Alexander BORODIN 
12 November 1833 - 27 February 1887 (age 53)

Alexander Borodin was a truly amazing person: eminent Russian organic chemist, 'amateur' composer, poet, writer, fighter for women's rights, philanthropist.

- Family

- Works

- The man / the scientist

- Womens Rights

- Quotes

- Career

- Links

Portrait of Borodin


Born: Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin, 12 November 1833, St Petersburg, Russia
Biological father: Prince Luka Simonis dze Gedevanishvili , a Georgian noble
Mother: Evdokia Konstantinova Antonova, Russian
Registered father: Porfiry Borodin, a servant of Prince Luka.
As Alexander was born the illegitimate child of the Prince he was given the surname of one of the prince's servants as was common practice there at the time.
Siblings: His mother had two other 'illegitimate' sons by Prince Luka
Wife: Ekaterina Protopova, a Russian pianist
Children: None - however they adopted various children in need.
Death: 27 February 1887. Heart failure while dancing energetically.
Grave: Tikhvin Cemetery, Alexander Nevsky Monastery, in Saint Petersburg



Style: Russian Nationalistic / Romantic
Output: small
- 3 Symphonies
- Operas : Prince Igor
- Bogatyr - The Heroic Warriors opera-farce
- The Tsar's Bride
- Mlada (Act 4)opera-ballet
- Polovtsian Dances
- In the Steppes of Central Asia
- 2 string quartets
- chamber works based on Russian traditional music
- 16 Songs
- Stranger in Paradise 1953 musical Kismet, by Robert Wright and George Forrest
- Award: Tony 1954

Borodin - Prince Igor -
Polovtsian dances From Alexander Borodin`s opera Prince Igor. First Act. Dance of Polovtsian Maidens. Mariinsky Theatre. Kirov Ballet.

Borodin - the man

What a nice man! Tall, dark and handsome. Of a slightly oriental appearance and with large deep eyes. He had a great sense of humour.
He had a gift for languages and spoke French, German, English, Italian and of course Russian.
He played the piano, flute, violin and cello but did not attend a music conservatory.
He always had time for others, his students thought the world of him.
His apartment was always full of guests, friends, family and the needy.
An obituary in the Journal of the Russian Chemical Society contained the following statement, “Borodin was very human.  He was always looking for an opportunity to help someone.  He gave money, advice, and assistance to any friend who asked him."

Borodin the Scientist

He was an outstanding organic chemist who did some important research. Chemistry not being my strong point I will not elaborate here but merely point you in the direction of an informative article by Nick Cahm
Besides doing research he was a professor at the St Peterburg Academy of Medicine, and was very popular with his students.
He called himself a 'Sunday' composer and while music was an important part of his life it certainly took second place to his work as a scientist.
I read an interesting article suggesting that he was the first to link cholesterol to heart disease predating by 40 years the recognised discovery!

Borodin and Women's Rights

His wife Ekaterina was a keen fighter for women's rights and converted Alexander to the cause.
He was of the opinion that there should be equality of education and was convinced that women would make good doctors.
Indeed so much so that for the last 12 years of his life he founded and ran the St.Petersburg Medical School for Women.
This was the project of which he was most proud.
On his burial casket there is a silver plate from his women students which reads: "To the Founder, Protector and Defender of the School of Medicine for Women."

Borodin in Art
A fascinating collection of images - art, portraits, caricatures, cartoons, album covers and postage stamps.


- "As a composer seeking to remain anonymous, I am shy of confessing my musical activity... For others it is their chief business, the occupation and aim of life. For me it is a relaxation, a pastime which distracts me from my principal business, my professorship. I love my profession and my science. I love the Academy and my pupils, male and female, because to direct the work of young people, one must be close to them."

- 'Music... is a relaxation from more serious occupations.'

- "Respectable people do not write music or make love as a career."


  • Age 17 - Entered the Academy of Medicine, St Petersburg
  •  Age 22 - Graduated in medicine with honours.
  • Age 23 - appointed surgeon to an army hospital. A brief period which he found very disturbing.
  • Age 25 - Doctorate in Organic Chemistry
  • Age 25-28 - post doctorate studies in Heidelberg and Pisa.
    Met his future wife Ekaterina who was in Heidelberg having treatment for tubercolosis.
  • Age 29 - assistant professor at the Academy of Medicine in St.Petersburg
  • Age 30 - Married Ekaterina. A very happy marriage.
  • Age 31 - Professor at the Academy
  • Age 39 - Left the Academy to found the School of Medicine for Women
  • Age 43 - Finished his Symphony No2
  • Age 53 - Died of a heart attack during a party at his house.
    His wife died 5 months later.    

  • In the Steppes of Central Asia

    Second Symphony (30min)

    String Quartet no.2 in D major
    played by the Borodin quartet

    Links, sources, where to go for more information

    - Russian Composers: more profiles here at 52composers

    - Answers.com

    - Borodin - My Hero by Rebecca Miller

    New! Comments

    Feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.

    Custom Search

    poster, prints, cards, gifts
    click on image for info

    rel="nofollow" Art Prints