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Oral History Transcript — Alina I. Eremeeva

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Interview with Alina I. Eremeeva
By David DeVorkin, Ronald Doel and translations by Robert McCutcheon
At the National Air and Space Museum
January 13, 1994

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Alina Eremeeva; January 13, 1994

ABSTRACT: In this interview Alina Eremeeva discusses her career as an historian of astronomy. Topics discussed include: Boris Vorontsov-Velyaminov; Moscow State University; dialectical materialism; Viktor Amazaspovich Ambartsumian; B. V. Kukarkin; Sternberg State Astronomical Institute; William Herschel.

Transcript

Unidentified Man:

[Russian.]

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] She said well, we could always do that tomorrow morning, but I said it would probably be without you as our guide.

Unidentified Man:

Tomorrow morning. I have an appointment tomorrow morning. [???] dinner.

Doel:

Today is the 13th of January, 1994. This is an interview with Alina Eremeeva. The interview is taking place at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. I am Ron Doel, and the other people who are here doing the interview with me should also identify themselves on tape so we know who is who.

McCutcheon:

I am Bob McCutcheon.

DeVorkin:

David DeVorkin. We know who you are.

Eremeeva:

[Russian — not translated.]

Doel:

We should begin by asking, we’d like to know when you were born and a little bit about your parents.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] 1929 May in Moscow. Her parents were office workers. Her father was an engineer inventor in the agricultural area. He developed a type of combine that was effective to the 80 percent level in harvesting.

Doel:

Was there, as you grew up, much discussion of science at home?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] She said her family [???] it was from the intelligentsia; it was not very much from the scientific side, it was more from the poetic side of the intelligentsia. Her parents afterwards said that Alina first showed an interest in the skies in the summer of 1929.

Doel:

That’s very early.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Because they were taking a trip to their summer place in Koorsk [?] and that she did not sleep the entire way and was just staring up at the sky the whole time. Right after she was born, this was. The point was, the last part of this trip, where she was staring at the sky, was by horse, by horse and cart.

Doel:

When do you recall growing interested in the sciences?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] At school.

Doel:

At what age?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Middle school. When she was about 14 or 15, in the 5th to 7th classes.

DeVorkin:

Was there a particular teacher, a friend, or what was it that made her interested?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] No, it was actually just the popular scientific literature, and also poetry. There was poetic literature which did touch on the skies. And also through music.

Doel:

Do you remember any particular books that you read that were influential on astronomy?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] She remembers reading in particular on astronomy the first book by Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff, The Universe. This was the first edition. Says then the first edition the book opened, instead of having a forward with the statement, “Don’t read this.” In other words, there was a foreword, but he opened it with, “Don’t read this foreword.” But everyone read it. She says the style in which it was written, was written in a very bright style, with very lofty words and almost a poetic type of phraseology, so that the editors criticized the author afterwards. So that by the time the second edition came out it had been reworked and was a very dry book.

DeVorkin:

Why did Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff say, “Do not read the foreword”?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] He did it on purpose to get people to read it, by writing, “Don’t read this.” Because people usually knew that you skip the foreword. But if you wrote on the forward the first sentence “Don’t read it,” they would read it. (Have to remember that. [laughs]) One said, “Well, what is an editor? Those are the people who are able to take a live fir tree and turn it into a telephone pole.”

McCutcheon:

May I just ask one question first? [Asks in Russian.]

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says this first edition, this one she remembers having read it was around the end of the 1940s, early 50s.

DeVorkin:

Who were the greatest astronomers that you knew of at that time?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] You had in mind contemporary astronomers in her time.

DeVorkin:

When you read Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff, or when you get interested in astronomy, I want to know, were they all Russian astronomers? And among them, who was considered the greatest, and did you hear about anybody, any astronomer, who was not Russian? That’s what I want to know.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Said of course. She knew all about astronomers from all over the world, from Copernicus on. She said actually she started her education at the pedagogical [?] institute in the physics math faculty and then transferred. And she then transferred to Moscow State University in 1951.

Doel:

Before we talk about Moscow State, I was just curious to know in your equivalent of the high school years how much training you had in physics or mathematics, chemistry, astronomy. How much science was then taught?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Of course there was a general science program. Says they had astronomy as a subject in the 10th class, which was the last year of school. So they didn't have a special teacher for astronomy. It was the physics teacher who taught astronomy. Says and that’s sad, because to this day it’s that way. They always just put astronomy into the jungle [?] of physics teaching. And astronomers there are still fighting, and teachers too, to get more specialized astronomy teachers into the schools.

DeVorkin:

Why is it under physics and not mathematics?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] May be just completely accidental that they did it that way. Or perhaps it was because simply in middle school. They were being taught not the mathematical side of science but just the general descriptive side. And that perhaps [???] transferred to physics, but maybe it was just that the physics teacher had more work he could do.

DeVorkin:

Did she learn at that time about Edwin Hubble [?] and the expanding universe?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] No. When she was in school it was more learning about meteors and meteorites, and no Edwin Hubble and the expanding universe, no.

DeVorkin:

Stalin revolution [?].

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says no, that was still far away.

Doel:

It was then very general, descriptive —

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] She said they even had poetry about the stars in school.

DeVorkin:

What about Darwinian evolution and biology?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] She said [???]. But one thing she remembers she forgot to say is that she does remember from the very earliest days with her parents going to the Moscow Planetarium, and that made an extreme impression on her. She said but she got disillusioned at the planetarium. Says this was like when she was in the fourth class, 10 years old, the first trip she went, and she was so excited, but at the same time became disillusioned because there all of the stars on the cupula [?] and she didn’t see — she expected like rays of light to be shining out from the — And there they were, just spots on the ceiling. Such a contrast between reality and the artificial projection on the screen.

Unidentified Man:

I was just going to ask you in general about having seen the night sky in Moscow.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] The first western she really heard of as a child was at the planetarium, and that was Jeans, because they gave a lecture on cosmogony at the planetarium [???]. The theory of the accidental formation of the solar system and the passage of a nearby star, with the cigar idea pulling out planetary materials from the sun. She says they had such a nice a picture of the theory, it created quite an impression on her.

Doel:

When that was presented, were philosophical considerations introduced to that?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says somehow she doesn’t remember if there was or not, whether there was or wasn’t. At the very least she doesn’t think it was a very strong push on that. She said she knows that he was someone that he was criticized, and she knows that, but from that particular lecture what she remembers was more of the theory [?]. [???] may be a bad age. She was more interested in the beauty of it. A child’s understanding.

Doel:

Before you entered the university, did you also have a chance to use a telescope? Were any available?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] She wasn’t in any kind of observatory, a club, any club at the planetarium she was not.

DeVorkin:

Were there clubs for making telescopes at the planetarium?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says of course they did have those clubs there, and I won’t go into the details, but they had everything at the planetarium, from telescope making, everything. But she wasn’t in that herself, although she had friends who were.

DeVorkin:

Why not?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] I’ll follow that up in a second. In general, she says when she was still in middle school she didn’t really have a definite interest in one direction or another yet. If anything, her inclination at that time was still towards literature and she herself would write poetry, and that was more her interest. But then she was saying that but when she did go to the university she moved more in the natural sciences area. I wanted to ask why.

DeVorkin:

Okay. But could I ask for the earlier: Were there other young women that you knew of that were in the astronomy clubs, and did young women join the clubs and build telescopes?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says no, actually in those clubs young girls did participate in them and there was no real discrimination, although as we heard earlier the schools however were divided. There were girls schools and boys schools, but the clubs were not distinguishing —

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Mm-hmm [affirmative]. I think you understood that.

DeVorkin:

[???] church.

Eremeeva:

Yes, yes.

Unidentified Man:

The German model was still preferred —

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] It’s just like the type of fate they had prepared for Carol and Herschel originally. [laughter]

Doel:

I’d like to know if as you grew up you were aware that the boy’s school had better preparation in science than for the women’s schools. Was there a marked difference?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] So really when it comes — although there seem to be some hopes that girls would do more the girlish things and the boys the boys’ things, that in general as far as the science program was concerned as far as she could tell there was no real difference. And she was saying that you really did have girls and women going into the sciences and mathematics. And she’s pointing out her mother as having been quite strong in mathematics and who in fact would have gone on to be quite a specialist had Alina not been born, but Alina came along at the wrong time and her mother had to give it up.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] I think this goes back to sort of the first question, back when [?] I think it adds something, and that is again regarding her parents. Her parents actually originally by origin were from the peasantry, and from the Koorsk province, and had first come to Moscow only in 1927. And her father entered a rob fok [?]. Those were set up in the 1920s. Those were schools for workers and peasants who had not had schooling, and he rose up to become a respected engineer and eventually did build that combine that Alina mentioned earlier, which won him the Stalin Prize in 1952 for that invention. And her mother eventually had ended up in the mathematical institute.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] What she remembers is that the [???] stipend that her mother and father were getting when they first came to Moscow was extremely tiny as students, and that her mother had to work on the side sewing and cleaning and laundry, what have you, to make ends meet, and that that’s partly why she had to give up school when Alina was born, because she just couldn’t cope with it. But also at the same time this was the time that — And she basically gave up her chance, her mother gave up a chance for a profession for the sake of the family.

DeVorkin:

Let’s make sure that we get your profession down. We have 45 minutes left. Where do we stand? We have not talked about you going to —

Doel:

Just gotten up to beginning Moscow State. And we need to know when —

DeVorkin:

When and why. Why Moscow State, and when.

Unidentified Man:

[Inaudible.] Back to the future, [???].

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says what really did inspire her to go into the physics math faculty in 1951 at [???] was to a great extent what she had read from Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff and having gone to some of his lectures, but also a couple of other factors, that she thought she’d have a greater chance for some independence in what she was going to do by going that route; that she never wanted to join the comsumel [?] for example, and never wanted to — she did not want to work in an area where she thought she was going to be subjected to pressures forcing her into a mold.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Given where her mother and father had come from, their background, that really they had no understanding of what had happened under Stalin with the purges and with everything else, and that when Stalin died they considered it a great, great tragedy.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Those people who didn’t really themselves have an understanding of the purges were in great grief, including her, and in a moment of grief she went and joined the comsumel then, and was in it for three years before she gave it up.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] And only in 1956 did some suspicion start to develop, when they first heard about the secret letter, the letter of Kruschchev, the secret speech at the [???] Party Congress. At that time she already was working in the Institute for the History of Science and Technology.

Unidentified Man:

Maybe you want to concentrate some more on the university first.

Doel:

I think it would be better, yeah, if we do that. And I wanted to make sure it wasn’t already covered. Why astronomy versus other sciences? Was there ever a question of another science among the possibilities?

Unidentified Man:

I think probably [???].

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Jacques [???]. Said indeed there were other courses, there were other professors, and there was one that she mentioned, physics, but it was really Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff. It was just the way he taught, the way his lectures were given, that it really just ignited something in her.

Doel:

What sort of a personality was he, and how much contact did you have directly with him?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says incidentally he is still alive. He’s about to celebrate his 90th birthday. He is the oldest of the living Russian astronomers. He was a person with an artistic nature. He was a good film director. He actually would make good home movies at the same time as being an astrophysicist and an observer as well of planetary nebulae and so on. And he had worked [???] the 30s. In fact he had picked up Gerasimovich’s topic on planetary nebulae and continued it. And at Shternberg Institute he at that time was heading the group for planetary nebulae and extragalactic astronomy. Not only was he a great astrophysicist, he was a very good orator, an absolutely wonderful pedagogue [???]. She remembers being at the observatory with him where they would observe through the telescope.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] What she remembers was when she was still at the Pedagogical [?] Institute. In fact that’s where she heard Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff first, and he came and would bring them to this observatory which belonged to the pedagogical school, which actually was an amateur observatory that had been built before the revolution by a merchant for the local — and who used to open it for people to look through. And she remembers warmly being there with him.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says to give you an idea just how different her getting into astronomy was than the usual one, she was so impressed by Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff that to show him how impressed she was she wrote him a very long horoscope in which she also [???] in verse. She composed his horoscope in verse to give to him.

DeVorkin:

Let me ask. Maybe you can tell me. Maybe this question need not be asked. Does she know why Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff's name is hyphenated?

Doel:

That’s a good question. I wondered myself, actually.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Veliaminoff was an old mogul [?] family, goes back to the time of Ivan the Terrible. [???] Veliaminoff Boyarsky [?]. [???] Veliaminoff, that’s actually from the Boyars [?] time, which is actually Ivan the Terrible. Vorontsoff, that’s more the later nobility. So really it’s just a case of the two families having married together, but they were both high up noble families, so they would hyphenate. Oh, in fact one of his relatives lives in France.

Doel:

I’m curious also about 1950 was one of the first versions of Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff’s history of Soviet astronomy. Had you read that at the time?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says yes, she remembers that he wrote the two books at the time — the one on history of astronomy in the USSR and then [???] history of astronomy in general, in that she remembers him actually working in the archives at that time, putting those together. And that was really the first book that attempted to do a history of Soviet astronomy.

Doel:

And he was actually using the archives.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] [???] associated with this [???] institute. Well, he never worked for the archives, but yes, he used the archives. I’d like to follow up on that in terms of what difficulties he might have had and how much he had to hold back at the time.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says as far as she knew at that time, she didn’t know anything about the fact of there ever having been these Pulkovo astronomers. It was impossible at that time to have published anything, and she knew nothing.

Doel:

When you recall the lectures that he gave, did he introduce, or did he seem at all concerned with philosophical issues in the treatment of any of the topics — dialectical materialism? Was that something in the lectures that came out?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says in terms of Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff, no, she doesn’t really remember anything much at all on anything philosophical or in terms of dialectical materialism, and certainly not when she was still at the Pedagogical Institute. What she does remember though is after she transferred to the university that she had a class on the history of astronomy which was given by Kukarkin [?], and in there they did bring up the subjects of philosophy and dialectical materialism. For example, the question of how should one understand the red shift in terms of dialectical materialism.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Of course first of all you've got to say that in astronomy you can’t get away from questions of world view. It’s impossible. And of course astronomy is a science with a very long history, and astronomy is a science that can't move forward without reference to its history.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] She said that astronomers were really divided into two groups at that time, and there were indeed, there was a group that really felt, either because they really believed in it, or because they felt it was their duty, or for whatever reason, really did take dialectical materialism seriously and try to understand things from a dialectical materialist point of view, almost with some of them to making it a dogma. And almost forcefully trying to make it a part of the course. However, that Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff was definitely not part of that school.

DeVorkin:

You’re not retaping a part that you taped?

Doel:

Nope.

DeVorkin:

Good.

Doel:

I don’t do that.

DeVorkin:

If Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff was not one who was for dialectical materials, who was? Where was Ambartsumian?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says one factor you have to take into account is whether a person was a member of the Party or not. If one was, one would feel a responsibility because of being a Party member to engage in anti-religious propaganda and to take the questions of dialectical materialism seriously. I thought, but she isn't sure, that Ambartsumian was a Party member by that time. Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff was not. And she also had [???] Kukarkin was sort of taking dialectical materialism more seriously.

DeVorkin:

Kukarkin was.

McCutcheon:

Kukarkin.

DeVorkin:

Paranagrov[?] ?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Both G[?]kov and Gerasimovich were actually in the United States at about the same time, but when Agarodnikov [?] came back he spent a lot of his time then criticizing the United States and writing about all of its deficiencies, and she thinks that he really believed it, too, everything that he wrote, unlike Gerasimovich, who saw a different side to America.

Doel:

Who were then the leaders of the opposition, the opposing view of those who —? Or was there an opposing —?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] She’s saying she wouldn’t say that there was an opposing group. You couldn’t describe it as such. In the terms of was there a group of astronomers standing on a firm ground of idealism and belief in a higher power and opposing the dialectical point of view, no. With one exception, Nina Yvonne Shtowsha [?], [???], who in the 1920s worked with Tikhov and was a very, very firm strong religious believer, and when Taraganesov[?] took over [?]nev, she wrote him a letter, which I know he later published, saying, “Please return all manuscripts of mine that you have in your possession. I will not allow them to be published in a journal that is engaging in anti-religious propaganda.” But that was the only case of real, open demonstration of one's religiosity.

Doel:

I’m curious at the time how you became aware of these controversies. Was it through conversations with colleagues or other students or —

McCutcheon:

Or whether she even knew it at all at that time.

Doel:

Exactly.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Well, she says that in her viewpoint — I’m not quite sure how much of this is from — She said actually even at that time she was one of those people who really did believe that you did not try to explain things by some higher power; you had to look for the rational explanation for all physical phenomena, but that Soviet dogma, in terms of dialectical materialism was just that. It was dogma, and it was taken to an extreme. But that she both then and now believes that dialectical materialism in its pure form is something which is actually a worthy form of philosophy that is connected with Hegel [?] and that is a useful tool — as long as it's not taken to the dogmatic extreme.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says in a funny way she thinks that people who did back then approach problems from the point of view of dialectical materialism have with time actually on occasion frequently been proven to have had a better point of view than others, red shift being one example.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] The problem is that when it was taken to the dogmatic extreme that undermined the philosophy of dialectical materialism [???]. The name philosopher, the actual title, became almost a pejorative in the Soviet context.

DeVorkin:

We have about 15 left. Why don’t we really spend the time talking about how she shifted from astronomy to history of science, and get a little better idea of what the idea of science in Russia is like.

Doel:

Yes.

DeVorkin:

I am particularly interested in the typical training for a historian of science of your generation. So let’s try — if that’s okay with you guys.

Doel:

I think that’s a good direction to move in.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Said there wasn’t any real special program at that time. Says in the university her specialty was in astrophysics, observational astrophysics, [???] interstellar [?] spectrum, working with Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff, did her diploma thesis with him, and she never even at all thought about history of astronomy as a specialty. She thought she would go to work at some observatory someplace outside Moscow, as people were usually assigned to a place to work. But when she finished she got married to another student, and so that meant that the two of them were to be assigned to a location together.

DeVorkin:

Was this a typical situation? If you got married to another professional, the State found you a job together some place? Is that right? That’s pretty good.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Sometimes they take it into account, sometimes not. The point was that Kukarkin, who was on the committee which was supposed to assign people where to go, told the authorities, “Keep in mind that these two are married, and I know them and I want to make sure that they’re not broken up.” Otherwise if it hadn’t been for him or someone else, they might have ended up at different places. She had hoped to go to some southern observatory, Almata [?] — It was 1953, a declaration came around about the reopening of the Institute for the History of Science and Technology, which incidentally had been closed in 1938 or ‘39 after [???] was arrested. And to try to attract people to come and staff it. [???] institute originally had been established by Vernotsky[?], then was led by Bukarin[?], and of course we all know what happened to Bukarin, so therefore we know what happened with him.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] [???] actually got a request to please send someone over to the institute to be our historian of astronomy.

DeVorkin:

So you and your husband were both posted to Shternberg.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Right. And her husband stayed at the Shternberg Institute then to do his graduate work while she went to the institute. At first actually he was sort of a laboratory assistant to Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff, and then a sort of an actual official piece of paper came through saying that Felix Seetzen [?] is not worthy to be a laboratory assistant, make him a graduate student.

DeVorkin:

Let me ask one quick — To do graduate work in astronomy in the Soviet Union, Russia, did you have to go to an observatory, or was there training at universities?

McCutcheon:

Specifically about graduate work?

DeVorkin:

Yes, because I’m interested in how strong the observatory system was.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] She’s saying that for example Guyeesh[?], Shternberg Institute, although it’s a separate institute was also affiliated with Moscow University. So therefore it was both an observatory and an educational institution. And the staff, you had part of the staff which was more responsible for the teaching aspects, some that was more responsible for the research aspects, and most of the students did come right from the university. On the other hand, someone could have just walked in the front door from a factory. If they managed to pass the exam, they'd be a graduate student.

DeVorkin:

At an observatory.

McCutcheon:

At Shternberg Institute.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] When she was invited to join the Institute for the History of Science and Technology she went to Kukarkin and asked him, “Please could you help me? Could you be an advisor for me? Tell me what I’m supposed to do.” And he said, “You’re not ready to be a historian of astronomy. What you need to do first is you need to do some dirty work for a few years,” and so that indeed for the first couple of years, several years at the institute, she was considered a junior assistant, junior staff member, and was given basically all of the dirty work — the editorial work, the corrections —

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] What they would call someone who is supposed to be the assistant to the artist who mixes the colors was her role at first.

DeVorkin:

So there was a request from Shternberg?

McCutcheon:

No, from the Institute for the History of Science and Technology, which was being reestablished. A request from there to Shternberg to please give us someone, recommend someone to us that you will send to be our historian of astronomy.

DeVorkin:

So does that imply that there were no available people who were trained as historians to be historians of astronomy?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says there weren’t. The only people who did anything in the history of astronomy in the country at that time were people who did it as a hobby. So she, along with Nina [???] in Leningrad are really the first two people who were specially trained ultimately as historians of astronomy.

DeVorkin:

When was [???].

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] In 1954 is when she started to work at the institute.

DeVorkin:

Let me ask one other question related. When you got to the institute, were there other historians of science trained in history in the other areas, or did they have to be filled, those positions, by biologists, physicists, geologists?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says in fact almost exclusively everyone who made up that institute when it was first refounded in 1954 were people who were not historians; they were people whose specialties were in their specific disciples — biologists, geologists — and who then had to become historians. And I believe that. Most of the historians [???].

DeVorkin:

Even for Newton, for Galileo, historians of the Renaissance science.

McCutcheon:

I [???] she was saying there was for example however there was at least one exception, and that was Vazuba Pablovich [?], who was a historian, and his specialty was in the history of antiquities and also the Renaissance. He was the only exception, and he was the one person who spoke lots of languages, and he wasn’t even a corresponding member of the academy. But he was a member of the Swedish Academy, not the Soviet. He was not a Party member.

DeVorkin:

One question in this area. Why 1954?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Serge[?] Vavilov played a big role in this. He wrote a book himself about Newton, Vavilov did, and got interested in history, and became to understand the importance of history of science and took the initiative and supported it to found the institute, or refound.

DeVorkin:

Nothing to do with Stalin’s death?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Says it’s certainly quite a coincidence, and it was ‘53, though she can’t say herself — because that was the year Stalin died — she can’t herself definitely say that it had a connection. So that’s something it would be interesting to check, but she doesn’t know. She says you have to understand all this is ‘53. Really nothing began to change until about ‘56 in terms of [???]. Said but then in 1956 four new staff members came who were rehabilitated — One was a physicist, Palak[?]. And the philosopher [???], [???], [???]. Tatiana Nikolai von Gorenshtein[?], who knew Landau[?] and all of the physicists from Leningrad back in the ‘30s. And she was a philosopher, and she had just gotten out of prison. She had been in prison for 16 years. Her husband had died, but she survived. In ‘56 is when she came. And she, this philosopher, played a big role for Alina and told her, “It’s time for you to start really picking your own direction.”

DeVorkin:

Let’s find out how she did that.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Up until that time she’d had several sort of individual articles [???] and she was in charge of editing his works, but these were the type of things she had been doing. And she’d usually do these things at the direction of the directors, [???]. And they had an assistant director Koolinsky[?] said to her. Like her work in [???], she did the work, but it got — she was assigned to do it and it was published without her name but the name of the assistant director instead. Gorenshtein literally said to her, “Alina, it’s time for you to stop being an orderly.”

DeVorkin:

Who said this?

McCutcheon:

Gorenshtein, this philosopher, the one who had just gotten there from prison, told her, “Alina, it’s time for you to stop being the orderly, the go for these high ups. It’s time for you to start doing your own work.” And that’s when she chose the subject of the universe according to William Herschel.

DeVorkin:

And why did she chose that?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Said already by that time she had been writing a few popular things on astronomers in general, and she knew a little bit about Herschel and just been impressed by him as a romantic character and the fact that he was both romantic and that he was a musician who was also an astronomer with such an unusual fate. I mean, she had several ideas in mind, but this is the one. At home with her husband she would think about this. Like she also thought about the subject of how was interstellar absorption first discovered. That was one thing she had had in mind, and that was an interesting subject.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] But she couldn’t get support for that theme at the institute.

DeVorkin:

Why?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] The problem was this, that this is the type of problem that you have to be an astronomer to understand the significance of studying it, and the people at the institute who would have had to approved the theme were not astronomers, and the title and the subject was not something they understood. But of course the name William Herschel was heard [???] not astronomers. But she told that she, and she saying but, nevertheless, as you will recall, she had problems even with this theme because it was not about native science. She’s been going through your library. She says, her first article on William Herschel was published at [???], the 1963 [???] and the British journal, the British Association for the History of Science. I guess — which one is the British journal for the history of science, she had an article published just recently [?] on the history of astronomy. She went through your bibliography and she found the journal in there for that year, but her article is not in there. She says she’s gone through your book and realized that there’s hardly anything in it on the history of science that had occurred in Russia. It’s only English language literature. She says what we are going to have to do, we have to work on our translations so people know what we're doing.

DeVorkin:

I apologize if I missed it in the British journal for the history of science. When was it published?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] In ‘63. She’ll write it down for you.

DeVorkin:

No, that’s okay. That’s all I need.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] I’ve got the citation at home apparently, the bibliography. [???] write it down for you.

Doel:

I realize we’re going to have to stop if we’re going to see the museum at —

DeVorkin:

I can stay until 6:15, but I really should —

Unidentified Man:

But we need to stop. We need to be winding it down.

Doel:

Yeah. I was just curious in a general way whether —

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] It was 1966 when she had her dissertation done. Her book came out, her book appeared [???] in ‘66. And at that time she was ready to start her graduate work at the institute. See, up until that time she was not even a graduate student; she was just considered a junior staff member at the institute. So this was the time for her to actually begin her graduate work. In 1964 summer she was sent with a group of students to help build Kazak Stan[?]. And while she was out there, they gave her graduate position to another person. She had already taken her entry exam for the graduate work, language and all. But they decided they were going to take someone else and did it while she was out of town, and they told her, “Please step aside.” So she was upset, but then after her book came out the next year, then they said to her, “Please, come and be a graduate student.” So she went to Vorontsoff-Veliaminoff and asked him, “Will you be my advisor?” and finally then they let her into graduate school [?]. And he said, “Here you are, you’ve already had a book published. So what do you need graduate school for? Because you might go off to graduate work and as you do your position at the institute will be lost. Why don’t you take this book and defend it as your dissertation?” And that’s what she did. And that’s when the new, her life began [???] she started working on the compendium on the 50 years of Soviet astronomy, and as you already know some of what that brought about.

DeVorkin:

Well, did her husband go to Kazak Stan as well?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] Actually the two of them — She said actually she and her husband that particular summer had already had their whole summer vacation planned to the Krymea[?], and that her husband, who was actually a member of the Party, was assigned suddenly that “you shall lead this group of people out doing construction work in Kazak Stan for the summer” at the last minute. And so he came home and told her, “I can’t go on vacation. I’m going to Kazak Stan,” and she said, “So I’m going with you.” And the point is too that there was even some — they are still using each other’s separate last name, so we went along, tagged along actually. No one else in this group knew that they were husband and wife. [???] and in ‘67 chase her out of the institute because of her work on the [???] and that closed down the history of astronomy for 20 years.

DeVorkin:

What do you mean?

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

McCutcheon:

[translating] So indeed what they did at the institute was they just took out that theme on the history of astronomy and they did not reestablish one until the mid-1980s. And I asked well why was it they didn’t take you back then. She said it was because by that time she had such a reputation as an anti-establishment figure that she was considered very controversial, all the way up to academician Kidrof [?] at the academy, such that they would not touch her.

DeVorkin:

What established her reputation?

McCutcheon:

This thing about working on the compendium for the 50 years of astronomy and trying to mention Gerasimovich and all of that.

DeVorkin:

Okay. Are you going to continue talking to her about that sometime?

McCutcheon:

I hope so, if we don’t fall asleep tonight at one in the morning.

DeVorkin:

Okay. Will you be able to tape it?

McCutcheon:

Yeah. Not as well as Ron can.

DeVorkin:

We might have some time tomorrow.

Doel:

We’d probably better bring this to a close tonight.

Eremeeva:

[Russian answer.]

Doel:

Thank you very much.

McCutcheon:

Let’s stop here. And see if we can —