Yaroslavl Demidov School of Higher Sciences was founded on June 18, 1803 by Alexander I, the emperor of Russia, at the instance and on the money of a famous landlord and patron P.G. Demidov. Pavel Grigoriyevich Demidov was a scientist-naturalist, a Maecenas. He received an excellent education at Gettingen, Oxford, and Uppsala universities. In 1802, when the manifesto about the establishment of ministries was issued, including the call to donate to education in Russia, P.G. Demidov was among the first people who responded to it. In the letter written on May 11, 1803 Demidov asked Alexander I “…to raise the established Yaroslavl Gymnasium to a school having the same level as a university, …” offering to finance this school. By the decree of June 18, 1803 Alexander I approved “the charitable order of the Councillor of State Demidov” and thereby established the School of Higher Sciences in Yaroslavl. Yaroslavl School of Higher Sciences owes its birth and further existence to P.G. Demidov.
Discussing the possibility of opening the school, Pavel Grigoriyevich Demidov carried on a correspondence with the minister of public education count Pyotr Vasiliyevich Zavadovsky via a good acquaintance of his Pyotr Mikhailovich Druzhynin. Having stated the propositions in a letter, Pavel Grigoriyevich made an oral request, “he dared not to commit to writing”, to the minister of public education via P.M. Druzhynin — to open the university in Yaroslavl. To organise the university Pavel Grogoriyevich was ready to provide additional financing. But his desire was not fulfilled at that time. The decision was taken to establish in Yaroslavl the school with the status equal to the university.
The first lecturer of the School was Karl Ivanovich Yanish — an associate professor of the Philosophy Faculty of Moscow University, an appointed professor of the School of Higher Sciences since March 1804. Before the School was opened professor Yanish delivered some public lectures. The first lecture took place on April 7, 1804, after that the lectures were delivered every week on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 4 p.m. Yaroslavl governor prince M.N. Golitsin circulated posters preprinted in Moscow of the following content: “The Imperial Moscow University, having a strong wish to further the development of sciences and education, has the honour to announce by this, that it has entrusted its associate professor, Doctor of Medicine Mr. Yanish to open a public course of physics, natural history and chemistry in Yaroslavl…The university by its lectures lays the first foundation of Yaroslavl School of Higher Sciences, a new temple of scholarship, the only name of which is enough for recollection of a brilliant act of patriotism distinguishing the member of Yaroslavl nobility, Councillor of State Pavel Grigoriyevich Demidov”. The first lecture attracted a large audience — more than 160 people. It was devoted to “heating matter”, and was accompanied with experiments. The second lecture took place on April 11 and was “about the methods of heating matter multiplication”. On August 13, 1804, classes started at the school. The first lectures were delivered in rented rooms. On November 2, 1804 Alexander I granted Demidov School of Higher Sciences “a new bishop’s house” (on the territory of Yaroslavl Princes’ Courtyard, on the Strelka). The statute of Demidov School of Higher Sciences was approved on February 9, 1805. According to the statute, the school was called “Yaroslavl School of Higher Sciences”. In all papers, advertisements, timetables it was called by the Latin name “Athenaeum litterarum Demidowianum Jaroslaviensi”. On May 11, 1805 a ceremonial opening of Yaroslavl School of Higher Sciences took place. The words of welcome, at the opening ceremony, were given by the the director of Yaroslavl Primary Schools, Khomutov, the vice-rector of the School, Karl Ivanovich Yanish, professors Ivan Yevseyevich Sreznevsky, Ivan Davidovich Vilke.
By the Statute of February 9, 1805 the School had the first rank directly after two central universities (Moscow and Petersburg). The subjects taught: ancient languages and Russian oratory, philosophy, natural law, mathematics, natural history, chemistry and technology, political history, political economy and financial science. From 1819, French and German languages, drawing, fencing, music, and dancing were officially introduced.
According to the Statute the school was managed by the vice-rector and the Council, which elected the vice-rector from the school’s professors. The first elected vice-rector was professor of natural history, chemistry and technology Karl Ivanovich Yanish. The first professors were: Professor of Ancient Languages and Russian Oratory — Ivan Yevseyevich Sreznevsky, Professor of Mathematics — Vasily Osipovich Shishatsky, Professor of Natural Law — Ivan Davidovich Vilke, professor of philosophy — Fridrikh Andreyevich Shmidt. In 1807, the School had two more professors: Professor of Political Economy and Financial Science — Emmanuil Ivanovich Turneizen, Professor of Political History — Stepan Alexeyevich Vilinsky. In 1824, the position of the school’s principal was introduced. By the Senate’s decree of March 27, 1824 the Councillor of State Mikhail Alexandrovich Maikov was appointed first principal.
Originally, 20 graduates from secondary schools could be educated at the school at the expense of its founder. They had to be admitted from the nobility and other estates of the Yaroslavl Province by P.G. Demidov’s option. Furthermore, anyone who presented education certificate or passed the test (entrance examination) could be educated at his own expense. Graduates of the school were employed with the 14th grade. In the decrees of Alexander I, it was often emphasized that the certificates of the School of Higher Sciences were equal to university certificates. In 1804, the first five students were sent to Yaroslavl from Moscow University to be educated. In 1805, the boarding school was opened to pupils from other provinces, in order to prepare them for entrance exams, causing an increase in the number of students. The first graduates of the school were Vasily Sots and Fyodor Chanov. From 1805 to 1833 739 students from 26 provinces received an education at the school.
By the decree of Nicholas I of August 14, 1833 Yaroslavl Demidov School of Higher Sciences was transformed into the Demidov Lyceum on January 13, 1834.