- Yekaterina Romanovna Vorontsova-Dashkova
name =Yekaterina Romanovna Vorontsova-Dashkova
caption =Portrait of Princess Dashkova by
birth_date =birth date|1743|3|17|mf=y
death_date =death date|1810|1|4|mf=y
occupation =President of the Russian Academy of Sciences
spouse =Prince Mikhail Dashkov
Princess Yekaterina Romanovna Vorontsova-Dashkova ( _ru. Екатери́на Рома́новна Воронцо́ва-Да́шкова) (
March 17, 1743– January 4, 1810, though her memoirs list her birth date as 1744, they are footnoted as a "slip of the pen") was the closest female friend of Empress Catherine the Great and a major figure of the Russian Enlightenment. The "Memoirs of the Princess Daschkaw, written by herself" were published in 1840 in Londonin two volumes.
Early life and coup d'état
Born Countess Catherine Vorontsova, she was the third daughter of Count
Roman Vorontsov, a member of the Senate, distinguished for her intellectual gifts. Her uncle Mikhail Illarionovich and brother Alexander Romanovich both served as Imperial Chancellors, while her brother Semyon was a celebrated Anglophile. She received an exceptionally good education, having displayed from very early age the abilities and tastes which made her whole career so singular. She was well versed in mathematics, which she studied at the University of Moscow. In general literature, her favorite authors were Bayle, Montesquieu, Boileau, Voltaire, and Helvétius.
While still a girl, she was connected with the Russian court, and became one of the leaders of the party that attached itself to the Grand Duchess Catherine Alexeyevna. Before she was sixteen, she married Prince Mikhail Dashkov, a prominent Russian nobleman of Rurikid stock, and went to reside with him in
Moscow. In 1762, she was at St. Petersburg and took, according to her own account, the leading part in the coup d'étatby which Catherine was raised to the throne. Another course of events would probably have resulted in the elevation of the Princess Dashkov's elder sister, Elizabeth, who was the former emperor's mistress, and in whose favor he made no secret of his intention to depose Catherine.
Her relations with the new empress were not of cordial nature, though she continued devotedly loyal. She often disliked the men Catherine the Great chose to take as lovers, and often resented the graces and devotion shown to them by the Empress. Her blunt manners, her unconcealed scorn of the male favorites that in her eye disgraced the court, and perhaps also her sense of unrequited merit, produced an estrangement between her and the empress, which ended in her asking permission to travel abroad. Permission was granted, and shortly thereafter she departed, but remained a loyal supporter of Catherine, and the two women remained friends. The true cause of her request to leave was said to have been the refusal by Catherine the Great of her request to be appointed
colonelof the imperial guards.
Her husband having meanwhile died, she set out in 1768 on an extended tour through
Europe. She was received with great consideration at foreign courts, and her literary and scientific reputation procured her the entree to the society of the learned in most of the capitals of Europe.
Paris, she secured the warm friendship and admiration of Diderot and Voltaire. She showed in various ways a strong liking for Englandand the English. She corresponded with Garrick, Dr. Blair, and Principal Robertson; and when in Edinburgh, where she was very well received, she arranged to entrust the education of her son to Principal Robertson.
Management of the Academy
In 1782, she returned to the Russian capital, and was at once taken into favor by the empress, who strongly sympathized with her in her literary tastes, and especially in her desire to elevate Russian to a high place among the literary languages of Europe. Immediately after her return the princess was appointed directeur of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and Sciences; and in 1784 she was named the first president of the
Russian Academy of Sciences, which had been founded at her suggestion.
Dashkova was the first woman in the world to head a national academy of sciences. She took over directorship of the failing Imperial Academy of Sciences in Russia and, though not a scientist herself, restored it to prominence and intellectual respectability. This came at a critical time in the history of science, its transformation from what was called natural philosophy, often practiced by gifted amateurs, to a professional enterprise.
In both positions she acquitted herself with marked ability. She projected the Russian
dictionaryof the Academy, arranged its plan, and executed a part of the work herself. She edited a monthly magazine; and wrote at least two dramatic works, "The Marriage of Fabian", and a comedy entitled "Toissioko".
Shortly before Catherine's death, the friends quarrelled over a
tragedywhich the princess had allowed to find a place in the publications of the Academy, though it contained revolutionary principles, according to the empress. A partial reconciliation was effected, but the princess soon afterwards retired from court.
Exile and legacy
On the accession of the Emperor Paul in 1796, she was deprived of all her offices, and ordered to retire to a miserable village in the government of
Novgorod, to meditate on the events of 1762. After a time the sentence was partially recalled on the petition of her friends, and she was permitted to pass the closing years of her life on her own estate near Moscow, where she died on January 4, 1810.
Her son, the last of the Dashkov family, died in 1807 and bequeathed his fortune to his cousin Ivan Vorontsov, who thereupon by imperial licence assumed the name Vorontsov-Dashkov. Ivan's son, Count
Illarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov, held an appointment in the tsar's household from 1881 to 1897 before gaining wide renown as a General-Governor of Caucasusfrom 1905 to 1915.
"The Princess and the Patriot: Ekaterina Dashkova, Benjamin Franklin and the Age of Enlightenment" exhibition was held in
Philadelphia, U.S.A., from February to December 2006. Benjamin Franklinand Dashkova met only once, in Parisin 1781. Franklin was 75 and Dashkova was 37. Franklin and Dashkova were both evidently impressed with each other. Franklin invited Dashkova to become the first woman to join the American Philosophical Society, and the only one to be so honored for another 80 years. Later, Dashkova reciprocated by making him the first American member of the Russian Academy. The correspondence between Franklin and Dashkova was the highlight of the exhibition.
* [http://www.vorontsovmuseum.org.ru/ The Woronzoff-Dashkoff Family Webpage]
* [http://www.spbu.ru/History/275/Chronicle/pu/Persons/D_ashkova.html Madame Directeur de l'Academie]
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/14/science/14prin.html?ex=1143003600&en=568095618081bfb1&ei=5070 Russian Princess Stands With Franklin as Comrade of the Enlightenment]
NAME= Vorontsova-Dashkova, Yekaterina Romanovna
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Vorontsova, Catherine , Countess
SHORT DESCRIPTION=President of the Russian Academy of Sciences
DATE OF BIRTH=
March 17, 1743
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=
January 4, 1810
PLACE OF DEATH=
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