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TRAC
Interview Transcript

Sergei Kapitsa   (cont)

Interviewer:  So, then, after Stalin's death, then, just to say something about .  .  .

Mr.  Kapitsa:  But journals, books, those were available.  And, of course, the radio was always there.

Interviewer:  And your first trip to the West was when?

Mr.  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.

Interviewer:  And when was your first trip to America?

Mr.  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.

Interviewer:  And you met whom in Stanford University?

Mr.  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.

Interviewer:  And you got there during the Israeli .  .  .

Mr.  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.

Interviewer:  Then that must have been a tremendously unusual circumstance.

Mr.  Kapitsa:  Yes.

 

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RAO > Catalgoues > Transcripts > TRAC > Sergei Kapitsa p.4

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