AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXII , No. 2, Fall 2000


Major Expanse of Russian-language Materials in the Niels Bohr Library

In keeping with the international nature of science, the Niels Bohr Library aspires to have a comprehensive collection for modern physics and allied fields in all the major scientific languages. Over the last couple of years the library has had special success in building up its collection of Russian-language publications. A main impetus has been the Russian background of our postdoctoral historian for the past three years, Alexei Kojevnikov (who leaves us this fall for a professorship at the University of Georgia). Dr. Kojevnikov bought many books for us during trips to Moscouw, and has been a great help in selecting and cataloging others. Particularly important was a generous gift from Valerie Sukhina in Toronoto, over 140 volumes from the private library of her father, the late Yuri Sukhin.

Sukhin's books are mostly physics monographs and textbooks printed between 1955 and 1985, a period in which a vigorous Soviet publishing program provided a foundation for high standard of physics education and research. Among the authors are Bogoliubov, Landau, Tamm, Abrikosov, Leontovich, Ginzburg, Veksler, Letokhov, Akhiezer, and others. The collection also included many books on computers and information processing, which we have donated to our sister center, the Charles Babbage Institute for the History of Information Processing in Minneapolis.

Other newly acquired physics books include the latest edition of Fizicheskaia Entsiklopedia (1988-1998) and classic editions and collected works of Lomonosov, Lobachevsky, Lenz, Tsiolkovsky, Vernadsky, Kurchatov, Vavilov, Pomeranchuk, I.M. Lifshits, Zel'dovich and Pontecorvo. The Library also bought or was given individual monographs by Stoletov, Frenkel, Andronov, Blokhintsev and other famous scientists.

Newly acquired Russian publications in the history of science include the seminal two-volume collection of recently declassified documents on the history of the Soviet atomic project (a gift from Igor Drovenikov of the Institute for History of Science and Technology in Moscow), M.I. Kaganov’s book of recollections about Landau and his school (gift of the author), a biography of N.N. Bogoliubov (gift of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna) and several dozen other titles. The Niels Bohr Library subscribes to the main Russian journal on the history and philosophy of science, Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki, and has assembled relatively complete sets of the yearbooks on the history of astronomy and on the history of physics and mechanics published by the Institute for History of Science and Technology. We are also lucky to have rare copies of the collection of physics folklore, Fiziki prodolzhaiut shutit’, (1968) and of the history of the physicists’ amateur opera troupe, Arkhimed, written by one of its founders, V.V.Kaner.

Besides published sources, the library has received from the Archives of the Russian Academy of Sciences copies of finding aids to several collections which have recently been cataloged, partially supported by grants from the Center for History of Physics (personal collections of physicists A.P. Aleksandrov, A.I. Berg, A.N. Frumkin, I.V. Obreimov, A.I. Shal’nikov, V.V. Shuleikin and S.A. Vekshinskii).

Russian cartoon in a book donated to the Niels Bohr LibraryThis drawing in a book among those recently donated to the Niels Bohr Library tells the story of “Archimedes’ Birthday,” an annual tradition at the Physics Department of Moscow State University. The practice started in 1960 when students at a Komsomol conference resolved to establish May 7th as the birthday of the great ancient physicist, and it continues today despite a temporary period of underground existence in the late Soviet years due to conflicts with the administration. The tradition included a popular show on the stairs in front of the Department and an evening performance of an amateur opera on physics themes. The book includes the libretto and scores of the most famous of these operas, also called “Archimedes,” which tells the story of a young ancient physicist choosing his calling despite the temptations of other available career paths symbolized, correspondingly, by Venus, Mars, Bacchus, and Apollo.

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