Talking Science: Conference in honor of Russian biologist draws international interest

A five-day international conference on modern problems of genetics began at the Business Center of the American University of Armenia yesterday (September 8). About 80 scientists from several countries are taking part.

The conference entitled “Modern Problems of Genetics, Radiobiology, Radioecology and Evolution” bears the name of Russian biologist Nikolay Timofeeff-Ressovsky, who made a great scientific contribution to the field of radio genetics from the 1940s and created great prospects for the further development of biophysics.

Since 1983 it will be the fourth conference in Armenia dedicated to the prominent scientist (such conferences also took place in 1989 and 2000). The organizer of the conference is the Pan-Armenian Biophysical Association and its goal is to rally again the followers of the distinguished scientist and share scientific advances in the field of genetics.

During his 60-year career the scientist developed an integral doctrine about microevolution – the origin of new biological species, which became one of the bases of the modern synthetic theory of evolution

Timofeeff-Ressovsky is one of the founders of radiobiology and molecular biology. He investigated the influence of nuclear radiation on plants and living organisms. He wrote a book “Brief Theory of Evolution” together with his colleagues. It is the first work to fully define the concept of evolution of living nature, thus revealing the “black box” of Charles Darwin’s theory, making Darwinism a science.

Timofeeff-Ressovsky conferences in the world so far have been held in the countries where the scientist made his scientific contributions during the years of his activities. Among such countries are Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Tajikistan and Belarus.

Timofeeff-Ressovsky’s contacts with Armenia’s scientists began in the 1960s. Several Armenian scientists passed through his school and as a result under Timofeeff’s immediate supervision a radio biophysics laboratory was established at the Yerevan Physics Institute.

“Timofeeff-Ressovsky was such a powerful scientist that he managed to make very profound contributions in four or five biological directions,” says the conference’s organizer and Pan-Armenian Biophysical Association Chairman Tsovak Avakian.

“That’s why ecologists consider Timofeeff to be their scientist, radio biophysics specialists consider him to be theirs, and specialists in genetics theirs.”

According to Avakian, the current conference is unprecedented, since this time reports will concern several spheres. There will be around 50 reports – on genetics, radiobiology, radioecology delivered by scientists from Germany, Russia, the United States, Canada, Japan, Sweden, France and elsewhere.

“We are still studying the rich scientific works left by Timofeeff, which after each reading reveal a new thing,” says Avakian. “We keep all his lectures, as there is always something to learn in them.”

According to Avakian, the Yerevan conference first of all should boost contacts between young scientists and prominent scientists who have come from other countries, as a result of which it is hoped that mutually beneficial cooperation will be set up.

Academician of the Agricultural Academy of Russia, conference participant Rudolf Aleksakhin, who is also a follower of Timofeeff, agrees with this thought.

“At such conferences we raise actual fundamental issues of basics of biology. And the participation of Armenian scientists is very important. Armenians had very prominent scientists and I think that the young generation will also give very talented scientists. Such a conference is a wonderful step on the part of the organizers,” says Aleksakhin.

And scientist Zen Drake from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, North Carolina, USA, expressed the following thought:

“Armenia has a long and excellent scientific history, particularly in physics, and I think many of us from North America were attracted because of the history of Armenia, and we wanted to see an interesting, new country. So, we were happy to join the conference on a topic like.”

Among the participants there were also scientists who despite having made great achievements in the scientific field, discovered Armenia for the first time.

“I had never heard of Armenia, says Carmel Mothersill, Research Chair in Radiobiology of McMaster University of Ontario, Canada. “I had an invitation and after that I found out where the country was and what was the country’s language, to have an interpreter.”

Generally, Yerevan is now in an active scientific ten-day period, as on September 12, when this conference is due to end, another pan-Armenian symposium of physics will commence. About 50 local and foreign physicists will take part in that symposium.