Who invented the radio? A Russian. Who dreamed up the periodic table? Again, it was a Russian. This week, I'll name my top four Russian scientific heroes and outline their work. Other readers have written in to find out more about table-thumping Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, NATO expansion and Russia's reputation for obesity.
Who were the three greatest scientists in Russian scientific history? Edward Turnbull, Gosforth, Northumberland, U.K.
I would name Dmitry Mendeleyev for formulating the periodic law and the periodic table of elements; the second would be Ivan Pavlov for his work on conditioned reflexes.; and, finally, Alexander Popov, the man who invented the radio.
Contrary to the popular belief, Guglielmo Marconi did not invent the radio. Draw your own conclusions: In January 1896, a Russian magazine of the Society of Physics and Chemistry published Popov's detailed description and design of the first radio receiver in the world. In March, Popov demonstrated the transmission of signals without the use of wires, and sent the first radiogram in the world the two words "Heinrich Hertz." It was in June of the same year several months after Popov's article had been published in the Russian magazine that Marconi patented an analogous invention. Marconi published a description of it only a year later and just repeated the design and construction of Popov's apparatus. Popov's great work in inventing the radio was officially recognized in 1900 when he received a Diploma of Honor and a Gold Medal at the Fourth World Electrotechnical Congress in Paris. Popov got it, not Marconi.
The fourth scientist, Sergei Korolyev, masterminded the launching of the first Sputnik and the first man in space.
I would like to know anything you can tell me about Nikita Khrushchev. William Kerr, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
The first period under Khrushchev came to be known as the Thaw. Later, some people were disappointed, but we must give him credit for what he did do. He released the victims of Stalin's repressions from the Gulag camps. The peasants received internal passports that made it possible for them to move around the country and be masters of their destiny. Millions of city-dwellers moved from crowded barracks to separate apartments. Elderly people got pensions and those who worked got two days off a week.
Yes, we all remember some of his antics, like banging his shoe on the table in the United Nations to demand respect for his country from the speaker. An American photographer later published a picture taken from below, showing Khrushchev with both shoes on, banging his "historic" shoe on the table. He must have borrowed a shoe from one of his subordinates. Some felt ashamed of his actions, while others were proud. We all remember his historic report in 1956, at the Party Congress, where he told the truth about the cult of personality, the cult of Stalin. He certainly had to have guts to do that.
Khrushchev normalized relations with Yugoslavia, and in 1962, became the first Soviet leader to visit the United States. He was made fun of when he wanted to solve our agricultural problem by planting corn (maize) even in northern and drought areas. People called him the "kukuruznik," or corn-grower. His relations with the intellectuals were dictatorial. He literally wiped out the abstractionist painters many had to emigrate. Khrushchev tried to change a regime the mentality of which he was saturated. In this very studio, I recorded his wife, who was an English teacher. The chief of TV and radio offered her his limousine to take her home. She answered that her son was coming for her. And a few minutes later he arrived, driving an ordinary Volga.
Why, since there is no Warsaw Pact, does NATO not only still exist, but is actually expanding? Alec Azar, Toronto, Canada.
There is no Warsaw Pact, no Cold War, yet NATO is expanding. I can explain the expansion by the fact that many former Soviet republics, like the Baltics, and the Eastern European countries are still scared of the monster that was the Soviet Union. But, I assure you, the fear is out of place today. Speaking of the Baltics, I cannot help but mention that many Russians living there are second-class citizens in every respect. Some say NATO will evolve into a political union. But we already have a political union the United Nations which should be strengthened. Some believe that Russia, sooner or later, will join NATO. In that case, I see NATO as a peacekeeping force of the United Nations. I have no doubt that time will put each in its place.
Is it true that Russia has the world's highest number of obese people? Ilinden the Macedonian, Toronto, Canada.
I have no statistics on the subject, but I will admit that Russians always have been overweight. It is because they consume two or three slices of bread with every meal, and they will even eat oatmeal with bread. Russians consume a lot of carbohydrates: potatoes, pasta, sugar and sweets. I noticed back in the 1950s that any 10 Russian generals could easily outweigh any 10 British or American generals. On the other hand, today most of our conscripts are underweight. But look at our elderly women most are plump, to put it mildly.
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