Oral History Transcript — Dr. M. S. Zverev
This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of the American Institute of Physics.
This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.
Please bear in mind that: 1) This material is a
transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) An interview
must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event
will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons
including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings
about an event. Disclaimer: This transcript was scanned from
a typescript, introducing occasional spelling errors. The original typescript
Access form | Project support | How to cite | Print this page
See the catalog record for this interview and search for other interviews in our collection
M.S. Zverev; December 1987
ABSTRACT: This interview concerns the life and career of the Soviet astronomist Mitrofan Stepanovich Zherev (b. 1903), a correspinding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The interview begins with Dr. Zverev's childhood and early interests in music and astronomy. It continues with his education at the Moscow State Conservatory, his meeting with the Moscow astronomer S.N. Blazhfo (1870-1956), and his subsequent transfer to Moscow States University, which he completed with a major in astronomy in 1931. Dr. Zverev describes his early work as a participant in a program to observe a catalog of geodesic stars and discusses various astronomers in both Moscow and Leningrad. The interview then deals at length with the Catalog of Faint Stars and Dr. Zverev's role in saving the catalog project following the arrest of the catalog originators in 1936-37.
Zverev:...speaking in general, no. If you have another one [a copy of the list of questions for discussion during the interview], then I will keep this one for myself as a souvenir.
Zverev:But I have notes [that I have written down]. If you would like, let's do it this way: give me a clean copy, and I will give you the notes. I've written a few things here. True, my handwriting in Russian… What's this? What have I written here?
McCutcheon: In the beginning, MGK?
In the beginning [is written] MGK — the Moscow state Conservatory. And what is written here?
Zverev:I-gum-nov. Who was Igumnov? Igumnov, Konstantin Nikolaevich, was a famous professor from the Moscow Conservatory, a pianist. Igumnov. I had the good fortune to find myself in his class. I studied with him for five years.
McCutcheon: And how did it happen that you decided to study music?
Zverev:I studied music. Seriously studied music starting at eight years of age. And I became interested in astronomy ten years later at age eighteen.
McCutcheon: And so, music was your first love.
Zverev:Music was in the first place. I was born in the city… Let's do it this way… I will begin now.
Zverev:And I will answer your question on the tape recorder.
McCutcheon: Even if I left the tape recorder there in the corner, everything would still be audible… Yes, it works rather well.
Zverev:Should I speak in a normal voice?
McCutcheon: Yes, normal.
Should I speak slowly or quickly? How [should I speak]?
McCutcheon: I would say somewhat slowly so as to have pity on me, because I am the one who will listen [to the tape]. And so, when were you…
Zverev:You've started the apparatus already?
Zverev:Already! And the tape is already running?
McCutcheon: We could… Let's check whether… O.K. First question: when and where were you born?
Zverev:I was born in the city of Voronezh, in the family of a priest who served in the Cadet Corps. He ran the church, and besides this he was an amateur archaeologist. He went on diggings and organized a museum in Voronezh — the Voronezh Provincial Museum. Now it is called a regional museum. Then it was simply the provincial museum. And he [worked] in the Scythian excavations near Voronezh — the Scythians were an ancient people — and he found a Scythian vessel [pot] of Greek manufacture. This was a remarkable archaeological find. And this vessel is now in the State Hermitage in Leningrad.
Zverev:In the gold room. It is a special vessel. My father found it near Voronezh.
McCutcheon: Your father was very interested in science?
Zverev:He was an archaeologist and historian. But at that time he was a religious person. I had seven brothers and sisters. Seven. I was the one before the last. I also had a younger brother.
McCutcheon: A large family.
Zverev:The oldest son went into science in the footsteps of his father and became a historian and archaeologist. My middle sister was a biologist whose specialty was the study of ponds, of all sorts of water insects, of water animals. But my other [brothers and sisters] died a long time ago. There is no one else.
McCutcheon: Did they serve in the army?
Zverev:My oldest brother, the one who was an archaeologist, he also died in 1920. My father died in 1920, my mother died in 1918, and my second brother died in 1918. And so it turned out that in 1918, 1919, and 1920 our family of seven people turned into [a family of] three people.
McCutcheon: The Civil War? From the famine?
Zverev:My oldest sister — the biologist — I and my younger brother, who also soon died from all sorts of illnesses. There. I became interested in astronomy simply because I was an admirer of the night sky. In Voronezh I had friends who were also interested in astronomy. I simply became interested in astronomy on my own. I was a musician, however.
McCutcheon: Was there any amateur astronomy society or observatory there?
Zverev:There was none of that, but in 1917... in 1918 the university was evacuated to Voronezh from Tartu — Tartu, there is such a city.
McCutcheon: Yes, yes, in Estonia.
The problem was that the Germans — that was the First World War — the Germans were attacking Czarist Russia — there was still the czar — through the Baltic [region].
McCutcheon: I didn't know about that [the evacuation].
And from Tartu was evacuated...
McCutcheon: The entire university?
Zverev:The university was evacuated to Voronezh. And there were two astronomers there. I became acquainted with these two astronomers, and they attracted me to astronomy. I even became an employee, a very young one — I wasn't even twenty years old — but I became an employee of the Astronomy Department of the Voronezh University. They created the Voronezh University on the base of the Tartu [University].
McCutcheon: Who were these two astronomers?
Zverev:That was precisely in 1918, 1919, and 1920. In 1921 and 1922.
McCutcheon: Who were these two astronomers?
Zverev:I had by then already become an astronomer. My observations from that time… I was an amateur observer and observed with small theater binoculars. The binoculars and I observed variable stars with them. That was, nevertheless, my hobby. My principal occupation was music.
McCutcheon: Who were these two astronomers?
Zverev:I studied in the Voronezh Music School and graduated from there with honors in 1923 and received a state scholarship in the Moscow state Conservatory. [By then] there was already Soviet Russia and the Soviet of Deputies…
McCutcheon: Did you live full-time in Voronezh before you moved to Moscow?
Zverev:I lived all the time in Voronezh. I, a young man, received a scholarship to go to Moscow. Of course, I went. After all, this was Moscow. And so I became a Muscovite, and I was a Muscovite for a whole twenty years. For the first five years I studied in the conservatory and decided that I would be a musician. I ended up in the class of the remarkable Professor Igumnov who was, perhaps, throughout Russia about the most famous piano teacher. He was simply a remarkable piano teacher. Have you heard the names Oborin, Richter, and Gilel's?
McCutcheon: Yes, I have heard of them, of course.
Zverev:Richter and Gilel's, I say, there was also Flier, Iakov Flier — they were students of this Igumnov. They were remarkable pianists. During my fifth year in Moscow, in my fifth year, I understood that I would not become a famous musician.
Zverev:Because my technique was limited by my nature. Several of my friends had a natural technique, and they could play the most difficult works of Liszt and Brahms, whereas I could not. I didn't have. I understood that by my very nature I would not become a great pianist. Well, can a man sing if he does not have a voice? I didn't have the technical wherewithal to be a pianist of the first ranks. And therefore…
McCutcheon: So as to be precise, when did you move to Moscow?
McCutcheon: In 1923. And how many years did you study in the conservatory?
Zverev:I studied (there] six years.
McCutcheon: Six years.
But already in 1928 I collected my journals with the notes of my variable star [observations] — astronomical — and through the address book searched out the Moscow Observatory of the Moscow University and searched out there Professor Blazhko, Sergei Nikolaevich.
McCutcheon: He was the director?
McCutcheon: Was he the director of the Moscow Observatory?
Zverev:He was a professor of the Moscow Observatory. He had been there many years. He worked there his entire life. I found his address through the address book, went to his home, and rang the doorbell. Who is there? Some sort of young man had come to him. At first he met me with distrust, but when he saw my journals, my graphs, how my variable star observations were turning out. And he also liked to observe variable stars, this Blazhko. He embraced me, kissed me, and said, "You must come over to us. You are an astronomer.
A real [astronomer]. Your results, although you obtained them almost without direction... If I had already obtained results that were of interest to the specialists. And then my fate was decided, and I was to become an astronomer.
McCutcheon: Did you transfer immediately?
Zverev:No. But my chief, Igumnov — he was both a professor and a musician — he didn't object at all. He himself had at one time also graduated from Moscow University. He was a musician and a professor of music, but he graduated from Moscow University [with a major] in history — from the history faculty. He, my professor, a musician, said himself that… but he didn't object at all that I would study… I wanted to enter the university to become an astronomer with an [official] education. He agreed. He even gave me a signed form — he was the rector of the university… no, the conservatory. Igumnov. I entered Moscow University and graduated from the university with a major in astronomy. I have two diplomas: from Moscow Conservatory and from Moscow University — from the conservatory as a pianist and from the university as an astronomer.
McCutcheon: How many years did you study at the university? Four years?
Zverev:At Voronezh University for three years, and at Moscow [University] for two yours — a total of five years. That's all. That's why I became an astronomer. Is that understandable?
McCutcheon: I understand. I didn't know anything about that previously.
McCutcheon: I knew that you had studied in a conservatory somewhere, but I didn't know what the circumstances were.
Zverev:But, by the way, I am still a musician even now. I can't give up that work. All the more so that. Although I don't have such a virtuoso technique, I nevertheless do have a certain musical talent, an expressive way of playing that produces an impression. To this day I sometimes give concerts. In Moscow.
McCutcheon: In Moscow?
Zverev:Both in Moscow and here in the Pulkovo auditorium I give concerts, and also sometimes, although rarely, at the House of Scientists in Leningrad. And in Moscow over the past ten years I have become friends with people who work in the apartment of the composer Skriabin. Have you heard the name?
McCutcheon: Of course, of course.
Zverev:Skriabin. Aleksandr Nikolaevich Skriabin. Have you heard of him?
McCutcheon: Yes, yes, he is very well known.
This was a man of such extraordinary originality. His most precious trait was that he was a composer with a sincere, spiritual frame of mind. In addition to sound... the beauties of his sound and beautiful sounds, his music also had a content, a spiritual content. Skriabin was extraordinary and (wrote) expressive music. And the expressiveness of his music suits my soul. In recent years I play Skriabin almost exclusively. And I play him for real.
McCutcheon: If you give a concert over the next two months, you will have to tell me about it.
Zverev:I even thought that this December, now—December has begun-in Moscow I... The Arbat street is there. Have you heard of the Arbat?
McCutcheon: Yes, that's even a whole region.
McCutcheon: That's an entire region.
Zverev:No, there is both an Arbat street and an Arbat district. And off of Arbat street there is Vakhtangov Lane. And on Vakhtangov Lane, house eleven — one-one — is the house where Skriabin lived. And now this house, the apartment, is preserved as the Skriabin Museum. Do you understand?
McCutcheon: I understand.
And there in the Skriabin Museum there are two good pianos. This is an apartment, so this is not at all a huge (concert) hall. There in the museum you can have, well, fifty people — one hundred people with difficulty — attend a concert. A hundred people, that is, if you don't keep everyone in one room. There are two rooms. There are two rooms, but this is one room, and the second — [people sitting there] must listen through the door. Because one room does not make for a large hall. It is simply a house, a residence.
McCutcheon: I understand.
Zverev:And in this residence there are two good pianos. Perhaps you have heard the name—he wasn't a composer, but a pianist — Sofronitskii?
McCutcheon: I haven't heard of him.
Zverev:And we consider Sofronitskii to be the best performer of Skriabin that there has ever been. He is no longer living. He died comparatively young, but Sofronitskii himself spent time in the Skriabin home-museum. His wife worked there as a museum staff member, and he gave this Skriabin home-museum two very good pianos. But Sofronitskii played Skriabln magnificently. And he performed abroad many times, and somewhere, perhaps in Germany, they presented him with a piano. The piano was made by Bekshtein — a good firm.
And this piano is now in Skriabin's home, and, I play on it sometimes. So you see that I haven't completely. So, I'm finished. I consider the second question completely answered.
McCutcheon: Yes, almost, but in the university what were your...
Zverev:Did I write a thesis? How was it that there was none? Because I went straight into the third year [of the university], and at that time… Listen, in my life this is a small, so to speak, camouflage. Well, a camouflage in that, you know, there was a small incident. At that time geodesic works were unfolding in our Soviet country. We needed to conduct cartography throughout enormous Russia, the whole country. This was being done before the revolution. There were military geodesists of all sorts who worked and made maps and all that. They made maps, that's right, but all this was old fashioned, using old technology. It wasn’t very precise and all that. And then in the Soviet Union at the end of the 1920s — that is, in 1930 — it was announced that a state triangulation [would be conducted]. Do you know what triangulation means?
McCutcheon: Yes, triangulation.
[not audible] quantities. Measurement of our entire country and then a gravimetric survey. A study of the force of gravity throughout the entire territory of our country. And the triangulation at all reference points required an astronomical determination of latitude and longitude, and so astronomers were needed. And thus, even though I hadn't yet graduated from the university, I had to conduct practical work, go on expeditions — astronomical, geodesical, and gravimetric — to determine the force of gravity. Thus I gained experience. I thus felt that I had found my calling. I was an astronomer-observer, and triangulation of reference points, the fundamental points — that is, [determination] of latitude and longitude with full accuracy — [was done] by the stars. This was already astrometry. I had been observing variable stars — that was photometry, and now I became an astrometrist. And this astrometry turned out to be so extensive, so interesting, so important, simply so important for…
McCutcheon: To be precise, you became interested in astrometry through this geodesic work.
I became a specialist in this area. And I began to work so well in the 1930s in… At that time one had to use triangulation [to determine] the latitude and longitude, latitude and longitude. One had to have good stars in the sky — geodesic stars they were called.
McCutcheon: Yes, I have read that there was an entire project at that time to observe the geodesic stars.
Zverev:And I was a participant in this large work. Five observatories in the Soviet Union [participated]: Pulkovo, Moscow, Kazan, Tashkent, and Nikolaev. Working under the direction of the Pulkovo astronomer Tsimmerman, these five observatories all conducted observations of the same 1334 geodesic stars.
McCutcheon: To what magnitude? To fifth magnitude?
Zverev:To fifth magnitude, fourth-fifth magnitude. I was a participant in Moscow. I began to observe so actively. In general I am an impulsive person, and I was especially so then. Therefore after two years of observing they sent me… I observed so diligently, (so] very well, that they decided to send me to Pulkovo Observatory to study for real. Because at Moscow Observatory, where my Blazhko was… Blazhko was a very good… We remained friends.
McCutcheon: But he was very distant from astrometry.
Zverev:No. You see, he also understood and gave courses [on astrometry?]. That was when Moscow University somewhat reoriented itself toward astrometry, geodesy, and gravimetry. There was such a time when at Moscow University they weakened astrophysics, weakened theoretical physics, [and weakened, too much, complex mathematical problems. In their place they introduced practical work. At that time this was needed by our government.
McCutcheon: I thought that at Moscow University and at the Astrophysical Observatory in Moscow the main direction was always astrophysics. All the time.
Today [that is true]. But there was a period when astrometry had to be the main thing. That was a brief period — the start of the 1930s. I happened to fall into this period.
McCutcheon: So, there was a Repsold meridian circle there, and you observed.
Zverev:Meridian circle. It was in Moscow that I became an astrometrist, and I conducted my observations on the Moscow meridian circle. There was a Repsold meridian circle there — a good instrument on which I worked well, well… And then in 1934 I was sent to Pulkovo Observatory to study for two months, just to study — practice. To study, practical work. Do you understand? And imagine, the remarkable Professor Iashnov, Petr Ivanovich, was at Pulkovo Observatory at that time. Besides [him] Numerov was there. He wasn't at Pulkovo. [Rather,] he [Numerov] had been at Pulkovo earlier. Then he was in Leningrad.
McCutcheon: He was at the Astronomical Institute.
Besides that, Gerasimovich was there [at Pulkovo]. He was the director. There was Dneprovskii and [other] remarkable enthusiasts of astrometry of, you know, world class. They were already members of the International Astronomical Union and already had such great authority — international authority. And there I fell into their company. And imagine, I simply, as they say, found myself there. Know yourself. Do you know the [expression?].
McCutcheon: Know yourself.
Zverev:Having fallen into the company of Pulkovo astronomers, I found myself. My teacher was Iashnov. He was a great enthusiast — Iashnov, Petr Ivanovich — a great enthusiast from the Pulkovo School of
Astrometry. Pulkovo astrometry had its characteristics, [whereas] the Greenwich school was a completely different matter — Greenwich. The Washington school is also something else, and Pulkovo had its own school. I won't tell you what the differences were between the Pulkovo, Greenwich, and Washington schools.
McCutcheon: As far as I understand, the main feature of Pulkovo Observatory was that it observed right ascension and declination separately.
Zverev:Yes, and to create by absolute methods, to create absolute star catalogs, and from the absolute catalogs to make all sorts of fundamental systems. And in this sense in the last century the Pulkovo catalogs had the very highest weight. In this century, of course, other observatories have also risen, and Pulkovo does not stand out as it used to. But in the last century Pulkovo Observatory was simply unique in this sense.
McCutcheon: Every twenty years, it seems, there was a new...
Zverev:Every twenty years they published such a catalog. That has continued in our times. Recently… so that.
McCutcheon: It seems that we are not going according to the list [of questions], but this is all of interest to me.
In Moscow, although I worked in astrometry, I became very good friends with variable stars and with the variable star observers. My friends were Vorontsov-Vel'iaminov, Boris Aleksandrovich. There was Kukarkin. There was Parenago. But as concerns Ter-Oganezov — you have a question [about him] — I never had any dealings with him. He was some sort of strange person. All (normal) people live in apartments, in apartments. Every person, every normal person has a homemaker or wife and children there. Ter-Oganezov, as I recall, lived alone and for some reason in a hotel. He rented a room in Moscow in a fancy hotel. I don't how he paid for it, who gave him money. In general, he conducted himself like someone who thought himself to be better than everyone else, but he considered himself to be an astronomer.
McCutcheon: He considered himself an astronomer.
Zverev:Yes, some other people also might have considered him an astronomer. In any case… Then I was still so… I was already about thirty years old. But that was not very much for me because I had been in the conservatory previously. Thus my contemporaries were all twenty-five years old, whereas I was thirty. At that time Ter-Oganezov thought up and composed a letter to the Pope in Rome. Later we signed it. I think even I signed it.
McCutcheon: I read that letter in the journal Mirovedenie.
Zverev:But I didn't read it. It was in Mirovedenie…
McCutcheon: Because he was the editor-in-chief there.
Zverev:So this Ter-Oganezov wrote this letter to the Roman Pope, and there were signatures from many astronomers. And this letter to the Roman Pope said that the Roman Pope had in general all the astronomers. That they [the church] had forced Galileo to renounce his hypotheses... Giordano Bruno [also]… In general, [the letter] accused the Roman Pope of all [sorts of] sins.
McCutcheon: Well, to a certain extent that was true.
Zverev:That was Ter-Oganezov's specialty... such actions on a broad scale.
McCutcheon: It seems that he was somehow in the government. In Glavnauka, I think.
I don't know who he was, what post he held, where he received his salary — I don't know. But Ter-Oganezov had some sort of personality... He was never in the company of astronomers. He was always in the company, you know, of some sort of higher officials.
Zverev:Fedynskii was a good guy. True, he was a geophysicist later. I had comparatively little dealings with him. He died recently — he is no more. Vsevolod Vladimirovich Fedynskii. And here you have written [on the list of questions] MOLA. Precisely. When Blazhko embraced me and said, "You are one of us," he said directly, Go to MOLA — the Moscow Association of Amateur Astronomers — where there is an Observers' Collective. And in this Observers' Collective you will find friends and like-minded people who also like to observe, who like variable stars. There you will find your company. And Parenago, Kukarkin, and Vorontsov-Veliaminov were in this company. And Vorontsov-Vel'lamlnov was even the chairman of the Observers' Collective. So we… And Fedynskii was there then, but later Fedynskii went into geophysics and had a different specialization. But they were all young people then.
McCutcheon: It seems that this was a very active group. I would say that from what I have read about this group, it seems to have been much more active than our ... than other amateur groups.
I will say — the American [?] — is a wonderful organization. It still exists now, doesn't it?
McCutcheon: American Association for the — AAVSO.
Zverev:We all thought that it was the Royal Astronomer Association, something like that, right?
McCutcheon: That's in England.
Zverev:I want to ask you about this, but America [has its own society], doesn't it?
McCutcheon: There is the Astronomical League, but the most active society is the American Association of Variable Star Observers.
Zverev:And those are amateur observations there? [Amateur] observers?
Moreover, someone told us that this society has collected literally hundreds of thousands of various observations. So then, let's continue. As concerns GAISH [The Shternberg State Astronomical Institute] in the 1930s.
Zverev:I immediately became a member of the staff. [When I] graduated from the university, they immediately sent me on an expedition.
McCutcheon: On a geophysical expedition?
Zverev:On a geophysical expedition. Because Moscow University was simply obliged, had taken upon itself all sorts of contracts with geodesical organizations to determine the force of gravity, to take part in triangulation, to take part in. I, for example, personally… In 1935 the first class triangulation of the Soviet Union crossed the Caucasus range. And did you know that [triangulation took place] even on the summit of El'brus, in the mountains?
McCutcheon: The highest mountain.
There was a geodesical point [there]. You know, a signal. You know, geodesic signal stations. Do you know what that is? It is a type of pyramid. There. And there on El'brus there was a signal, but on El'brus one needed to be a mountain climber. I wasn't a mountain climber, but I observed at the base of El'brus, [at the base of] Khodzhal-there is such a mountain — and at many other [mountains]. There were two expeditions: one from Leningrad and one from Moscow. And in the Moscow expedition I was already even the chief. And the Moscow expedition determined about ten points for the determination of precise astronomical latitude and longitude. But the most interesting [part] came later. When was all this completed? That was in 1936. And the Leningrad group also determined about ten points from the other side [of the Caucasus]. We [worked] from one side [of the Caucasus], the others [worked] from the other [side]. In brief, the entire Caucasus range, every triangulation, every signal. Triangulation by computation gives the latitude and longitude, but these latitudes are called geodesic. But [latitudes determined] from the stars are called astronomical. And the difference between the astronomical and geodesical is called the deviation of the vertical line. The problem is that astronomers. What is the vertical line? The vertical, a vertical line is in the direction of the force of gravity. Astronomers orient their instrument in the direction of the force of gravity — that's their orientation. The zenith is the astronomical zenith. But triangulation computes all of this via measurements, and they [obtain] geodesic coordinates and the geodesic zenith. And so astrometry and geodesy deviate from one another. And when there is a mountain, [then they deviate completely].
McCutcheon: Because of the force of gravity?
Zverev:And what happened here was very interesting. In the Caucasus it turned out that in the northern Caucasus, far from the crest, these deviations are small. Well, one or two seconds there — that's not much. But near the crest, there the deviation is fifteen seconds!
McCutcheon: Fifteen seconds?
Zverev:That's a large quantity. And by the way, this [deviation] depends on what is happening under the earth. And thus here by the methods of studying the deviation of vertical lines. By using the amount by which the vertical line deviates from the geodesic, one can determine the structure of underground. But underground structures are complex. To be precise, in so much as the earth has existed for millions of years, for these millions of years all of these anomalies have somewhat evened out. Nevertheless, the force of gravity is still acting. Allot these anomalies are trying, of course, to liquidate each other. And here and there it happens that one has a mountain, but imagine that inside [the mountain] is some kind of void. Thus you have compensation. This compensation is called isostatic compensation. Perhaps you have heard of it?
McCutcheon: No. Isostatic compensation? That is far removed me.
Zverev:This isn't astronomy — it's geophysics. But the theory of isostasis is a remarkable theory that appeared in this century. This is a theory of the study of the earth's core. The earth's core, in so much as it has existed for millions of years and the pressure from this [?], you understand, is leveling off, when. So one has compensation there. Indeed, a mountain, at the same time as the mountain is exerting pressure, but inside [the mountain] there are some kind of movements. So in the end it isn't so awful. There aren't such anomalies that would produce a big deviation (from the vertical], but nevertheless in the Caucasus there are deviations from the vertical up to fifteen-seventeen seconds. Those are big [deviations].
McCutcheon: That means that the astronomical determination of latitude and longitude there are not so...
Zverev:Deviate from [those determined by] triangulation.
McCutcheon: And triangulation gives a better solution.
Zverev:What's better and what's worse, I don't know.
McCutcheon: It's just...
Zverev:Astronomical determination depends on the distribution of mass under the earth. If under the earth… By the way…
McCutcheon: Non-homogeneous mass…
Zverev:Imagine that there is iron ore under the earth. The Kursk-have you heard of that? The Kursk anomaly…
McCutcheon: Yes, yes, yes, I have read about that.
Zverev:How was the Kursk anomaly discovered? There also [it was] astronomy, geodesy, and gravimetry. The force of gravity is heightened there. Why? They started to dig there and found iron there. And what is happening in the Caucasus? There [you have] oil and oil-fields, and so the anomaly there has an opposite sign. It's a void. The liquid [oil] constitutes a void. There it could have… Iron ore is one thing — it is heavy — it is another thing to be filled with some sort of liquid oil. Lighter than water. It is…
McCutcheon: That's in Azerbaizhan, isn't it? And, indeed, oil is
Zverev:There you can have voids and so forth. And there the anomalies and force of gravity are different. In general, anomalies exist in deviations from the vertical, and anomalies exist in the force of gravity. This is an entire problem. I had to work on this somewhat in the 1930s.
McCutcheon: You graduated from the university in 1930?
Zverev:I graduated from the university precisely in 1929. No, in 1931.
McCutcheon: In 1931 and until 1935 you took part in such geodesic expeditions?
Zverev:In 1936 my… The triangulation was in 1935, and in 1936 we were sent to all these points.
McCutcheon: This was your main work there at that time?
Zverev:That work was for the Shternberg Astronomical Institute [GAISh], but my main work was in the Shternberg Institute, the Moscow...
McCutcheon: Those were observations of...
Zverev:Those were the geodesic stars. I became an astrometrist there. And at Pulkovo Observatory, when I was there, I fell into the midst of astrometrists, and there I became an astrometrist completely. Here [on the list of questions] I have underlined…
Zverev:I underlined Blazhko, and you should underline Blazhko — even with an exclamation point. Underline Kukarkin with an exclamation point, and underline Parenago with an exclamation point. These were my friends, my generation… Blazhko was my older colleague. He was twenty years older than all the rest of us, and these were my. And they [Kukarkin and Parenago] were five-six years younger than me.
McCutcheon: But with whom you worked in Kolnab [the MOLA Observers' Collective]….
Zverev:And Floria, oh Floria. Only underline that at one time I worked with him. He perished during the war. He simply was killed at the front. He was... There's Mikhailov — he was a remarkable man. He was the director of Pulkovo Observatory during my time already. But I didn't become friends with him because he was higher than me. He was some sort of… No, he was a man…
McCutcheon: He was, probably, from a different area.
Zverev:He gave us remarkable lectures. No, Mikhailov is an entire problem. What was Mikhailov? A most interesting man, of great erudition, a man of the highest culture. He… Wherever he happened to be, he was always an outstanding personality. He brilliantly, for example, knew how to do what? To be the chairman of a meeting! When he ran a meeting everyone was. Everyone conducted themselves quietly. There was remarkable discipline at the meeting. All the speeches were remarkable, and Mikhailov himself spoke. When… You have a question here [on the list of questions]. There. Now... Chandrasekhar was… Did you have any international ties? I did. There was a Swedish delegation. Lundmark was a Swede.
McCutcheon: I know of him.
Zverev:So there was a meeting… I was still in Moscow then, at GAISh, and there was a meeting in which the Swedish [delegation] took part… It was a huge meeting, and Mikhailov was there. And by everything it was evident that Mikhailov, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Mikhailov, by his general culture was higher not only than all of our [scientists], but also higher than all the Swedes. He was even higher than Lundmark and so forth. Because he was simply a very cultured man. He had some sort of natural culture. He has such... And in general he was at Pulkovo Observatory. He showed himself from his high positions in the end (?).
McCutcheon: When was it that the Swedish delegation was here?
Zverev:The Swedes were in Moscow in the 1930s. That was approximately in 1935, perhaps in 1936, somewhere about that. NOW, as strange as that may be, Chandrasekhar was at Pulkovo when I was there. I was on assignment at Pulkovo, and at that same time, in 1934, Chandrasekhar was there.
McCutcheon: Was that precisely in 1934? You were here [at Pulkovo] for two months?
McCutcheon: You were here at Pulkovo Observatory for two years?
Zverev:No, at that time [I was here] for two months.
McCutcheon: Two months.
Zverev:I was [here] for only two months in 1934. And at that same time Chandrasekhar was here. It's even curious. I, it is true, did not become acquainted with him. I was a humble trainee, a student. But there were… And Chandrasekhar was with Gerasimovich. Gerasimovich was also such a personality, do you know, [who was] so cultured, highly... with a general. He was an intellectual. Who was Kancheev? [Note: This is from the list of questions.] Kancheev was named director of Pulkovo Observatory after he was.
McCutcheon: Of GAISh.
Zverev:Of GAISh. At GAISh. He was director of GAISh. Why was he appointed? He was named by the Ministry… there of Higher Schools… such a ministry [the Peoples Commissariat for Enlightenment —Narkompros]. GAISh was part of Moscow University, and Moscow University was under the higher school... the Ministry of Higher Schools. And there was Kancheev — an employee of the ministry. For some reason they made him director of GAISh. He was never an astronomer and never understood what astronomy was about, but he was a man that you could talk with, whose hand you could shake, such a rather simple and rather. And later, when Academician Fesenkov rose up among us. Fesenkov.
McCutcheon: He [Fesenkov] became director later.
Zverev:Then Fesenkov was named director, and Kancheev went off somewhere again, and I didn't even hear anything about him [again].
McCutcheon: On the way here I was in Moscow, where I asked about Kancheev when I was in GAISh. They told me that he was a mathematician.
Zverev:Perhaps. I don't even know, but it seems to me that he was not a mathematician.
McCutcheon: But perhaps… Do you know, I was given one small book about the history of GAISh. I will have to show it to you, because it is written there that Fesenkov became director in 1936 and Kancheev transferred to the Literary Institute!
Zverev:That sounds like him. He could have been the director of any institute. I don't believe that he had any specialty. Whether or not he was a mathematician, I somehow don't know. I didn't know.
McCutcheon: Most likely he was an administrator.
Zverev:There, an administrator, that's it — and a rather peaceful and a rather, you know, convenient administrator. He didn't argue; he agreed with intelligent proposals. You know, there are such administrators who impose their line with force, and all people somehow before him… But not Kancheev. He was such a good-natured man with whom it was easy to work but who, of course, could not facilitate progress in astronomy. He wasn't even an astronomer. But Fesenkov was an astronomer on a large scale. Fesenkov was on a large scale.
It seems that he became an academician in 1931 [Note: Fesenkov was elected to full membership in the Academy of Sciences in 1935.]
He became an academician in the 1930s. He became an academician because he was a leading person. He was a person of merit. Mikhailov became an academician only recently, in our times already — Moiseev was a good man, an interesting [man], but he suffered. He had tuberculosis of the bones, and he walked with crutches. He couldn't walk without crutches.
McCutcheon: He suffered his entire life?
Zverev:In any case, when I knew him he was always with crutches, and he was sickly. As a result he, Moiseev, was somewhat irritable. But at one time he was director of GAISh.
McCutcheon: That was later?
Zverev:That was during the war, to be precise. During the war Moiseev was director. When the Germans began dropping bombs on Moscow, the institute [GAISh] was [still] in Moscow. Then it moved [was evacuated] to Sverdlovsk. And Moiseev was [director] first in Moscow and then in Sverdlovsk. But he proved himself to be a very serious person.
McCutcheon: His specialty was celestial mechanics?
Zverev:Celestial mechanics. He was the head of the entire celestial mechanics group. He had his own group. Duboshin, a celestial mechanician, was there and so forth.
McCutcheon: As far as I recall, the group of celestial mechanicians there in Moscow was quite different from the group here in Leningrad?
Yes, yes. True, true. Thanks to Numerov, celestial mechanics in Leningrad was concrete. It studied concrete celestial bodies. Those celestial mechanicians [also] worked in geodesy and gravimetry because. The earth, the theory of the figure of the earth, the practical side of the theory of the earth's figure… Numerov himself was the director of the theoretical institute [the Astronomical Institute, later the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy], and he had his own methods of celestial mechanics for studying the motion of the planets. Numerov's methods. The motion of which planets? Jupiter, Saturn, and so on. And what did Moiseev do? What did his school do? Moiseev had a school, literally a school. This was a school of qualitative methods in celestial mechanics. They weren't interested in concrete planets. The concrete sun — how it is constructed and what mass it has — did not interest them. What were they interested in? How would a planet move if the central body had a large mass, or a small mass, or some irregular structure — what type of orbit will it have? Such forms. They sometimes wrote some works on planetary motion in which [the planets moved] not in circles and not in ellipses, but along some complex curves. This depends... on the gravitational field. In a complex gravitational field the orbit is complex. That was their element. That was the area in which these celestial mechanicians worked. Once, while I was there, Duboshin obtained good results and even received some sort of prize. He worked with Moiseev there, Professor Duboshin. Perhaps you have heard of him?
McCutcheon: Yes, yes, I know of him.
At GAISh. A very capable man. He was short — by nature he was only one and a half meters — that was all the height he had. But he had a head, and his celestial mechanics were very sound. And so he studied the Saturn system. Purely theoretically. And he gave Saturn’s theory, the theory of Saturn itself, the theory of Saturn’s rings, the theory of Saturn's satellites, and so forth and so forth and so forth. This was all… He received a state prize for this work because this system had been really worked out, worked out in detail, with all sorts of original, interesting theoretical methods and so forth and so forth. A year or two later I asked Duboshin, "Georgii Nikolaevich," he was called Georgii Nikolaevich Duboshin, tell me please if Saturn’s satellites move according to your theory, or do they deviate from your theory? You gave a theory for Saturn’s satellites, but we know how Saturn’s satellites move. So, do they obey your theory or don't they?"
And do you know how Duboshin answered? That doesn't interest me. Please, I have the formulae. My theory has been worked through. Please, if this interests you, take the formulae, compute things as you wish, take the parameters — the masses — and assign them as you wish. That's your affair. I am not concerned with that.
That reminds me of a professor from when I was a graduate student — Boris Garfinkel. A celestial mechanician. He was interested in asteroids — Trojan asteroids. He has his theory — I don't even know how to say it in Russian — a special type of orbit. But he very proudly said that he had never even looked through a telescope.
Zverev:Had never even looked and had never become interested in what, in fact, asteroids are. Well, O.K., we have. So the Moscow school was overall an original school. The Moiseev School. There were very intelligent people there. There was one mathematician there, a certain Stepanov, not an astronomer, but he became interested in this school. Therefore they consider him to be one of their people, even though he was not an astronomer. But he was a great mathematician, a professor, a doctor [i.e., had received his doctoral degree]. Professor Stepanov was at Moscow University. Well, that's that. Onward to the fourth question [in the list of questions]: the Catalog of Faint stars.
I must say directly that in 1932… in 1932 an astrometry conference took place at Pulkovo. We call this conference the First Astrometric Conference of the Soviet Union. That is to say that before this there had never been a conference on astrometry as such in our country. There had been general meetings of astronomers, you know, where they talk about a bit of everything. But so that astrometrists met [to discuss] concrete astrometric problems — this was the first [conference] like that. I wasn't there because at that time I had only begun. In 1931 I had only just entered Moscow University. No, I was just finishing Moscow University — I had entered in 1929. In any case I was still a green young man. Several people went there from GAISh and participated. Among them were Shaposhnikov — there was one such astronomer.
McCutcheon: And so you were at the conference but simply did not participate [in it]?
Zverev:I wasn't there. I wasn't there. In 1932 I wasn't there, wasn't there. But when the people who were there came back, they told us about everything, and we all listened to their reports with interest. I was interested both in general and in the whole thing. Shaposhnikov, a young man about my age, had been there, and he had given a paper there. And he told me how his paper had gone and so forth. But, one minute… And he told me that there had been a paper there on a catalog of some sort of faint stars. What was this? And then we looked, and later there was, you know, some sort of article. I think this was in the proceedings of the conference. There was an article there on this Catalog of Faint stars. We more or less became acquainted with this [catalog] there [in this article], and we became more or less interested. And four years later in 1936 there was [another] conference, and this time I went.
McCutcheon: A second conference.
Zverev:A second conference.
McCutcheon: Also here at Pulkovo Observatory?
The second conference was at Pulkovo Observatory. And the third [conference] was also at Pulkovo Observatory. And so the second conference was at Pulkovo Observatory in 1936. I was there. And there I gave a paper about something or other, and people in the know already thought of me as something, because I had already studied at Pulkovo in 1934. And Iashnov, Petr Ivanovich, had been my adviser. He also met me as my own man. In 1936 I was no longer a "milksucker" — I was already an astronomer. And we all… And besides this we became very enthusiastic about the papers by Numerov, Boris Vasilevich Numerov. We became so enthusiastic. And besides this Numerov was a great music lover, and I was also a musician. He invited me to his home. And there was a real live organ in Numerov's apartment, only it wasn't automatic… I have already told you how one had to turn some sort of crank. And there Numerov played on this organ, and I turned [the crank]. And then I played while Numerov turned [the crank] and so on. In general, Numerov and I became rather closely acquainted there. That's that. Now, the Catalog of Faint stars was discussed there [at the conference] as something already more or less well known. Because in 1932. And this was in 1936 — I'm talking about 1936. This was my work already…
McCutcheon: Then you began...
Zverev:Kukarkin, my Moscow [friend] was there. . He went to the astrometry conference. He was an astrophysicist, but he became so interested. Our work had interested a stellar astronomer. Overall, the Catalog of Faint stars strongly interested the stellar astronomers. So, he… Gerasimovich himself, one of the authors [of the catalog project], was a stellar astronomer — of a very great depth at that. And there were papers there on the catalog of Faint Stars. I listened to them, took part in them, let my voice be heard, and so forth. And we were surprised that along with the depth of the problem itself, with its breadth. I would say that the concrete proposals as to what should be done were, you know, not at all serious. Somehow they… The concrete proposals as to what should be done, what stars should be chosen, which stars should be observed. Somehow it all wasn't that clear. There was clarity in the overall problem, which had to be solved [for the benefit] of the universe.
McCutcheon: That was in 1936?
Zverev:That was the situation even in 1936.
McCutcheon: The idea was there, but concretely [what needed to be done] to realize [this catalog project].
Zverev:Exactly right. The idea was there, but the concrete contents were somehow very. It was proposed in such a very vague form. Somehow it was not clear what sort of problem this was. And therefore we returned to Moscow after the 1936 conference filled with the idea but surprised over how there were no real concrete proposals on how to realize this idea.
McCutcheon: Were there any plans, deadlines?
Zverev:That was the problem — that there still wasn't any of this. There had simply been conversations. True, Iashnov, my adviser, proposed such a method to me. The absolute Pulkovo catalogs are based on observations of bright stars, but bright stars can be observed both day and night. Therefore you have the so-called smoothing of the results, 50 that they were smooth… One had to observe only bright stars and use both night and day observations. And so as to smooth these bright stars one had to observe the stars both at night and during the day. That is the classic Pulkovo School of the last century. It is based on round-the-clock observations of bright stars — the very brightest, of first magnitude. Second magnitude. But the Catalog of Faint stars — these are faint stars. And here Iashnov proposed that the problems that had been solved for bright stars can be solved for faint stars using only night observations. Well, that was his theory, and Iashnov gave a paper on it. This related directly to the Catalog of Faint stars. It was a proposal on how to observe so that the problem, which had been solved previously for bright stars, which had had [to be observed] both day and night, and now only night… He gave a solution. Well, in general everything was... But theoretical, theoretical...
McCutcheon: How many stars were there?
[Iashnov] gave a theoretical proposal. And imagine, imagine what happened. At the end of 1936 we were literally stunned: Numerov was arrested. Dneprovskii was arrested. Gerasimovich was arrested. Iashnov — an old man with a beard and already all gray was arrested. Fifteen people. The entire leadership of Pulkovo was arrested. What was this, do you understand? What kind of?... They were all enemies of the people. Enemies of the people.
McCutcheon: For what reasons?
Zverev:For what. We all knew them very well [and knew] that they were friends of the people. They were remarkable people. The hierarchy had declared that they were enemies of the people.
McCutcheon: I know that at that time frequently…
That was the start of the Stalinist epopee. Stalin surrounded himself with some people who were extremely inhuman in their dealings with people. There was this Ezhov — he was in fact a man who was capable of murdering a person, and it was nothing to him because he has carrying out affairs of state. He was murdering enemies of the people, you understand. What was it to him? And then do you know what happened in 1936? Some sorts of meetings were organized, and we were all summoned — in particular me, since I was a young person, of course, who showed promise more or less — at which some people whom we did not know, not astronomers at all, not scientific... told us that a gang of enemies of the people had been uncovered in Leningrad that had had some sort of connections with some sort of foreign organizations that were hostile to the Soviet Union. They had defied... They had virtually organized the overthrow of Soviet power. There were some people who had been arrested and who were now isolated, but nonetheless there could also be enemies amongst us. Perhaps enemies were even sitting here. [But] what sort of enemies were there? We were just like them [the astronomers arrested in Leningrad]. We couldn't even say one word. If I had said a word in their defense, it would have meant that I was also an enemy.
McCutcheon: That was in 1936?
Zverev:It started in 1936, but it [lasted through] 1936, 1937, 1939, 1940, and through the whole war to some degree. Because after the war some others were arrested. That was the debauchery of the Stalinist reaction. That was especially true before the war. As you know, of course, the entire world was indignant over this, and it is true that, for example, even our remarkable commanders who at the beginning of the revolutionary years, in the very first years of the revolution...
McCutcheon: I know that...
Zverev:In the Red Army, the generals of the Red Army — they also buzzed off somewhere. Have you heard, there was Bliukher, Tu...
McCutcheon: I know, Tukhachevsky…
There. There was also Tukhachevsky, Marshal Tukhachevsky. Marshal Iakir. In general the most remarkable commanders of the October Revolution, [the people], who made the Soviet revolution — almost all of them were declared enemies of the people. Moreover, do you know what circumstance was discovered later? Later, when Khrushchev answered… Khrushchev read… violated there... there was a meeting. Before the war there was the nineteenth, it seems the nineteenth party congress, and then throughout the war there were no further party congresses. It turned out that almost all the participants of the pre-war party congress had been arrested as enemies of the people. The party congress, the party leadership gathered from all parts of the country, and then they all buzzed off somewhere.
McCutcheon: Of course, I…
Zverev:That's what it was [like] in our country… Of course, now we are inclined in the end to consider Stalin as a most dread enemy, precisely [an enemy] of the people. He imprisoned our own [people]. But when I was in Chile… I was in Chile and worked there for a whole three years. There, of course, Chile is such a country in which all conversations are possible... At that time in Chile there were… Pinochet wasn't there yet. Pinochet now has twisted. We can't have anything to do with the Chileans now because our government doesn't have anything to do with Pinochet… So, I was there before Pinochet. I had my good friends there in musical circles... I also was in the musical circles there. I have newspapers and photographs of me playing the piano, newspaper reviews about my playing, about my playing Skriabin and so forth. So, I had one good acquaintance there who said to me, Your Stalin was an awful man who simply destroyed masses of people in the Soviet Union. They were shot without trial and so forth and so forth. But in West Germany there was Hitler. Hitler was a powerful personality who was able to enslave all of Europe. England trembled that there would be an airborne landing and that England would also collapse. Because Hitler was... commanded a powerful… Hitler could have thrown all Europe against England if he had only wanted to do so. But Hitler decided to deal first with the Soviet Union. [Take care of the Soviet Union] first, and then England will follow, right? And it turned out… And Hitler treacherously concluded a non-aggression pact so as to soothe the Soviet Union, and Stalin believed this pact. He believed Hitler and Hitler's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ribbentrop, who came with this pact. There was a photograph in which Ribbentrop was photographed with his small, thin smile, and one could see that he was a dodger. So, they concluded a non-aggression pact. Well, to be brief, who was he? My Chilean friend, my musician friend — a musician — she told me this: Stalin inflicted immense misfortune in your country, and he really destroyed large numbers of remarkable people. But Hitler had subdued all of Europe, and Stalin, as a man — although he was a cruel person-turned out to be stronger than Hitler. In the clash of Stalin with Hitler, Stalin was victorious. And you must be thankful to Stalin. Thanks to Stalin all of Europe was saved from Hitler. Your Stalin played a positive role in the liberation of Europe from Hitler, although within your country he did horrible things. And, do you know, who can figure out here who is right and who is guilty…
McCutcheon: Well, I would have said.
Zverev:But our astronomers perished nevertheless, perished…
McCutcheon: You said that Numerov was the first to be taken? It isn't comprehensible…
Zverev:That's right, Numerov was one of the very first to be arrested. He was arrested three-four months after that 1936 conference. The conference was held in the spring, and he was arrested in early autumn.
McCutcheon: After the astrometry conference?
After the 1936 astrometry conference. Moreover, when all of this began to be uncovered under Khrushchev, they began to clear up the circumstances and to rehabilitate them [the astronomers]. That is to say, all of them were not guilty of anything. And the military procurator came to Pulkovo Observatory from MOSCOW, from the center, and appeared directly at Pulkovo. "Where's the director?" (He asked). But the director, Mikhailov, wasn't there at that time, and I was the assistant director. Assistant director, that is. "I am the assistant director," [I told him, and I asked him [what it was about]]. I have just come from a meeting of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union. The Supreme Court has just reviewed Numerov's case in all its details. The entire affair was studied in detail. Some sorts of materials were collected, and all of this was acknowledged to be spurious. Numerov was exonerated completely. He wasn't guilty of anything. Numerov had been convicted erroneously. He had been a victim of the Stalin regime, and now Numerov was completely rehabilitated. His family was given all sorts of rights and some sort of compensation — some amount of money was given to them, but [of course] Numerov was no longer on this earth. Moreover, now... I want to be completely open with you. Numerov was an active man in prison. He was constantly writing scientific works and sending them. He wrote scientific treatises and articles and sent them to Molotov, a minister of the Soviet Union. Stalin had Molotov there, Bulganin, all sorts of ministers. So he, Numerov, sent letters to Molotov from prison in which he said he wasn't guilty of anything and that to the contrary he had done quite a lot for the Soviet Union — that he had done much for oil exploitation in the Transcaucasus. Numerov was like that. And he [Numerov] sent these scientific articles to the Academy of Sciences. In the Academy of Sciences they gave them to Fesenkov. Fesenkov was an astrophysicist, and he sent Numerov's works on astrometry to Subbotin. And Subbotin kept them.
McCutcheon: Wasn't Subbotin a celestial mechanician?
Subbotin, no. Subbotin was not arrested. And now. One of Numerov's articles was just published here. One of those that he wrote in prison. So, Numerov was completely rehabilitated. The military procurator came here to Pulkovo. There. Now, in all the cases against the Pulkovo astronomers, all the Pulkovo astronomers, the accusation consisted of only three words: in connection with the Numerov affair [in Russian: po delu Numerova]. In connection with the Numerov affair. There were no concrete accusations against anyone, but the fact that they had somehow been acquainted with Numerov, had been friends [with him] — that was already enough so as to put them in prison.
McCutcheon: It seems to me that he was a rather well-known astronomer. They could have arrested all [the astronomers for their connection with him].
Zverev:I invited Nemiro to my office, and together with Nemiro we looked at what the military procurator had given us. He gave us a Pulkovo list, but this list contained only ten people. And we added to it ten more who had been arrested. Even for them not all the data were there. But for everyone it was recorded "in connection with the Numerov affair," and nothing more was registered — only that they had been acquainted with Numerov. That indeed is what happened. That's what happened in our country in the 1930s, at the end of the 1930s when Stalin literally fell to pieces. But later he… Yes, but he was stunned when Hitler attacked. There had been deserters who had warned, "Hitler will attack you soon." Stalin virtually ordered that these deserters be shot. True, I am exaggerating — they were arrested and put away somewhere as provocateurs who wanted to take us into a hoax. No, of course they were not shot. I... am beginning to get off the subject. When HitIer really did attack the Soviet Union, Stalin didn't believe it.
McCutcheon: I have read about that. That is why for two-three weeks.
Zverev:And the first two-three. Not weeks — for the first two-three-four days only he locked himself away and didn't receive anyone. And then he gave his speech to the effect that we had to rise to the defense of the motherland, that Hitler is a so-and-so who had duped and deceived us and so forth. You understand, Stalin had such trepidations, and then some of those who had been arrested… Not all of them had been destroyed — some had been exiled there. There was a General Gorbatov who later wrote a book. This book was published, but later it disappeared somewhere for some reason. He describes how he was arrested, how he was sent somewhere in Siberia, and even how he was sent to cut wood-he was supposed to saw trees somewhere there in the taiga. There are forests there. And there he met with bears in this wild taiga. And there the wood cutters were some sort of criminals who also… but not political. There were all sorts of murderers there. And so this military general was exiled somewhere to these places, but later he was summoned back to Stalin. And when he tried to speak to Stalin about what was happening [in the labor camps], Stalin listened to him but did not hear him. And when he said that there were some good people who must be returned [from the camps] — this general told Stalin this when Stalin called him, summoned him, considering… He, the general, was later rehabilitated and later worked. Then Stalin waved his hand. It turns out that several of [the people named by Gorbatov] already were not on this earth because Stalin had given orders to shoot them. The general didn't know this and thought that they were still alive. And so forth and so forth and so forth. In a word, that is what times were like here. Nevertheless, by his strength of character Stalin was able to win the war.
McCutcheon: In the end.
Zverev:Such affairs. But I have already gotten off of astronomy. Now, let's go further. Well, the Catalog of Faint stars… What is [the status of] the Catalog of Faint stars today?
McCutcheon: Yes, what was its subsequent fate?
Zverev:Right. [The plan was] to include in the catalog only giant and supergiant stars in the range of seventh-ninth magnitude. There are very few giants and supergiants of such magnitude in the sky. So dreamed the authors [of the catalog project]. So they dreamed. But if you really want to pick enough stars so as to have [a sufficient number of stars?] on a photograph, then like it or not one must choose dwarfs. There is nothing you can do because there simply are no giant stars. So, dreams are dreams, but it was necessary to pick stars. One has to take stars of seventh-ninth magnitude, of course, because [how otherwise] could one have a more or less uniform distribution of stars, right?
McCutcheon: So as to have a wider bandwidth?
Zverev:Yes. I haven't told you what happened next. When Numerov was arrested after the 1936 conference, there was a certain general numbness among all astronomers, among the astrometrists. We had just returned from the conference where Numerov had spoken and where all the Pulkovo astronomers… And Gerasimovich and Dneprovskii — they were all taken. They were all involved in "the Numerov affair." There were no [specific charges] against them. They were just charged with being acquainted with Numerov. And so imagine to yourself, a year and a half after the 1936 conference we received a piece of paper from Pulkovo Observatory, an official paper signed by the director — Beliavskii was the director then — to the effect that they wanted to call a conference at Pulkovo Observatory in 1938 to clarify what to do with the Catalog of Faint stars.
McCutcheon: It seems that when all [the astronomers] had been arrested.
Ideas had been proposed, but none of the authors of these ideas were left. They had all buzzed off somewhere. What should be done? But the Pulkovo astronomers… it was as though Pulkovo all of them had been from Pulkovo… Since they were Pulkovo decisions, Pulkovo had to undertake something, but they didn't even know what to do. None of them worked in this area. The ones who did work in this area were, unfortunately, no longer available. What was to be done? And so, when we received this letter in Moscow and when I read it, I went to Kukarkin, who had been at the 1936 conference and who had met Numerov, Iashnov, and all the other Pulkovo enthusiasts. Parenago had also been there at Pulkovo [in 1936]. The three of us sat down and said, Pulkovo Observatory… This, the idea of creating the Catalog of Faint stars, is a very progressive, important idea, but now Pulkovo doesn't have even one person who could take up this idea, because simply… No one [who is still] there works [in this area], and these [remaining] people are not of the right caliber. We must intervene in this matter. We must intervene. And so we sat down and began… Yes, but one could not mention the names, so to speak, of enemies of the people. All the names were prohibited and all that. Say what you want, but you couldn't say that Numerov or Iashnov had told you something, because they had been arrested, they were enemies of the people, and their names were prohibited. And we had to say that we ourselves were the authors. So I sat with Kukarkin and Parenago. We invited Blazhko, our old man, but he simply sympathized with us. And so we ourselves wrote what the Catalog of Faint stars was all about. And so, if you wish, write down: Astronomcheskii zhurnal 17, 1940, pp. 54-78. My article was printed there, in English, with the title "The Catalog of Faint Stars."
McCutcheon: Good. I will read it.
And so there we published what we — Parenago, Kukarkin, and I — planned for the Catalog of Faint Stars. The names of the real authors [Numerov, Dneprovskii, Iashnov, and Gerasimovich] are not mentioned there.
McCutcheon: But one could say that you saved the idea [of the Catalog of Faint stars].
Zverev:We said that such-and-such a conference had resolved such and such and such-and-such. That is, we absolutely did not mean to ascribe [the catalog] to ourselves. We referred in particular to the 1932 conference — in 1932 all [the proceedings] had been published and all the names were there. In any case, we wrote that the idea had been proposed in 1932 and that it had been furthered by all sorts of papers in 1936. [We wrote] that we in Moscow had discussed this idea and that we wanted to propose a concrete method of how one could realize this wonderful idea, this profound idea, in practice. And that is what was written in this journal, and that is what went forward from there.
McCutcheon: Understood. This was, so to speak, a second beginning.
Zverev:And we proposed five concrete problems there. Five concrete problems. In my opinion the first problem we proposed. How many years have passed since then? That was 1946, and now it is 1986. Forty years [have passed]. Thirty years passed and I realized that. There were five problems, and I will tell you about them now. Five problems. The first problem, in my opinion, was incorrect, but all the others were correct. The first problem was the creation of an independent absolute system of coordinates based exclusively on observations of faint stars. That is, all [previously existing] coordinate systems were [based on] bright stars. Day and night. There are all sorts of correlations, the smoothing out of day and night observations. Then, by observing the sun, one had to determine the origin of the coordinates — the vernal equinox. Have you heard such expressions? That was all based on bright stars. Classical Pulkovo astrometry on the basis of which Pulkovo observatory gained world fame. Absolute star catalogs. They give an absolute coordinate system, and the fundamental catalogs that were… giving the highest accuracy that was achievable in a given epoch. That was for bright stars. But this idea was to do the same thing on the basis of faint stars alone.
As far as I understand, the main point is that bright stars are more-or-less nearby stars.
Zverev:Of course. That is correct.
McCutcheon: So one has to use faint stars so that the [coordinate] system [that is created] will really be fundamental and unchanging.
That was the first [problem] — the creation of an absolute, independent [coordinate] system based only on observations of faint stars. That was the first problem. The second problem. But insofar as the system of bright stars already exists — the FK3 and FK4 — and no one is going to throw it out, one must connect the faint and bright [systems] very well. Therefore we must compile a list of fundamental faint stars that can be observed by absolute means to create at all points an independent system of coordinates based on faint stars. But all of these concrete faint stars must be well connected to the bright stars. That is, the bright system already exists, and to the first approximation the faint stars. Incidentally, so as to create a new system of coordinates, the observations must be repeated after twenty-thirty-forty years so as to remove the stars' proper motion. All the same you can't do this in three-four-five years. All the same one must do this first with the system of bright stars. If we want to create an independent system of faint stars, we will [be able to create it] only after thirty-forty years. First we must observe the faint stars using absolute methods. That is the first point… But these must be connected with the bright [stars] so as to somehow be able to work. Otherwise this would all be an abstraction if they are not connected with the bright stars. Thus for a certain time the system of bright stars will remain the primary system. But after twenty-thirty-forty years, when it will be possible to repeat [the observations] and extract the independent proper motions of the faint stars, then we can speak about creating an independent system of faint stars. That is how we will set about doing this work from the very beginning. And so, first of all, faint stars — absolute, i.e. independent; second — their connection to the bright stars. But this coordinate system, of course, consists of only one thousand stars across the whole sky. But for photography we need tens of thousands of stars, and therefore the third problem is to create a large catalog of faint stars. We thought to create it such that there would be five large stars to every twenty-five square degrees. In short, we counted 20,000 stars for the whole sky. 20,000 stars.
McCutcheon: Twenty thousand. And so as to observe these stars…
Zverev:That is for the large catalog.
McCutcheon: And to observe these stars…
Zverev:For the first problem there are a thousand stars, one thousand stars across the entire sky. These are the fundamental faint stars.
McCutcheon: Fundamental. And then the remaining stars…
Zverev:That will be made more precise later and that will then give an independent system. The second problem is the connection with bright stars. It is the third problem where you have the 20,000 faint stars. They must be observed relative to the fundamental faint stars.
McCutcheon: How can these 19,000 stars be observed?
It can be done with meridian instruments — even for stars in the seventh-ninth magnitude range. Incidentally, not even ninth magnitude is required for the fundamental stars. Seventh-eighth magnitude is sufficient, because they can be observed on smaller instruments with which it is difficult to observe ninth magnitude. Absolute observations are needed for the fundamental faint stars, and smaller instruments are advantageous for this. They are more stable, since absolute observations are inconvenient for very faint stars. But for a large program you can't get along with only eighth magnitude [stars] — you won't find enough stars. But with ninth magnitude you can. And in this manner you have the third problem: the Large Catalog of Faint Stars. But in all there are five problems. What is the fourth problem? It is the determination of the origin of the coordinates — not from the sun but rather from minor planet observations. That is Numerov's plan. And. so, Numerov's plan went into [the catalog project] as the plan for determining the orientation of the coordinate system — that is, for determining the inclination of the equator to the ecliptic. Well, in general, in short, minor planets. In general, even Newcomb — in the last century Newcomb showed that the origin of the coordinates can be determined not only from observations of the sun. This can be done by [observing] the planets also. The planets move about the sun. So you can solve this [problem] by observing minor planets also. And that was precisely Numerov's problem. That is the fourth problem.
McCutcheon: I know that at Yale University Dirk Brouwer also worked on this problem.
Zverev:Yes, Brouwer, exactly, exactly. I know Brouwer's article well. It is from 1935, [whereas] Numerov's article was in 1933-34. Brouwer's article came out in 1935.
McCutcheon: I found the correspondence between…
Zverev:Brouwer's article begins as follows: In 1932 Numerov proposed such-and-such a plan. We consider that this plan can be proposed in a different, in our opinion more widely [applicable], variant and so forth and so forth. And then Brouwer proposed his plan, having referred to Numerov and without attributing the idea of the plan to himself. So... well, later I had much to do with Brouwer. Personally with Brouwer. I would say that Brouwer was very distrustful of us at first.
Why? Because some sort of people there from the Soviet Union, a half-savage country, were laying claim to big problems, whereas we [in the U.S.] have the Washington Observatory. In essence, after Newcomb, after all those Morgans there, after all of these. The Washingtonians are great people… He was from.
McCutcheon: No, he was in Washington. But Clemence wasn't in Washington.
Yes, yes, yes, he was in Washington.
R .M. — "Brouwer and Clemence" — that's a famous textbook, the famous textbook of celestial mechanics.
Zverev:Yes. Clemence. Brouwer and Clemence. I even have it in Russian translation. So, that's four problems, but what was the fifth? There are five problems. In my article, in this very, in my article… Here there are five problems. In the Catalog of Faint Stars. There are five problems.
McCutcheon: What was the fifth?
Zverev:What was the fifth? Guess! Connection with the galaxy! There! Despite the fact that when Dneprovskii and Gerasimovich themselves — when they gave their papers in 1932, imagine in 1936… Now I will make a little comment about Dneprovskii. He [always] had just one position — that galaxies are fantasy.
McCutcheon: To do this…
Galaxies are nebulae, nebulae. How can you reference nebulae to stars? Nebulae... Can you refer stars to a nebula?
McCutcheon: But distant galaxies look almost like points...
Zverev:But after the conference in 1936 — even during the conference. At Pulkovo there was this astronomer Deich, Aleksandr Nikolaevich Deich. And at that time he was studying the Kapteyn areas. Have you heard of them?
Yes, I know [of them].
Zverev:Kapteyn selected areas. [Note: in English in the original]
McCutcheon: I have even been reading in the old reports here that in the 1920s Kostinskii here re-observed many such areas…
Zverev:Yes, Kostinskii re-observed. By the way, Oxford… No, that [was done] somewhere there in England also.
Zverev:No, now I don't remember. There was someone else also. In the Kapteyn areas… Well, in general Deich. Deich reduced Kostinskii's observations. That was his doctoral dissertation. And there also happened to be galaxies in several Kapteyn areas. At long exposures [these galaxies] are surrounded by a nebulous spot, but at short exposures they are astrometric… Astrometric — that means that at long... that means they shouldn't be smeared and are almost like points… And he, while measuring the galaxies there in several areas. He published an article to the effect that it is completely possible to measure some galaxies with good accuracy. That was Deich's work that was published in 1937. Yes. It was published in 1937. Yes, yes, precisely in 1937. And the Pulkovo astronomers called a conference in 1938 on what was to be done with the Catalog of Faint Stars. And we were already familiar with Deich's results. We were familiar with them even earlier, since we had contacts with him. That is that galaxies... [although] far from all of them. Of course, nebulae are nebulae. The Andromeda Nebula, could it be used? But at the same time if there are separate kernels in this galaxy, they could turn out to be stationary. In short, galaxies are a completely possible thing, and this was the fifth problem in our Moscow proposal.
McCutcheon: You said that one of these problems later fell through?
Zverev:I said now that one of these problems later fell through. I consider that this was my oversight. But this wasn't so awful. Don't think that this was bad. So listen to me. And in 1938, two years after 1936, after all the arrests, after all these meetings that I was at — Pulkovo Observatory gathered astronomers from all Soviet observatories. Well, not from all, but from many observatories. They came from Kazan, from Nikolaev, from Tashkent, from Moscow. And we came — Parenago, Kukarkin, and I — we came to set forth our plan. Subbotin, Mikhail Fedorovich, was there from Leningrad. At that time he [Subbotin] was moving — he had previously been in Tashkent. Before the 1938 conference we were told by Pulkovo Observatory that we received agreement [to attend] from various astronomers, but no one has proposed anything like what you have proposed. And therefore we have decided to place your paper first and in essence to discuss your proposal. We like it, and we want to support you. But perhaps it should be discussed. In short, the conference will be devoted to a discussion of your proposal. Therefore we request that you improve the basis of this proposal. Think it out well and, in general, give concrete proposals. We will accept all of this with gratitude because here in Pulkovo after all… At Pulkovo literally the entire leadership… There remained there people… Tsimmerman, it is true, remained. Elistratov remained there — he was a good chap who later… Tsimmerman and Elistratov — both one and the other perished during the blockade of Leningrad. They weren't at the war, but they fell during the blockade of Leningrad. They simply died from starvation. So no one remained there. But they called this conference in 1938 and adopted our plan. The reason why the first point of this plan fell away is. Here's why. In 1940. Overall, I had already become active in astrometry by then. I had been made the secretary of some sort of commission. I had begun to act. And then in 1940 we called a conference in Moscow and invited the Pulkovo astronomers — that Elistratov. And there at our conference Shaposhnikov gave a paper. Shaposhnikov was a very capable Moscow astronomer-astrometrist who later worked in the time service. True, not in the [time] service. In Moscow there were two time services — one at GAISh, the Shternberg Institute. Do you know of this institute in Moscow?
McCutcheon: Yes, yes, of course.
Zverev:But besides this there are also geodesic organizations, qeodesic — TsNIIGAIK is one such geodesic institute. There is also a time service there, and that is where Shaposhnikov worked. And this same Shaposhnikov — he was a pupil of Moscow University, a very serious person, a very good person, so attentive — gave a paper at the 1940 conference in MOSCOW, the next conference [after the 1938 conference]. It was a paper to the effect that the Catalog of Faint stars as it had been proposed in [our] 1940 proposal turns out to be isolated from all the rest of astronomy. Astronomers and geodesists work with bright stars, and this will remain [true]. How can a geodesist determine the latitude of a location using faint stars? Their light is too weak, isn't it? Only using bright stars can they do it? And so you can't exclude bright stars from use because what would this be [without them]? All astronomers will begin using faint stars, and so it turns out that astronomers will remove themselves from all practical work. Is this realistic? And besides, "dear comrades" — that is exactly what he said—and his article. The fact is that we listened to his paper, but [we listened as though to] a man behind the times. How was it that he was still thinking of some sort of bright stars? We thought that everyone should transition to faint stars. Bright stars, we said, were from a prior era. That is what we thought at that time…
McCutcheon: That bright stars were not needed?
Zverev:But he [Shaposhnikov] returned us to life. In life one cannot get along without bright stars. They must be observed. Take the major planets — Venus, Mercury, and Mars there. They are all bright. How can they be observed with faint stars? And so he [Shaposhnikov] said, to the point, that the fundamental coordinate system must include both bright and faint stars. So the question has been [re]stated in such a way so as to add faint stars to the bright stars of the fundamental system. That's not so bad. One and a half or two and a half thousand stars — that's not so bad. That's possible. But then the bright and faint [stars] will form one system, and that will be what is needed. To have created an isolated coordinate system... [nor understandable]... would have meant that tens of observatories, tens of instruments, and decades of observation would have been needed to determine the proper motions and so forth. And it would have turned out that faint stars would have been done separately, and bright stars would have been done separately. Who would do that [work]? Would there be enough specialists who could [observe] separately only bright stars or only faint stars when what was needed was to combine them all together and observe them all as one whole? That would make everyone happy. There will be a common coordinate system, a fundamental system that applies to both bright stars and faint stars and, in general, to all stars. It is another matter that for photography one must have stars to the fifteenth magnitude. Well then, the Catalog of Faint stars is necessary for photography. And minor planets are faint, and so [the catalog] is necessary for them also. And so it works out that the Catalog of Faint stars is very much needed, but its system must be common with the [system of] bright stars. That's all. And so it turns out that the first point [of our plan] was improperly formulated. We shouldn't have declared that this independent coordinate system in the sky will consist only of faint stars. This would have been isolated from the entirety of astronomy. Isn't that right? What do you think?
McCutcheon: I understand. You have to include everything. I used to think you could do this using only faint stars…
Zverev:That's that. I'll finish now. Back then we were so carried away with faint stars that I must admit that I myself didn't pay any attention to [Shaposhnikov's] paper. There are many people who give, well, all sorts of papers. And this paper even remained in manuscript form [i.e., was not published], but fortunately Shaposhnikov gave me his paper in manuscript and I preserved it. And when, after Shaposhnikov's death, I together with his widow, with whom I became acquainted later after he was no longer in this world… Later I wrote an entire large article about Shaposhnikov. I have it. If you are interested, there is a journal, LAL.
McCutcheon: I am familiar with it.
Zverev:Historical-Astronomical Investigations — LAL.
McCutcheon: Which volume?
Zverev:In which volume do I have Shaposhnikov?
McCutcheon: I can find it.
Zverev:You will find it.
McCutcheon: Was that long ago, or was that not so long ago?
Zverev:Shaposhnikov was approximately in volume. I'll tell you in a moment, in a moment. What volume are they up to now? The sixteenth. [It's] in volume 11, 12, 13, 14, or something like that. Perhaps in [volume] 10. In the end the article there is called "Vladimir Grigorevich Shaposhnikov." And imagine, when I was working on this article, Shaposhnikov's widow gave me his papers. Later. Incidentally, she died soon thereafter, so that I encountered her while she was still alive. I found his article in his papers and later in my papers. I read his paper. How was it that we hadn't noticed his paper then? Do you understand? It was because we were so carried away by faint stars, and it seems he was beginning to cool us down [and tell us] that we were beginning to get too carried away and had forgotten about bright stars. But how could we forget about the bright stars? We live in the solar system, and these bodies, the planets, are bright and so forth. In brief, I understood that this had simply been an oversight. This wasn't a mistake — it was an oversight. It simply was not necessary; it was a mistake to isolate the system of faint stars from the system of bright stars. That is to say, we 'need a unified system for all types [of stars]. After all, if you want a bright star, if you screen a bright star it will become faint, isn't that so? And if you observe a planet's brightness, you don't need to screen it if [you are using] a small instrument. That is, when faint stars won't do, you must observe bright stars. That is, in short, there must be a general coordinate system. It is another matter how such a unified system can be made so as to [not audible]. That is another matter, but it is methodical work for astrometrists. We must.