Eighteenth-century Russian polymath Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765) is a highly celebrated and symbolically important figure in Russian culture, but he is not well known outside of Russia. In this paper I review his biography, his contributions to geology, and the key influences on his geological writings. He spent his youth on the coast of the White Sea, near the Arctic Circle, working with his father, who was a fisherman and merchant. This experience helped him to become a keen observer of natural phenomena. At age nineteen he traveled to Moscow, falsely claimed that he was the son of a nobleman, and talked his way into the Slavo-Graeco-Latin Academy. He excelled as a student and was chosen to continue his studies at the university in St Petersburg. From there he was one of three Russian students chosen to spend several years studying in Germany, primarily to learn about mining and the extraction of metals from ore. Lomonosov's four-and-a-half years in Germany were critical to his development as a scholar and scientist, immersing him in contemporary European knowledge and epistemology.
After Lomonosov returned to the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1741, he worked his way up the academic ladder, eventually becoming professor of chemistry, but it was not a smooth and steady climb. At one point he was under house arrest for eight months for rowdy conduct and discourteous behavior. Lomonosov made significant contributions to many fields of science. He wrote several geological publications, the most significant of which is On the Strata of the Earth (1763), which became available in German only in 1961, and in English only in 2012. Lomonosov's work in geology was motivated by his desire to promote economic development in Russia through the extraction of mineral resources, together with a deep curiosity about natural history.