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Fox Staff Delivers 246-Year-Old Letter

In 1765 Ezra Stiles, American scientist and later President of Yale, asked Benjamin Franklin, then serving as U.S. envoy to France, to deliver a letter to Mikhail Lomosonov, the eminent Russian scientist and founder of Moscow State University (MSU). Lomosonov died before the letter could be delivered, and it was tucked away in Franklin’s papers.

Stiles’ letter, written in Latin, represents the first known attempt at scientific collaboration between America and Russia. Stiles knew that Lomosonov was interested in climate from a published article he had read that was written by Lomosonov. The letter described weather conditions in America and asked Lomosonov to furnish Stiles with comparable data for Russia.

lomosonovFast-forward 246 years to November 2011 and the 300th anniversary of Mikhail Lomonosov’s birth in Moscow. Fate finally intervened and Julia Muravnik, Fox International Fellowship Program Coordinator, was able to deliver the letter to MSU President Viktor Antonovich Sadovnichiy.

Because of her role as Fox Program coordinator, Julia was invited to attend the 300th anniversary celebration at MSU. While planning the trip, she recalled a letter that she uncovered during some research she had done in a previous position at Yale. While working in the Slavic Collection on Russian-American relationships, particularly those involving Yale University, she came upon the Franklin Papers at the Sterling Memorial Library. Julia recalled seeing mention of the Stiles letter in them and she was able to locate it in Franklin’s papers archived at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.

How fitting that Ms. Muravnik delivered the letter because it embodies the venturesome international spirit that motivated Joseph Fox, YC ’38, in creating the Fox International Fellowship Program at the MacMillan Center. Like Stiles’ letter, the Fox Program represents another “first” – one of the earliest exchanges, if not the first formal university-based one, with MSU.

Launched in 1988 at the beginning of the end of the Cold War as a graduate and professional student exchange program between Yale University and Moscow State University, Mr. Fox established the Fox International Fellowship program as a result of his deeply held belief in the “importance of international education in achieving peace and stability in the world.”

It now has, over two decades later, been expanded to include graduating college seniors, and has partnerships with Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge University, the Freie University of Berlin, Fudan University in Shanghai, the University of Tokyo, Institut d’Études de Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), Jawaharlal Nehru University, El Colegio de México, Boğaziçi University, Tel Aviv University, University of Cape Town and the University of São Paulo.