Kybalchych, Mykola

Kybalchych, Mykola [Кибальчич, Микола; Kybal'čyč], b 31 October 1853 in Korop, Chernihiv gubernia, d 15 April 1881 in Saint Petersburg. Inventor and revolutionary. While studying in Saint Petersburg at the Institute of Railroad Engineers and then at the Medical-Surgical Academy, he became active in the revolutionary movement and was imprisoned in 1875 in Kyiv’s Lukianivka Prison. A year after his release in 1878, he organized an explosives laboratory for Narodnaia Volia. A bomb built by him was used in the assassination of Alexander II in 1881. He was arrested, tried, and executed at the Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg. While awaiting execution he wrote a letter to the Academy of Sciences outlining his design of a rocket-propelled aircraft capable of rising beyond earth’s atmosphere. This is the first recorded proposal of its kind. Kybalchych developed the idea of jet propulsion, theoretically and experimentally, before his imprisonment, but did not work out the details. Though simple, his ideas are basic to space technology and space travel. A crater on the far side of the moon has been named after him.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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