Notes on the Occasion of My Jubilee

  • Vitaly L. Ginzburg


In mid-1986, someone asked me: “You are soon to be 70. That’s supposed to be an anniversary, and there are different ways of commemorating it. One is that the person himself contributes an article to a magazine or book. Why don’t you do just that?” I responded with a question: “Do you want to see if I can still cling to the tree?” Since the rejoinder was mystifying, I had to come up with a story that is probably fictitious. On an island in the Pacific, when the chief of a tribe grew old, he would have to climb the tallest palm tree around, and the whole tribe would try to shake him off. If he kept his hold, he would keep his post. If he lost his grip, the need to elect a new chief would arise ‘as a matter of course’.


Research Fellow USSR Academy Scientific Performance Full Member Ussr Scientist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 5.
    Some misunderstandings involved in this dissimilarity became clear to me while writing an article on the course of theoretical physics by L. D. Landau and E. M. Lifshitz. See “The Course” in the volume Landau: The Physicist and the Man ( Pergamon, Oxford, 1989 ).Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    For details, see the article “About Igor Evgenevich Tamm” in this volume (p. 351).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    H. C. Leman, Age and Achievement, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1953.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    S. Cole, “Age and Scientific Performance”, Am. J. Sociology 84, 958, 1979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 9.
    Along with the books by Leman and Cole, I shall also mention D. C. Pelz and F. M. Andrews, Scientists m Organizations: Productive Climates for Research and Development, Wiley, New York, 1966 [Progress, Moscow, 1973.]Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Albert Einstein thus wrote his famous paper on special relativity and several other very important papers in 1905, aged 26; he completed the development of the general theory of relativity at the age of 36. Niels Bohr was 28 in 1913 when he proposed his theory of the atom. Paul Dirac discovered the relativistic wave equation for the electron at 26 (in 1928 ). Schrödinger and Max Planck did their major work at a later age, at 39 (1926) and 42 (1900), respectively.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    The biological age “is determined by the state of the metabolism and of the body functions in comparison with the age standards for the human population” (see footnote 4).Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    This dictionary was published in 1985 (see footnote 4). It shows rather beautifully the information loss resulting from the absurd policy of keeping statistics secret (routinely practiced until ‘perestroika’).Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    On January 1, 1990 the average age of a full member of the Academy was 69.5; of a corresponding member, 63.7 (this and other data on the USSR Academy of Sciences can be found in my article “Academy-Style Democracy” that appeared in the Moscow issue of the Izvestiya daily newspaper on April 14, 1990). After the elections to the Russian Academy of Sciences in May 1997, the total number of its members equaled 1170 (including 475 full and 695 correspondent members). As of January 1, 1999, the average age of full members was 69.9 years; of correspondentGoogle Scholar
  10. 16.
    On the citation index as a method of analyzing scientific activity, see S. D. Khaitun, “What is the Citation Index?”, Priroda, No. 3, 40, 1980.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    A detailed bibliography up to 1977 can be found in Bibliographic Materials on USSR Scientists, Physics series, Issue 21, V. L. Ginzburg, Nauka, Moscow, 1978. By early 1995, I had 342 ‘papers’ on my list.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    In 1988, we had a kind of age limit imposed on Academy members. ‘Ordinary’ members thus may not occupy administrative positions after 70. For Presidium members, the age limit is, for some reason, 75. Unfortunately, these rules, like many others, are frequently ignored or avoided.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    The Dictionary of the Russian Language by S. I. Ozhegov does not list this phrase; it defines ‘ambition’ as “a yearning for fame, eminence; aspiration to distinction.” So defined, ambition can also play an important part in scientific research. However, ambition does not necessarily have fame as its end; one can strive after important results, or self-fulfillment and recognition. That is what I call ‘healthy’ (or praiseworthy) ambition; it is virtually indispensable for genuine scientific accomplishment, the kind measured by scientific results, not prizes or honors.Google Scholar
  14. 20.
    Brainstorming’ is used in the literature to describe a group method of problem solving by open discussion. See, for example: Problems of Scientific Creation, Issue 4, Institute of Scientific Information, USSR Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 1985.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    See, for example, V. L. Ginzburg, On the Theory of Relativity, Nauka, Moscow, 1979, pp. 188, 212.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vitaly L. Ginzburg
    • 1
  1. 1.P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia

Personalised recommendations