Stories by Yurii Borisovich Rumer
Yurii Borisovich Rumer (Yu B) was an excellent story-teller. Grateful listeners long remembered his stories about life in the first years after the 1917 Great Socialist
Revolution in Russia, about the Göttingen School, about Albert Einstein, about Soviet physicists, about the years he spent in prison and in the secret research institution where all researchers and staff were prisoners. Unfortunately, nobody was perceptive enough to record these stories for posterity. Yu B himself would not agree to it as after the many years of his gruesome prison experience he was always cautious and carefully censored his stories himself according to the audience and the political climate of the period. The few reminiscences published in his lifetime also exhibit evidence of such self-censorship. M P Kemoklidze made detailed records but she says she destroyed them after publishing the book Quantum age (1989) for which they were intended. Here we are publishing a transcript of the tape recording made by Anna Livanova in 1962 when Yu B visited her in Moscow (she knew him from her days as a student of the Physics Department of Moscow State University). When Livanova was on a business trip to the Novosibirsk Academy Town she attended a talk given by Yu B to the students of Novosibirsk University at which they asked him to tell of the most important occasion in his life. He said it was his meeting with Einstein. In Moscow Livanova recorded an extended version of that talk. Livanova used the recording for writing the essays ’’Academy Town in Siberia’’ (Znamya magazine, No. 11, 12, 1962) and ’’Physicists about Physicists’’ (in the book Roads to the Unknown — Writers Telling about Science in which a section was entitled ’Meeting with Einstein’), and her book ’Physicists about Physicists’ (Moscow: ’Molodaya Gvardiya’ Publishers, 1968) which also included a section on Rumer’s meeting with Einstein. The publications were significantly edited and only a part of the recording transcript was used. It was the unflagging support of L V Al’tshuler and the technical assistance rendered by his grandchildren that made it possible to resurrect the old magnetic tape and make a new transcript. Of course, the stories often repeated by Yu B who referred to them as my ’discs’ include some inconsistencies caused by lapses of memory. They present a lively picture of the science community and its life, however, as well as a congenial portrait of the story-teller himself. When we prepared the transcript for publication we practically did not edit it. We believe that the emotional and expressive story presented in exactly the way it was told with inevitable slips and errors better conveys the stirring atmosphere of those distant events than a polished and verified historical treatise. We deciphered the passages on the tapes that were difficult to make out from our personal recollections of Rumer’s stories and added our comments to the text.
I F Ginzburg, M Yu Mikhailov (Rumer)