Victor P. Spiridonov (1931–2001)

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  • P1: MRM/FYX P2: MRM/RKP QC: MRM Structural Chemistry (STUC) Pp254-344020 August 31, 2001 16:28 Style file version Nov. 07, 2000 Structural Chemistry, Vol. 12, No. 5, October 2001 ( c° 2001) Victor P. Spiridonov (1931â2001) Lev Vilkov1 and Istva´n Hargittai2;3 Victor P. Spiridonov in 1978 (photo by I. Hargittai). Victor Pavlovich Spiridonov, Professor of Physical Chemistry of Moscow State University and long time Ad- ministrative Head of its Gas Electron Diffraction Labora- tory, has died. Victor was born on June 20, 1931. He was a student of Moscow State University where he started his electron diffraction studies in 1951. He was a member of the student scientific club and Lev Gurvich had gotten him interested in this field. When Gurvich was forced out of the University in an antisemitic wave in 1952, Victor joined Petr Akishin. One of us (LV) also began his elec- tron diffraction studies at that time. When the electron Diffraction Laboratory was officially formed at Moscow State University, Akishin was appointed to be its Head. Victor replaced him in this position in 1963 and stayed on as Head until his death in 2001. 1Moscow State Universtiy, Moscow. 2Budapest University of Technology, H-1521, Budapest, Hungary. 3To whom all correspondence should be addressed. email: hargittai@ I (LV) had worked on kinetic processes and explo- sions before I joined electron diffraction. The Chair of the Department of Physical Chemistry, Professor Frost had assigned me to P. A. Akishin even before Gurvich left the University. I started building up the experiment and nobody but Victor was interested in this project. After I had finished my Diploma Work (Masterâs degree equiva- lent), I did not continue with Akishin, who at that time did not have a scientific degree and I entered graduate studies for my candidateâs degree (Ph.D. equivalent). Nominally, Victor was my Masterâs student as he was 1 year my ju- nior. He was interested in inorganic structures, while I was studying under M. V. Tatevskii and my project was the determination of the structure of small organic molecules. Victorâs project was the structure of ZnCl2, ZnBr2, and ZnI2. Our joint paper had three authors, Akishin, Vilkov, and Spiridonov (ordered according to the Russian alpha- bet). It was published in Dokladi Akademii Nauk in 1955. We moved into the new building of the Chemistry Fac- ulty in 1954 and Akishin organized a new administrative unitâthe laboratory of gas-phase electron diffractionâhe was a very good manager. The high-temperature apparatus was constructed at a special institute outside the Univer- sity. Three groups were emerging in electron diffraction and, accordingly, we had three separate offices doubling as laboratories, one each for Victor, Nikolai Rambidi, and myself. There was great activity in the electron diffraction laboratory as our work involved the study of new mate- rials, especially at high temperatures, that were related to missiles and fuels. The study of inorganic structures was performed in the framework of a project supported by an outside organization. Both Victor and I defended our dissertations for the highest scientific degree, Doctor of Science, in 1969. Our scientific interests and direc- tions, however, were very different. Victorâs main interest was in methodology, in the techniques of structure anal- ysis, and in converting the structures produced by elec- tron diffraction into equilibrium structures. Victor was an 347 1040-0400/01/1000-0347$19.50/0 C° 2001 Plenum Publishing Corporation
  • P1: MRM/FYX P2: MRM/RKP QC: MRM Structural Chemistry (STUC) Pp254-344020 August 31, 2001 16:28 Style file version Nov. 07, 2000 348 Vilkov and Hargittai idealist romantic who believed that it sufficed for him to produce ideas and let others work out them. Although I (IH) did my Masterâs degree in the Elec- tron Diffraction Laboratory of Moscow State University in the academic year 1964/65, I did not have much in- teraction with Victor until years after I had returned to Budapest. We started our own high-temperature electron diffraction experiments in the early 1970s in Budapest and about the same time I also became interested in crit- ically viewing the physical meaning of the structural pa- rameters produced by different techniques. Victor was very helpful giving us advice and contributing to our books, which we edited. The first was a 35-page treatise on âThe Determination of Harmonic Potential Functions from Diffraction Informationâ in Diffraction Studies on Non-Crystalline Substances (Elsevier, 1981). Among his coauthors were his two stellar associates, the late Evgenii Zasorin and Alexandr Gershikov, who a few years later emigrated to Israel. The last of his book chapter contributions was titled âEquilibrium Structure and Po- tential Function: A Goal to Structure Determinationâ in Advances in Molecular Structure Research, Vol. 3 (JAI press, 1997). He was truly dedicated to producing the equilibrium structure and to combining experimental in- formation from diffraction and spectrosopic studies in the most critical way. He could not understand why others were so slow in incorporating his suggestions into their studies. He was always ready to talk and argue about the best approach in structure analysis. He was a pragmatic person. At one time he became entangled in a dispute of ideology and heavily criticized the application of the con- cept of electronegativity in a series of articles. However, when we wrote a joint paper and invoked electronega- tivity in a discussion of VSEPR-type structures, he pre- ferred participation in the work to preserving ideological purity. Victor was unselfish and eager to share his knowl- edge and experience. He was instrumental in creating a new Electron Diffraction Group in Ivanovo, a few hundred kilometers east of Moscow, which has contin- ued much of his high-temperature electron diffraction work on inorganic substances. He had many Masterâs students and over 30 candidates of science, three of whom eventually reached the D.Sc. degree as well. He was internationally known and well respected. He is survived by his wife Victoria and daughter Olga, and his two grandchildren. His work will be remem- bered in the activities of his students and colleagues and his memory will be kept alive by his friends and family.