Bentham Project


The St Petersburg Panopticon

The building is referred to by this name in The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, vol. vii, ed. J. R. Dinwiddy, Oxford, 1988 (The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham), p. 420.

There is a further reference in this volume:
'At BL VIII. 181-91 there is a copy of a letter in Russian from Chichagov to Alexander I, dated 15 June 1806, which describes Samuel Bentham's plan for the establishment of a Panopticon Institute' at the mouth of the river Okhta in St Petersburg. 'The Institute would be for children and young persons between the ages of 7 and 22, and would be for the acquisition of practical knowledge in various arts and professions.'
The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, vol. vii, ed. J. R. Dinwiddy, Oxford, 1988 (The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham), p. 358n.

Jeremy refers, with pride, to his brother's achievement in The Correspondence of Jeremy Bentham, vol. viii, ed. S. Conway, Oxford, 1988 (The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham), p.224

24 January 1812, Jeremy Bentham to George Holford

"Under instructions from my Brother Sir Samuel Bentham Commissioner of the Navy, an Establishment on the Panopticon principle, for educating and employing boys in a variety of trades subservient to the business of the Naval Department, was begun at Petersburgh during his mission there Ao 1807-9, and has since been not only finished, and employed with success, but copied in several other private as well as Government establishments in that Empire."

Other references to this building in this volume are at: pp. 344-5n., pp. 384-5, p. 390 and p. 420.

The building was first occupied by students and staff in 1809, while final construction and installation of equipment was still continuing. Samuel Bentham relinquished his control to his successor, Loginov in September 1807. (I am grateful for this information; for the precise dating of the construction of the building and also for obtaining permission to reproduce the image of the panopticon to Professor Roger Bartlett, School of Slavonic & East European Studies, UCL.) See also:

Roger Bartlett, Projects and Peasants: Russia's Eighteenth Century, London: SSEES 2000 (SSEES Occasional Papers, no. 44)
Robin Evans, The Fabrication of virtue: English prison architecture, 1750-1840 Cambridge: C.U.P., 1982, p. 229
Catherine Pease-Watkin, Jeremy and Samuel Bentham - The Private and the Public
Simon Werrett, Potemkin and the Panopticon: Samuel Bentham and the Architecture of Absolutism in Eighteenth Century Russia
Janet Semple, Bentham's prison : a study of the panopticon penitentiary Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1993 pp. 214-15, 262