Bakst, Nicolai (Noah) Ignatyevich

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BAKST, NICOLAI (Noah ) IGNATYEVICH (1843–1904), Russian scientist, writer, and public figure. Born in Mir, Belorussia, Bakst studied at the rabbinical seminary in Zhitomir, where his father Isaac Moses taught Talmud, and thereafter at the University of St. Petersburg. After graduating, he was sent to Germany by the Russian Ministry of Public Instruction. There he continued his studies under the noted physiologist Hermann Helmholtz and others. In 1867 he was appointed lecturer in physiology at the University of St. Petersburg, specializing in the study of the nervous system. He wrote a number of works in German and Russian on physiology and the nervous system.

The emergence of antisemitism in Germany and the pogroms in Russia of 1881 awakened Bakst's interest in the Jewish question. For him the solution was to grant full civil rights to the Jews in Russia and improve their material and moral condition. Bakst became a highly esteemed public figure in Russian Jewry; he was one of the initiators of *ORT and active in its management. He served as an expert on the Pahlen Commission (1883–88), set up to examine the laws regulating Jewish life. This prompted Bakst to publish a series of articles on different aspects of Jewish life and thought in Jewish and non-Jewish journals.


S.A. Wengeroff, Kritiko-biograficheskiy slovar, 3 (1892), 73–75; Galpern, in: Voskhod, 24 no. 27 (1904), 5–8; ye, 4 (c. 1910), 698–701.