. During his high school years he showed mathematical talents, once demonstrating to his classmates and teacher an original proof of the Pythagorean theorem. The teacher praised his skills but he failed the grade for violating the textbook's guidelines.

After graduating from the gymnasium, Shukhov entered the Imperial Moscow Technical Schoolmarker, in which his teachers included Pafnuty Chebyshev, Aleksey Letnikov, and Nikolay Zhukovsky. In 1876 Shukhov graduated from the school with distinction and a Gold Medal. Chebyshev proposed him a job as a lecturer in mathematics at the Imperial Moscow Technical School, but Shukhov decided to seek a job in the industry instead.

Thereupon Shukhov went to Philadelphiamarker, to work on the Russian pavilion at the World's Fair and to study the inner workings of the American industry. During his stay in the US Shukhov came to know a Russian-American entrepreneur, Alexander Veniaminovich Bari (Александр Вениаминович Бари) who also worked on the organization of the Fair.

In 1877 Shukhov returned to Russia and joined the drafting office of the Warsaw-Viennamarker railroad. Within several months, Shukhov's frustration with standard and routine engineering made him abandon the office and join a military-medical academy.

On his coming to Russia in 1877, Bari persuaded Shukhov to give up his medical education and to assume the office of Chief Engineer in a new company specializing in innovative engineering. Shukhov worked with Bari at this company until the October Revolution. Their works revolutionized many areas of civil engineering, ship engineering, and oil industry. The thermal cracking method, the Shukhov cracking process, was patented by Vladimir Shukhov in 1891.

Shukhov always found time for a passionate hobby - photography. The Photographic works of Shukhov opened new trends ahead of their flourishing of Fine art photography. He made photos in various genres: reporting, city landscape, portrait, constructivism. About two thousand photos and negatives made by Shukhov have survived until this day.

After the October Revolution Shukhov decided to stay in the Soviet Unionmarker despite having received alluring job offers from around the world. Many signal Soviet engineering projects of the 1920s were associated with his name. In 1919 he framed his slogan: We should work independently from politics. The buildings, boilers, beams would be needed and so would we. In the later 1930s during the Great Purge he retired from engineering work but was not arrested or persecuted.

Shukov died on February 2 1939 in Moscow and was buried at the Novodevichy Cemeterymarker. His many honours included the Lenin Prize (1929) and the title of Hero of Labour (1928).


Vladimir Shukhov is often referred as the Russian Edison for the sheer quantity and quality of his pioneering works. He was one of the first to develop practical calculations of stress and deformation of beams, shells and membranes on elastic foundation. These theoretical results allowed him to design the first Russian oil tanker, new types of oil tanker barges, and a new type of oil reservoirs. The same principle of the shell on an elastic foundation allowed to theoretically calculate the optimal diameter, wall thickness and fluid speed for the fluid pipelines. Shukhov's projects were instrumental in constructing:

  • A superior design for water-mains. Shukhov designed (and Bari built) complete water-supply systems for the cities of Tambovmarker, Kharkovmarker, Voronezhmarker and many others. In that age of infectious diseases his water-supply systems literally saved thousands of lives.
  • A superior design for oil-tanker barges (less than half of the metal previously required), 84 150-meters long barges were built (mostly for the Volga river) as well as the first Russian sea-worthy oil tanker ship. His approach to the ship strength analysis (using the model of a shell on an elastic foundation) was absolutely novel for that time.
  • Shukhov-designed inexpensive oil tanks with the bottom calculated as a membrane on elastic foundation. They became very popular among oil-producers of the Imperial Russia. By 1881, 130 such tanks were built in Bakumarker alone.

Shukhov made important contributions to the chemical industry:

  • He designed an original oil pump. Shukhov's pumps revolutionized Baku's oil industry allowing to increase its oil output.
  • He designed one of the first furnaces that used the residual oil: before his works the residual oil was considered a waste and was discarded, due to his works it became recognized as an important technical product known as a fuel oil.

Shukhov also left a lasting legacy to the Constructivist architecture of early Soviet Russia. As a leading specialist of metallic structures (hyperboloid structures, thin-shell structures, tensile structures), he may be compared with Gustave Eiffel. Shukhov's innovative and exquisite constructions still grace many towns across the former Russian Empiremarker:

  • Eight thin-shell structures exhibition pavilions for the All-Russia Exhibition in Nizhny Novgorodmarker of 1896, covering the area of 27,000 m², and featuring an unorthodox water-tower that served as a model for more than 30 similar structures built in Imperial Russia, and thousands around the world now.

See also

Major works


Shukhov and his tower as they appear on a 1963 Soviet postage stamp commemorating the 110th anniversary of his birth

  • Die sparsame Konstruktion
  • Rainer Graefe, Jos Tomlow: “Vladimir G. Suchov 1853-1939. Die Kunst der sparsamen Konstruktion.”, 192 S., Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart, 1990, ISBN 3-421-02984-9.
  • Jesberg, Paulgerd: "Die Geschichte der Bauingenieurkunst", Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart (Germany) , ISBN 3-421-03078-2, 1996; pp. 198-9.
  • Ricken, Herbert: "Der Bauingenieur", Verlag für Bauwesen, Berlin (Germany) , ISBN 3-345-00266-3, 1994; pp. 230.
  • Suchov und Gaudi

  • Picon, Antoine (dir.): "L'art de l'ingenieur : constructeur, entrepreneur, inventeur", Éditions du Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1997, ISBN 2-85850-911-5

  • Шухов В. Г.: Избранные труды, том 1, «Строительная механика», 192 стр., под ред. А. Ю. Ишлинского, Академия наук СССР, Москва, 1977.
  • Шухов В. Г.: Избранные труды, том 2, «Гидротехника», 222 стр., под ред. А. Е. Шейндлина, Академия наук СССР, Москва, 1981.
  • Шухов В. Г.: Избранные труды, том 3, «Нефтепереработка. Теплотехника», 102 стр., под ред. А. Е. Шейндлина, Академия наук СССР, Москва, 1982.
  • Грефе Р. и др.: «В. Г. Шухов (1853—1939). Искусство конструкции.», «Мир», Москва, 1994, ISBN 5-03-002917-6.
  • Шухова Е. М.: «Владимир Григорьевич Шухов. Первый инженер России.», 368 стр., Изд. МГТУ, Москва, 2003, ISBN 5-7038-2295-5.
  • "В.Г.Шухов - выдающийся инженер и ученый", Труды Объединенной научной сессии Академии наук СССР, посвященной научному и инженерному творчеству почетного академика В.Г.Шухова. М.: Наука, 1984, 96 с.
  • Петропавловская И.А.: "Владимир Григорьевич Шухов, 1853-1939", Москва, "Наука", 2004, ISBN 5-02-033173-2.
  • Российский государственный архив научно-технической документации (РГАНТД): "Документальное наследие выдающегося российского инженера В.Г. Шухова в архивах" (межархивный справочник), ред. Шапошников А.С., Медведева Г.А.; 181 стр., издание РГАНТД, Москва, 2008.

Photos of Works

Image:Worlds First Hyperboloid in Polibino photo by Arssenev.jpg|The world's first hyperboloid structure by Vladimir Shukhov, Polibinomarker, Lipetsk Oblast, 2009Image:Rotunda and rectangular pavilion by Vladimir Shukhov in Nizhny Novgorod 1896.jpg|Rotunda and rectangular pavilion, Nizhny Novgorod, 1896Image:Moskau GUM.jpg|Upper Trading Rows marker in MoscowmarkerImage:Shukhov Hyperboloid Tower Project of 350 metres of 1919 year.jpg|Shukhov Towermarker Project of 350 metres, 1919Image:Worlds First Hyperboloid structure photo by Sergei Arssenev.jpg|Lattice hyperboloid structure of the World's First Shukhov TowermarkerImage:Gmii.jpg|Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, MoscowImage:Shukhov Oka Towers 1988 photo by Igor Kazus.jpg|Shukhov towers on the Oka River, 1988Image:Shukhov Oka Towers photo by Igor Kazus.jpg|Shukhov towers on the Oka River in the suburb of Nizhniy Novgorod, 1988

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