Peter I of Russia charged the enterprising blacksmith Nikita with casting cannon for his many military expeditions and he was ennobled with name Demidov for having strongly supported the tsar's activities. In 1699 he set up Nevyansk's first iron foundry and in 1725 discovered mines at Kolivan (Kolyban), whose exploitation enriched him. A museum is devoted to him in Tula.
The founder of the Demidov family, he was born at Tula, the son of Demid Antufiev (1624–1664), a free blacksmith from Tula. Nikita began as a blacksmith himself and was put in charge of producing muskets and halberds (of which he was the main supplier) for the Russian Army by Tsar Peter the Great. Conceded many privileges, Nikitia built one of Russia's first metallurgical factories at Tula between 1694 and 1696. This produced the first Russian iron to rival English- and Swedish-produced iron for quality.
In 1699, Nikita built a new factory at Yekaterinburg. He then opened Siberia's first iron mine at Kolyban. In 1702 the Tsar granted him permission to change his name to Demidov and put a new foundry in the Urals under his command - it became Russia's first true armaments factory. Between 1716 and 1725 Nikita built four new metallurgical factories in the Urals. During Russia's Great Northern War against Sweden (1700–1721), the Demidov factories became the main supplier to the Russian army, supplying cannons, pistols, swords and other munitions, producing them twice as fast and twice as cheaply as the competition and thus making a decisive contribution to the Russian victory. On 21 September he was ennobled by Tsar Peter the Great in reward for his services.
He died in his home town of Tula.
Nikita Demidov had three definitely-attested children (and a possible fourth):
- Akinfiy Nikitich Demidov (1678–1745)
- Grigory Nikitich Demidov (died 1728)
- Nikita Nikitich Demidov (died 1758)