Up The Down Staircase

Previous abstract Next abstract

Session 1 -- Astronomy and the State
Oral presentation, Tuesday, January 11, 9:00-5:00, Salons A & B Room (Crystal City Marriott)

[1.01] Up The Down Staircase

A. A. Gurshtein (Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Russian Academy of Sciences)

The title of this presentation is taken from a well-known novel to emphasize that a renaissance in Soviet astronomy and space research took place after World War II under conditions of national tragedy. After a decade of political repression and war, the Soviet government had resolved that fundamental science should serve as a foundation for Communism, and this policy stimulated titanic new efforts that were intended to benefit Soviet science.

Having been destroyed totally during the war, Pulkovo Observatory was rebuilt on its old foundation according to its original plan. The decision to rebuild Pulkovo can not be justified on scientific grounds, however, because of the proximity of a large city (Leningrad) and generally cloudy weather. Thus the rebuild- ing of Pulkovo in spite of the most difficult living conditions must be seen primarily as a great symbol.

The Academy of Sciences of the Armenian Republic also was founded in the aftermath of World War II, and its president, Viktor Ambartsumian, introduced astronomy to Armenia with the construc- tion of Byurakan Observatory. (It is noteworthy that con- currently two leaders of republican academies were astronomers: Evgenii Kharadze, director of the Abastumani Observatory, in Georgia and Ambartsumian in Armenia.) In addition to Byurakan, several other large and well-equipped astronomical institutions were founded after the war--among them the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory and the Principal Astronomical Observatory of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences near Kiev.

As a natural consequence of this institution-building, the General Assembly of the IAU held its 1958 meeting in Moscow. Indeed, this meeting was the first large international scientific event in the Soviet Union following Stalin's death. At the time of the Assembly the Soviet government declared, as a counterpart to the launch of the first sputnik, its ambitious program to build the largest optical telescope in the world.

Tuesday program listing