Pyotr Kapitsa

Picture of Pyotr Kapitsa

Date of Birth: 09/07/1894

Age: 89

Place of birth: Kronstadt

Citizenship: Russia

Gold cage scientist

In the USSR, it was well known name akedemika Peter Kapitza, received one after the other two Stalin Prizes (1941 and 1943), twice awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labour (1945 and 1974), Nobel laureate (1978), almost permanent (since 1934 before his death in 1984, except for the ten-year break in 1946-1955). Director of the Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences for physical problems, awarded a variety of orders (only orders of Lenin, he had six pieces). If you do not pay attention to a break in the leadership institute (its causes in Soviet literature and reference books are not explained), Kapitsa appeared as a high-ranking leader of the scientific establishment, caressed by the authorities for all of the communist rulers: Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev.

And only at the end of the 80s began to appear in print documents and memories, showing that the relationship between the scientist and Soviet rulers were not quite so rosy, that he actively and courageously used his unique position genius physicist whose research was urgently needed military industrial complex, to protect their colleagues from the repressive machine, for criticism of the system defects. Kapitsa was far from dissidence. He did not give up, like AD Sakharov, an open challenge to totalitarianism. His style was different: he combined the courage and honesty, when it came to men of science, authorities arrested, with pragmatism in relations with the authorities.

Our story will be, however, is dedicated to one relatively short period in the life of a scientist - when he, in 1934, arrived in the USSR at the Congress, was unable to return to his laboratory. This episode in the life of Kapitza in the literature there are only a mention, even though it was reflected in the correspondence published in the West (see .: "Kapitsa in Cambridge and Moscow: Life and Letters of a Russian Phisicist", Amsterdam, 1990).

In 1995 the magazine "Herald" published an article Moses Kaganova bright with memories of PL Kapitza and his institute and a selection of testimonies of people who knew the scientist (# 15, p. 41-51). But even in these materials, except for monosyllabic mention M.Kaganova, nothing is said about how, actually, Kapitza forced to remain in the USSR in 1934

Kapitsa was born July 9, 1894 in a family of military engineer colonel, then - General of the Russian army (military titles father in Soviet publications were hiding). Peter graduated from the Petrograd Polytechnic Institute in 1919, was already evident in his student years, the quality of outstanding scientist. In 1921, he was able to travel abroad.

While in the UK, he turned to the famous physicist Ernest Rutherford to take it on an internship at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. Rutherford initially refused, as laboratory, according to him, was filled with employees (and their so about 30 people). Then Kapitsa asked the master to which the accuracy of the aims in their experiments. "Admissibility of 2-3 percent error", - said Rutherford. "In this case, - Peter said, - an extra researcher will not be noticeable, it will be absorbed in the allowable inaccuracy of experience." Witty remark and looseness of a young scientist in conjunction with its quite decent English captured Rutherford, so Kapitsa became his collaborator. This episode Kapitsa remembered often Rutherford as its forgotten. When the venerable scientist asked what prompted him to take Kapitsa, he replied: "I do not remember exactly what, but I`m very glad that it did."

Cambridge Kapitsa worked for 13 years. There he realized the cycle of fundamental research, for which already in 1923 received his doctorate in philosophy. Young experimenter founded in 1922 in Cambridge Scientific Seminar, named later "Kapitza Club". In 1925 he became deputy director of the Cavendish Laboratory in 1926 headed by the self-magnetic laboratory, and in 1930 began the construction of a powerful laboratory with funds bequeathed chemist and industrialist Ludwig Mond. This laboratory was inaugurated on February 3, 1933 On behalf of the University of Cambridge her "adopted" Chancellor of the University, the Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin, repeatedly served as prime minister.

Since 1926 Kapitza often visited the Soviet Union and seamlessly returned to England. In the Kremlin, he was considered the Soviet scientists, is in the "long-term foreign business trip." In 1929, Kapitsa was elected a member of the Royal Society of London (this rank is equivalent to the academic in other countries). In the same year he became a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, as well as adviser Ukrainian Physico-Technical Institute (UPTI) in Kharkov (it was in this institute A.K.Valterom, A.I.Leypunskim and K.D.Sinelnikovym in 1935 -1936`s. first experimental splitting of the atomic nucleus) linear electron accelerator was designed and implemented. In the autumn of 1929, having arrived in the Soviet Union once again, Kapitsa about two weeks spent in Kharkov, where he lectured and gave advice UPTI. In 1932 and 1933. he again visited Moscow, Leningrad and Kharkov, and then returned to Cambridge.

Nothing boded storm, when the September 1, 1934 Petr Leonidovich once again came to the Soviet Union with his wife Anna Alekseevna, daughter of the famous academician, mathematics and mechanics Krylov, to participate in the Mendeleev Congress. British friends warned Peter that his unique position can not continue indefinitely. But the scientist did not heed these words.

This time, his every move watched scientist NKVD officers who reported to his superiors genuine and fictitious "anti-Soviet" statements Kapitsa. Many informants were also among scientists. It should be noted that Kapitsa loved jokes, jokes, words to impress. When he was once asked to give your home address, he said: "England, Kapitsa." On another occasion (in 1931) he visited Kapitsa introduced in Cambridge prominent Bolshevik leader Bukharin as "Comrade Bukharin."

It is clear that even a completely innocent from the point of view of common sense jokes NKVD reports of party leaders qualified as a dangerous counter-revolutionary propaganda.

Kapitsa`s personality was the focus of the Kremlin leaders. There was even formed (of course, top secret) special government commission, which was to decide his fate. September 16, the commission, which was chaired by a member of the Politburo of the CPSU (b) V.V.Kuybyshev, decided: "Based on the considerations that Kapitsa provides significant services to the British informing them about the situation in the science of the USSR, as well as the fact that he has English company, including the military, the major services, selling them their patents and working on their orders, prohibit PL Kapitza leave the USSR. " As you can see, in the decision on the merits given to proper scientific potential of Kapitsa, and at the same time there was no word about his "anti-Soviet". Last held in reserve, in case the "have to" have on the physical impact of the scientist.

The Soviet government commissioned the Deputy People`s Commissar of Heavy Industry G.L.Pyatakovu (former members of the United Opposition of Trotsky and Zinoviev, and now a zealous Stalinist sycophants that did not save him from execution in 1938) to inform Kapitsa of the decision and enter into negotiations with him about the conditions of his work in the USSR. September 21, Kapitsa came to Moscow for a meeting with the Deputy People`s Commissar, who hypocritically offered him "to consider the proposal" to remain in the Soviet Union and engage in scientific activity "for the benefit of socialist construction." Kapitsa has rejected the offer, saying that he has an interesting scientific work, a well-equipped laboratory, the necessary staff scientists, he is well provided financially. Kapitsa Pyatakov tried to send to a higher authority - to V.I.Mezhlauku, Deputy Chairman of People`s Commissars of the USSR and chairman of Gosplan (the Prime Minister was Molotov). Kapitsa, however, did not go to Mezhlauk and the same evening he returned to Leningrad.

But the hope of being left alone, turned out to be futile. Immediately upon his arrival in Leningrad Kapitsa was expecting a telegram about the call to Mezhlauk. The scientist simply did not pay attention to her. However, followed by threatening phone calls from the deputy chairman of the Secretariat of the CPC. As a result of September 25 Kapitsa, again interrupting participation in the Mendeleev Congress, he arrived in Moscow. This time he tried to make it clear that he is - only a small fry compared with government Aces: in two days the deputy Molotov "was busy" and Kapitsa did not take, and only on the third day "found time" to talk to the scientists. No practical results and the meeting did not produce. Kapitsa again expressed his desire to return to work in Cambridge. Mezhlauk declared that the Soviet government considers leaving scientists abroad "undesirable", but agreed to a trip to the UK his wife and two young sons - 6-year-old Sergei and 3-year-old Andrew (now both of them are well-known scientists: SP Kapitsa - a physicist and A.P.Kapitsa - Geography).

Only gradually, and it is far from being fully Kapitza began to realize the realities of the totalitarian system. The scientist was in the trap. Sometimes he fell into despair. Informer denounced him as saying. "I can be forced to dig canals, build a fortress, you can take my body, but the spirit is no one take and if necessary will I mock, I quickly will kill scores of lives in any way, I`d rather comin his brains ".

Seizures of despair, however, held fast. Kapitsa decided to go to Rutherford and other major exercises, in particular, to Paul Langevin and Albert Einstein, asking to speak to the press with the requirement to provide him an opportunity to leave the USSR. Significant results of this attempt is given. Pro-Soviet Langevin just did not want to do anything to spite the "Kremlin mountain man". As for Einstein, it is not long before that, in 1933, emigrated from Germany to the USA, the USSR saw a powerful force capable of resisting Hitlerism and, although very critical of the Bolshevik experiment, did not want to be involved at least in the least in an action that could be interpreted as anti-Soviet.

However, Rutherford, Anna Kapitza-informed about what had happened, I asked cautiously, in the British style, the protest to the Soviet Ambassador in the UK I.M.Mayskomu. May, a former Menshevik, is now making every effort to curry favor with Stalin responded with great delay demagogic letter read: "The current in the Soviet Union, the system consists in the fact that the Soviet Government is planning not only the economy, but also the distribution of labor resources, including the distribution of scientists. While our research institutions to solve their tasks with the help of cash scientists, the Soviet government did not raise any objections to the work of Mr. Kapitza in Cambridge. Now, however, as a result of the extraordinary development of the national economy of the USSR, linked accelerated completion of the first and vigorous implementation of the Second Five-Year plan, the cash number of scientists is not enough, and in these circumstances, the Soviet government found it necessary to use for research activities in the country of all those scientists - Soviet citizens who hitherto worked abroad. Mr. Kapitsa falls into this category. Now he is offered an extremely demanding job in the Soviet Union in his specialty, which will allow him to develop fully their abilities as a scientist and a citizen of their country. "

From the letter it was possible to conclude that Kapitsa was reconciled to his fate. But it was far from it. Despite the failure of international intervention, Pyotr Leonidovich found it possible to use internal levers to break free. According to him, a group of Soviet academics could appeal to Bukharin, Voroshilov and Gorky "to organize a broad campaign" in his defense. Moreover, the informer reported that scientists are trying to figure out "where Comrade Stalin -. In Moscow or on vacation (Stalin usually rested in the south in the fall, and it was widely known - G.Ch.) - and put him about happened. "

I must say that the vicissitudes of the Kapitza called sympathy on the part of some prominent Russian scientists. The NKVD secret report notes the statements in support of Kapitza academicians Vernadsky, AN Krylov, AF Ioffe, Semenov, Pavlov, of Th, AE Tabor with an expression of sympathy for him. Vernadsky, for example, said: "If the government`s decision not to let in England canceled, there will be an international scandal British Royal Society, a member of which is Kapitsa, will take all measures to restore Kapitsa Science is international, and no one should be forbidden.. to work where they want, and on topics that he finds interesting. " ". In order to do Kapitsa can not refuse to do", - said Tabor. Mood academics summarized as follows reference NKVD they "were in general taken against against Kapitsa solutions, consider unacceptable such forcible separation Kapitsa with his two children, living in England, receiving training there, and the destruction of its well-equipped laboratory."

But the only one who tried to move from words to deeds, was the father-in Kapitsa, Academician Krylov. He appealed to the Academy of Sciences A.P.Karpinskomu president to come to Moscow specially to the chairman of the CEC of the USSR Mikhail Kalinin, who helped to return to Kapitza Cambridge. Alas, the 88-year-old Karpinski Krylov rejected the request.

In the midst of this story, September 26, 1934, the newspaper "Izvestia" (its editor was Bukharin) placed provided long before this, and lying in the portfolio Kapitsa article about the problem of the production of liquid helium and to work together with scientists in UPTI this direction. Publication of the article to create the appearance that the situation is stable and the author is not serious.

At the same time the NKVD through their agents began to spread rumors that Kapitsa was working for British intelligence, and even collected for transmission to the British spy data on the situation in the Far East, the capacity of the Siberian highway, border fortifications, aircraft and so on. D. On the backdrop of these rumors Piatakov in a conversation with Academician Semenov, friendship is with Kapitsa was known, uttered the words that have been made as a direct threat of arrest: "If the rumors about the secret work of Kapitsa reach of the GPU (GPU no longer existed, but this abbreviation is still widely consumed in a very ominous sense - G.Ch.), it can cause severe repression of Kapitsa. "

Kapitsa was living in Leningrad in disgusting living conditions. According indologist Acad. Of Th, he was forced to dwell in "two rooms in a communal apartment, where many foreign residents, the apartment running, dirty, has parasites in the washroom -. All, you can not use the restroom because of pollution." Shcherbatskiy drew the conclusion that under such conditions of life "can not even read, not what scientific work."

Political, psychological and moral pressure finally yielded results. Kapitsa became inclined to to resume work in the USSR. Perfectly versed in the realities of Soviet academics Krylov and Semenov convinced of the need to start the research work, but at the same time demanding decent conditions - this is the only possible way out for him. Kapitza was a scientist-experimenter, for which required a complex, costly, developed under his direct supervision to equipment in the Mond Laboratory in Cambridge. He is very skeptical about the possibility of transfer of laboratory equipment in the USSR.

However, he went on some trick - began to say to colleagues that he is ready to transfer its work in the Soviet Union, but for that, they say, he should go to England for six months, to "liquidate with Rutherford." Of course, none of this plan did not work. NN Semenov repeatedly appealed to the government offices, explaining that Kapitsa can really achieve major scientific advances only if special laboratory will be arranged for him. In the end, Semenov "recommended" as was said in the secret report of the NKVD, Kapitsa leave alone and wait until he does not appeal to the relevant Soviet institutions with a request to create his laboratory. Authorities want to capitulation was complete and the public ...

About the state of mind of the scientist showed the letter to his wife in England. One of them said: "Life is amazing ... yet now I have another time I compress fists, and I`m ready to tear his hair and mad with my instruments on my ideas in my lab others live and work, and.. I`m sitting here alone, and what does it do, I do not understand. it seems to me sometimes that I`m going crazy. "

Yet Kapitsa total surrender of power have not waited, and they decided to go for a little compromise. October 31 V.I.Mezhlauka scholar delivered the letter in which the vice-chairman of the CPC asked Kapitsa by November 3 to submit their proposals on scientific work in the USSR. In a response letter Kapitza explained the Bolshevik official, his work in Cambridge belonged to the extremely difficult technically areas of modern physics that his laboratory was "unique and original instruments", made by British industry that are "readily took up personal issues." He stated that he sees himself in the USSR for the opportunity to take responsibility "for the organization of scientific research, similar to those on which he worked in Cambridge." So he decided to change the area of ??scientific research, address the problem of Biophysics, together with IP Pavlov.

In early November, Kapitsa arrived in Moscow for talks on the conditions of their work in the USSR. The negotiations dragged on. Again and again had to explain to officials that without his laboratory, without reliable, matched his own staff without experience accumulated technology, it is not able to expand basic research to expect immediate "introduction into production," it is impossible to research.

Perhaps all of this red tape be continued for a long time. However, in case Stalin intervened, who apparently realized that the "Worth It". In any case, the matter finally put in motion in the last week of December. December 22 issue of the Kapitza was put to the Politburo of the CPSU (b). Adopted a resolution provided for the establishment of the academic Institute for Physical Problems in Moscow, approving Kapitsa Director of the Institute, the completion of construction by September 1935 the institute building with laboratories equipped with the most modern equipment. Kapitsa was given the right to complement the Institute of qualified personnel and to dispose of the allocated funds outside the control of the parent bodies. The resolution provided for the establishment of Kapitsa most favorable material conditions, in particular - an apartment in the center of Moscow from 5-7 rooms, a summer residence in Crimea and a personal car. Since iron cage, which proved to be a scientist, began to turn into gold.

The next day, December 23, 1934, was published the Government`s decision to establish the Institute for Physical Problems, USSR Academy of Sciences. Kapitsa was immediately transferred from an abandoned hotel "Novomoskovsk" in the prestigious "Metropol", where he was given a deluxe room.

* * *

Turning to Kapitsa "Persona Grata" does not mean an instant to overcome bureaucratic obstacles in dealing with the scientists. March 11, 1935, he wrote to his wife in England: "No one shall be here to believe that all that I want - it`s just a good, trusting relationship to him No one can believe that I really want to help in the organization of science tragedy.. my position that [have] three months, as I want to get people to understand what I want, and still to me incredulously, condescending attitude. I feel some kind of Don Quixote. I intercede for some Dulcinea Science, and everything has to be made fun of me. "

Yet a strong will, organizational skills, a great scientist authority together with the invisible but feels patronizing attitude of Soviet dictator gradually led to the necessary results. At the insistence of Kapitza, the Soviet embassy in London has entered into negotiations with the Royal Society for the purchase and transportation of the USSR Mond Laboratory equipment.

The first foreign report on the arrest Kapitsa in the USSR appeared in Russian newspaper "Latest News" (Paris), March 9, 1935 The newspaper suggested that the Bolsheviks seized Kapitza as a hostage for the defector Gamow. Western public, this version appeared, apparently not convincing enough, and for the next month and a half press on this occasion remained silent.

The storm broke when the April 24 London "News Cronicle" in the morning edition published under the title "Cambridge is shocked by the Soviets" conversation with Rutherford. "Kapitsa - a brilliant worker - said the" Crocodile ", as they called the great scientist friends and disciples - and he would certainly have realized here in the next year or two, a number of remarkable experiments." In the evening edition of the UK 70 newspapers published the day responses to the conversation. "Russia has detained him, the end of the Cambridge research", - "Star" wrote. 25 April comments emerged throughout the western press under the headings "Russia holds the professor, England lost a great scientist," "Gone with the professor," "loss for Science in Cambridge," and so on April 26, Rutherford wrote a letter to the London "Times",.. released April 29 under the title "The detention in Russia. The shock to the scientific world." Rutherford wrote that message on the detention of evidence of violation of individual freedom. Soviet authorities "requisitioned" Kapitza service without any prior notice. His pupil and friend deeply shocked the collapse of his work, his health is seriously compromised. "From the point of view of the world of science as a whole will be a great misfortune if due to a lack of responsiveness or misunderstandings arise circumstances in which Kapitsa can not give the world what he is capable of." From protest to the Soviet Ambassador to the United States Troyanovskiy approached by a group of leading American scientists.

At the same time, it is the assertion of the Rutherford internationality of science, formed the basis of the decision of the Senate of the University of Cambridge of 30 November 1935 adopted at the suggestion of Rutherford, to consent to the sale of the USSR for the Kapitza Institute (so it was said in the decision, the official name of the institution was ignored ) scientific equipment Mond laboratory. At the end of 1935 the equipment arrived in the USSR, and in the beginning of 1936 the construction of the Institute for Physical Problems, was completed.

Kapitsa took full advantage of their right of acquisition of the Institute research staff and free disposal of disbursement. In inst itute there was even a microscopic labor market arising from it with positive results. Somehow shortly after the completion of the Kapitza, to the limit of a busy research and scientific and organizational affairs, I happened to look out the window at an extremely cluttered courtyard. "How many of us janitors?" - He asked the secretary. "Three" - was the answer. "Immediately dismiss the two, and the remaining to triple the salary", - the director ordered. The next morning the yard sparkling clean ...

Kapitsa was forced to come to terms with being in a "golden cage". In January 1936, the British returned to his wife and sons. Followed by fundamental discoveries of the scientist - he has developed a new air liquefaction method, which determined the development of worldwide large installations for the production of oxygen, nitrogen and rare gases, set the temperature jump ( "Kapitza jump") during the transition of heat from solid to liquid helium, discovered superfluidity liquid helium and so on. d.

At the same time, the unique position of the brilliant physicist and organizer of science, whose works have been widely used in the Soviet defense technique (though, as noted by Kapitsa, is much less effective than it would have been possible without the bureaucratic and party intervention), allowing it to maintain a relative (note - a very relative), independent position, and act in defense of scientists, have been attacked and arrested.

Already in 1936 he wrote a letter to Molotov in support of mathematics, Academician Luzin, whose "truth" announced "the enemy in Soviet mask". The letter came back with resolution "not wanted to return c-nu Kapitsa. Molotov", but did not dare to arrest Luzin. In February 1937, Kapitza defended arrested physicist Fock, who was soon released, and two years later was elected an academician. In April 1938, Kapitsa stood up for the arrested head of the theoretical department of his institute Landau. At this time, the trouble continued for a year - the director was not easy to secure the release of the scientist, who compared the Stalinist dictatorship of Hitler`s power. But in the end he reached its Kapitsa - Landau was released under his personal guarantee.

During the war, Kapitsa was a member of the Scientific and Technical Council of the State Committee of Defence and the Chief of the oxygen industry management at the People`s Commissars of the USSR. Occupying less impressive bureaucratic posts, scientist never betrayed himself. He wrote to Stalin, defending the "idealists", was protesting against administrative interference in science ridiculed the statements such as "if you are not a materialist in physics, you are the enemy of the people." Regarding the failure of "Truth" print one of his review in strict accordance with the author`s edition, he even dared to write to Stalin, that "truth" - boring newspaper, on that "best friend Scientists" replied: "Of course, right you are, rather than" truth "".

After it was created, and then applied military use of atomic weapons on August 20, 1945 in the Soviet Union, the Special Committee for the management of "all the work on the use of atomic energy of uranium" was formed in the United States. Chairman became Beria, and physicists were only included IV Kurchatov and Kapitsa. But immediately clashed with Beria Kapitsa. Twice, 3 October and 25 November 1945 Kapitsa wrote a letter to Stalin, stating that incompetent interference omnipotent entity only hinders scientific developments. This time, however, Stalin took the side of his minion, and Kapitsa was removed from the Committee.

Thus began a period of disgrace academician (he was elected a full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1939.) However, the wily Stalin, recognizing the enormous scientific potential of Kapitsa, and at that time maintained the appearance of patronage. April 4, 1946, he wrote to Kapitza: "All your letters in the letters received many instructive - I think somehow to meet with you and talk about them.".

In August 1946, Stalin signed a decree on withdrawal of Kapitsa from all posts. Scientist from that time lived near Moscow, at Nikolina Gora, where he organized a home laboratory (recalling his directorship, he called her "hut physical problems"). It has now turned out to be in the mid 30s Kapitsa underestimated his strength - and in a makeshift laboratory, based on the equipment manufactured by it or by friends, he conducted research in the field of mechanics and fluid dynamics, has developed a new type of generator, carried out the opening of the plasma column in dense gases at high-frequency discharge. In December 1949, when "all progressive humanity" grovel in thanksgiving for the 70th anniversary of Stalin ignored Kapitsa jubilee events. A month later, followed by another revenge - he was expelled from the post of a professor at Moscow University.

Only after the death of the bloody dictator and arrest Beria Kapitsa position in the scientific world and society was restored. In August 1953, the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR adopted a resolution on assistance to PL Kapitza in his work, and in January 1955, after a meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, he again became director of the Institute of Physical Problems.

But Kapitsa continued to write and speak rulers what he really thought. He warmly congratulated Alexander Solzhenitsyn with the awarding of the Nobel Prize, but shameful letter to academics with "conviction" Sakharov refused to join. "Save Sakharov He is a great scholar of our country." - Pyotr Leonidovich wrote to Brezhnev in 1981, Kapitsa also expressed support for dissident Vadim Delaunay. Among the group of culture and science protested in 1966 against the gradual process of rehabilitation of Stalin, and his letter to Brezhnev undoubtedly had some influence, but creeping, indirect justification of Stalinism occurred until Gorbachev`s "perestroika".

Yes, Kapitsa could build a "golden cage", but to make him "an obedient cog" system to get to work in shackles was impossible. Man with a capital letter and a brilliant scientist, Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa died in 1984, before reaching three months before the ninetieth.