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Author(s) of the publication: Rem PETROV, Vladimir KOROGODIN, Gennady POLIKARPOV

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by Academician Rem PETROV (*), Dr. Sc. (Biology), Vladimir KOROGODIN, Gennady POLIKARPOV

This nickname was given to N. Timofeev-Resovsky by his colleagues, biologists of the "call-up" of the 1950s-80s. And that was not accidental: their teacher lived up to this epithet both as a scientist and as an individual.

Nikolai Timofeev-Resovsky was born in Moscow, but studied at the 1st high school in Kiev and later again in the capital-at Moscow University. Later still he joined the Institute of Experimental Biology. As he recalled later, among his teachers were the founder of experimental biology in our country, Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, N. Koltsov and the founder of evolutionary and population genetics in this country S. Chetverikov, whose ideas, together with those of V. Vernadsky and V. Sukachev, he propagated all his life.

In 1925, at the invitation of the director of the Berlin Institute of the Brain, O. Vogt, a foreign member of the USSR Academy, and on recommendations of N. Koltsov and N. Semashko, N. Timofeev-Resovsky moved to Berlin-Buch, where he organized a department of genetics and biophysics which he headed for 20 years. At that time he became a participant of the Borovsk seminar on physics and cooperated with leading biologists, physicists and mathematicians of both hemispheres. At the same time he started work on radiation and population genetics, radiobiology and biogeocenology which he continued after \\brld \\frr II and, after the return to Russia, at the Southern Urals (village of Sungul), in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) and Obninsk (not far from Moscow) and later in Moscow at the Institute of Medico-Biological Problems. Timofeev-Resovsky died on March 28,1981, in Obninsk.

No matter where he worked, Nikolai Vladimirovich was always surrounded by his students as well as by scientists from various branches of natural science, whose interests spread far beyond their speciality. In the "German period" of his life among them were Ch. Auerbach, A. Buzzati-Traverzo, K. Zimmer, F. Holveck,

* See: R. Petrov, "Miass University", Science in the USSR, No. 5, 1991.-Ed.

page 69

M. Delbriick and many others, who regarded themselves as his pupils. Close cooperation with them, as well as with his age-mates and older colleagues such as world-famous N. Bohr, V. Vernadsky, N. Vavilov, F. Dobrzhansky, H. Muller and T. Morgan greatly influenced his scientific outlook.

After studying (in the wake of H. Muller) the genetic effect of ionizing radiations, Timofeev-Resovsky discovered and described quantitative regularities of this phenomenon. The results of this work are outlined in the book by N. Timofeev-Resovsky, K. Zimmer and M. Delbriick On the Nature of Gene Mutations and Structure (Gottingen, 1935). It is interesting in two ways. First of all, the "hit principle" and the "target theory" have been first formulated in it, up till now serving as the basis for cell radiobiology and radiation genetics. Second, the results of experimental definition of gene sizes are first given here as well as their numbers in chromosomes and dependence of frequency and gene mutations from the radiation dose.

All this was used by E. Schrodinger, a foreign Honorary Member of the USSR Academy, in his book What Is Life? Physical Aspects of Living Cell (1945), which greatly contributed to the further development of molecular genetics. The ideas of N. Timofeev- Resovsky, K. Zimmer and M. Delbriick were developed by L. Tsung-Dao (1946), N. Timofeev-Resovsky and K. Zimmer (1947), K. Zimmer (1961), as well as by N. Timofeev- Resovsky, V. Ivanov (now Academician, RAMS), and V. Korogodin (1968). They served as the basis for the modern theory of biological effect of ionizing radiations known as "Probability Model of Radiation Destruction of Cells" (Yu. Kapultsevich, 1978), which most accurately describes the cell reaction to radiation.

Besides, in radiobiology with the name of Nikolai Vladimirovich is closely connected a genetic concept of biological effect of ionizing radiations. In particular, the phenomenon of post-radiation cell recovery as well as the interphase cell destruction of differentiated tissues already in a "prior to molecular period" have been interpreted in the terms of the hit principle and the target theory, and up till now, i.e. almost half a century after the discovery of these phenomena, such an interpretation remains effective.

In radioecology, or as Timofeev-Resovsky preferred to call it, radiation biogeocenology, this means, first of all, an enormous volume of research, carried out by Ye. Timofeeva- Resovskaya and himself, in radionuclide build-up factors by reservoir components and various representatives of microorganisms, plants and animals living on land and in water. This research made it possible to take a new view of the migration of elements in the biosphere and of the role of living matter in this process. Another side of this problem-use of various representatives of the biosphere for purifying territories and water areas from radionuclides. At present this problem is beyond radioecology and is developing as chemo- ecology and radio chemo-ecology. These works served as the basis for counter-measures, used in the Southern Urals and after the Chernobyl catastrophe (*). The development of this trend is a result of research in correlated action on biota and man of low radiation doses and various physical and chemical factors.

And finally, the theory of evolution embraces, first, his ideas on the expressiveness and penetration of genes, developed by him back in 1920s, and second, his works on microevolution, substantially supplementing the works of F. Dobrzhansky and other authors in this field. N. Timofeev-Resovsky summarized his ideas on the problems of evolution in his monographs "Essay on the Studies of Populations" (in collaboration with A. Yablokov, now Corresponding Member of RAS, and N. Glotov, 1973) and "Brief Essay on the Theory of Evolution" (in collaboration with N. Vorontsov and A. Yablokov, 1977). Of special importance are his articles which he dictated in the last year of his life: "Genetics, Evolution and Theoretical Biology" and "Three Props", where he formulated a problem which long tormented him-insufficiency of our evolutionary ideas for explaining progressive evolution-and outlined a way for further elaboration of this problem.

Being an optimist, Timofeev-Resovsky paid an enormous attention to the problem of "Biosphere and Mankind". He was sure that, given a reasonable attitude to it, the productiveness of our planet can be increased tens of times which will allow to feed tens of times more people in comparison with the present population of the planet and improve stability of the biosphere on the whole.

The above-mentioned ideas, as well as pilot research of the consequences of anthropogenic contamination by his students and followers, elaboration of methods of rehabilitation of territories and reappraisal of correlation principles of the Nature and Homo sapiens as one of its components, appeared to be in accord with the Declaration on the Environment and Development adopted in Rio-de-Janeiro at the UN Conference (June 3-14, 1992) and with the activity of a recently (1998) organized International Union of Eco-Ethics. Mankind is now facing the necessity to preserve biodiversity, a problem of organizing a universal system of ecological monitoring and rehabilitation of a growing number of polluted areas on land and water. These global problems can be solved on the basis of the ideas of Academician N. Timofeev-Resovsky.

Medals named after N. Timofeev-Resovsky have been awarded to our and foreign scientists such as A. Arkrog (Denmark), N. Luchnik (Russia), I. Chigematsu (Japan), D. Regula (Germany) and others.

* See: L. Leontyev et al., "Ecological Problems of the Urals", Science in Russia, No. 1, 1999.-Ed.


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Rem PETROV, Vladimir KOROGODIN, Gennady POLIKARPOV, CENTENARY OF A "DIE-HARD" // London: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 08.09.2018. URL: (date of access: 30.03.2023).

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