So, then, after Stalin's death, then, just to say something about
. . .
Kapitsa: But journals, books, those were available.
And, of course, the radio was always there.
And your first trip to the West was when?
Kapitsa: That was--well I first went--well my real first trip
to the West was to France when I went with a film that I shot, it
was with my friends, it was in '58. We shot an underwater
film in the Far East. It was the first underwater film that
we ever produced. It was on 35 color film. We shot it
in the Sea of Japan. The film was quite good, a 15 minute
job, and we took it to an international film festival in Cannes,
near New Year. And it was there that I met Cousteau,
Captain Cousteau. He got the first prize; we got a diploma.
And later, I entertained him here in this country house. Now,
unfortunately, he's gone.
And when was your first trip to America?
Kapitsa: Oh, that happened later. I think that was '67.
I was en route to go to Australia to lecture at the University
of Sydney, and just before leaving, I met the vice president of
the academy, a man called Constantinov. He asked me what I'm
doing. I said "Well, the day after tomorrow I"m
going to Australia." "Now why are you going to Australia?
You ought to go to America. You can hardly learn much in Australia."
"Well," I said, "you know," and a few days later
I got a letter from the director, saying that we heard you are going
to Australia. Why don't you come to America on your way back?
That was a rather crazy suggestion in those days, but I told Constantinov
about it, and it did work. So on my way back from Australia,
I came to America. In fact, I came through San Francisco.
That was my port of entry. And then I spent a whole month
touring the grand laboratories of America.
And you met whom in Stanford University?
Kapitsa: Well, I was this huge accelerator, that just began
to work, and it was a great event. And I lectured there, and
I saw the whole thing, and I met very many people whom I knew before
from meeting them at conferences.
And you got there during the Israeli . . .
Kapitsa: Yes, it was just on the eve of the Arab/Israeli war.
And I remember when I left Australia, I went to see our Ambassador
in Canberra, and told him, now look, is it really worth going to
America; these complications seem rather grave. The Russia
fleet was concentrating in the eastern Mediterranean and the American
papers were full of headlines saying is this the beginning of World
War III or not? I said, well he said, no, well, you wrote
the directives that were worked out by Constantinov to go to America,
follow lines. If they wouldn't consider it to be proper, you
wouldn't get these telegrams. So off I went. I landed
on--I came to San Francisco on a Sunday, and the very first thing,
what one of the physicists there, Matthew Sands, who wrote the final
lectures on physics. He took me to Haight Ashbury. That
was the summer of love; that's the height of all those developments.
And the very next morning, I came to the laboratory, and still jet
lagged after flying over the Pacific, and Panovsky told me that
the Arab/Israeli was had just begun. He had direct contacts
with Washington. Then again I decided to contact my ambassador.
There was no consulate in San Francisco in those days. We
tried to call Washington. We couldn't get through. And
then the secretary of Panovsky had a bright idea: let's call
Moscow because they just set up a new satellite line, and behold,
in a moment I was speaking to my father. He was very happy
that I was finally in America and not driving off the coasts of
Australia, but he thought that was my real reason in going there.
I told him that I'm now working out plans which places to go and
see. Of course this was quite a special occasion. I
was traveling at the beginning alone. I came sort of through
the back door, and that was rather irregular in those days.
And I chatted with my father and told him that I am fine and everything
at home seems to be in good shape. And after this conversation,
I remember putting down the telephone and told Panovsky, no, there'll
be no third world war. Now let's do physics. I'm not
here to teach it many times. I've called Moscow, and finally,
the whole thing, there'll be no world war.
Then that must have been a tremendously unusual circumstance.