Interview with Prof. K. Y. Kondratyev

 

Dr Taba relates:

On 4 October 1957, the USSR launched the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik I. The realization that progress in space technology provided an excellent opportunity for international collaboration led to the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of a series of resolutions on the peaceful uses of outer space. From WMO's point of view, the most important of these was resolution 1721 (XVI), which gave the Organization a leading role in the advancement of our knowledge of atmospheric science, in particular weather-forecasting capabilities and climatic changes. The Executive Committee Advisory Committee, which was subsequently established to advise on major operational problems concerning the objectives set forth by the UN resolution, consisted of 12 prestigious scientists, including Kirill Y. Kondratyev, our interviewee in this issue.

I attended sessions of the Advisory Committee and was greatly impressed by the extent of Kirill Kondratyev's knowledge and by his effective interventions. Kondratyev chaired the third session of the Committee in April 1966 and on November of the same year, Prof. Von Mieghem and I went to Moscow and then to Leningrad, in connexion with training activities. While in Leningrad, I fell ill and was in hospital for about 12 days. Kirill came to visit me there—a kind gesture I shall always remember.

Although more than 30 years had elapsed, the memories of the past continued to haunt me. It was with great apprehension, therefore, that I prepared myself to visit once again that beautiful city, now called St.. Petersburg, to conduct this interview. Today, back in Geneva, my stay with Kirill and Svetlana Kondratyev figures among my most pleasant memories.

When I arrived at St.. Petersburg airport, on an extremely hot 4 August 1997, Kirill was waiting for me. He had hardly changed and did not look his age. He suggested that I should stay at his home. I was happy as this would be an excellent opportunity to know better the man I was going to interview.

 

Mr Kondratyev

 
Kirill Y. Kondratyev

The entrance hall and study of the Kondratyev apartment are filled with more than 100 publicationson shelves, on chairs and even on the floor. They had all been written by Kirill and he has written at least as many more again. At their summer residence, too, where we went the next day, books, journals, reprints of scientific papers, etc., were everywhere. Kirill spends many hours a day reading and writing, leaving Svetlana and me to walk in the forest or by the sea. The site of the Kondratyevs' summer residence has an interesting history: after the Second World War, Stalin created a number of summer residences for the 32 members of the Academy in Leningrad, including the Kondratyevs' villa. They live there almost all year round.

Dr Taba continues:

Kirill Kondratyev was born on 14 June 1920 in Rybinsk, some 300 km north-west of Moscow. His father, an officer in the Red Army, retired in the mid-1920s and became a construction engineer. Kirill had his primary and secondary schooling in Leningrad. His physics teacher, who is now well into his 90s, sees Kirill from time to time to talk about the old days. In 1938, Kirill registered at the Faculty of Physics of the University of Leningrad to study physics, mathematics and chemistry. In 1941, he had to interrupt his studies and join the army. Kirill remembers those hard times: the blockade of Leningrad and the ensuing starvation. He was in such a bad physical state that he had to be transferred from hospital in Leningrad to one in western Siberia. From 1942 to 1943, he trained with the parachute division and then returned to the front line, west of Moscow. Wounded for the third time, he was demobilized. His found his parents and sister, who had been evacuated to the north Caucasus area, and the family was reunited.

The siege of Leningrad came to an end in the summer of 1944. The family returned to Leningrad and Kirill to the Faculty of Physics. He graduated in atmospheric physics in 1946 and was given the position of assistant professor. This marked the beginning of a career of more than half a century in scientific research. He was appointed to the posts of lecturer, researchscientist, professor of atmospheric physics, chief of the Department of Atmospheric Physics, University Vice-Rector and Rector, senior scientist and chief of the Department of Radiation Studies at the Main Geophysical Observatory (Leningrad); he joined the Institute for Lake Research and later the Research Centre for Ecological Safety and, together with Prof. 0. M. Johannessen (Norway) and other outstanding scientists and several academic institutions, created the Nansen International Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre. Kirill has never ceased or even reduced his international activities.
 

 
Prof. Kondratyev with a selection of his publications in his St. Petersburg apartment Photo: H. Taba

At a time when travel by USSR scientists abroad was limited, Kirill organized regular visits by outstanding foreign scientists to the University of Leningrad. He was an active participant in the international gatherings of the International Astronautical Federation, the ICSU Committee for Space Research, the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics. As a member of the aforementioned EC Advisory Committee, he was responsible for the development of the WMO World Weather Watch and the WMO/ICSU Global Atmospheric Research Programme In the field of satellite meteorology, Kondratyev made remarkable efforts in connexion with environmental observations and interpretation of data. He was the first scientist to propose and substantiate a statistical approach to the analysis of satellite measurements of the Earth's radiation budget. In the field of climate change, he is a fervent advocate of the principle of "multidimensional global change", which aims at an analysis of the interaction between societal and environmental dynamics.

Kondratyev is a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the International Academy of Astronautics; winner of the USSR State Prize; an honorary member of the International Academy of Sciences "Leopoldina", the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Meteorological Society and the Royal Meteorological Society; and he is Honorary Doctor of the Universities of Lille (France), Athens (Greece) and Budapest (Hungary). He was awarded the 12th IMO Prize in 1967.

Dr Taba wishes to express his gratitude to Kirill and Svetlana Kondratyev for his enjoyable stay with them.

H. T. — Tell us about your research project and thesis to obtain your master's degree.

K.Y.K, — In 1945/1946, a problem of great importance for the country was the development and improvement of agriculture. The farmers in the southern part of Russia were concerned about early morning frost and damage to vineyards and I went to the Rostov/Don region in the southern Caucasus as a member of an expedition to study the problem. We already knew that one way to protect the grape fields was to cover them with a layer of smoke; my task was to find out what kind of smoke screen should be chosen. Firstly, the role played by the atmospheric greenhouse effect in the presence of a surface atmospheric layer polluted by smoke had to be ascertained. Secondly, could a suitable theory of the surface layer thermal regime be formulated, taking into account both radiative transfer and turbulent mixing? If so, this would be indeed the first attempt of its kind. This was the main motivation for me and other scientists to develop a more reliable technique for the calculation of long-wave radiation flux and flux divergence of the greenhouse effect under multi-component atmospheric conditions, taking into account the effects of the presence of water vapour, carbon dioxide, ozone and aerosols. We carried out experimental studies in the laboratory as well as in the field.

H.T. — What was the outcome of your research?

K.Y.K. — Paradoxically, my principal conclusion was that the impact of the smoke layer was determined not by the effect of smoke-enhanced greenhouse effect but rather by the attenuation of solar radiation during the early morning hours when it was important to protect vegetation against heating by solar radiation. By 1947/1948, we had formulated a simple theory that warming inside the greenhouse arises from the absence of sensible heat exchange between the soil surface and atmosphere as the glass of the greenhouse prevents turbulent mixing. This theory had already been supported by an experiment made much earlier by the American physicist, Wood, who replaced the usual greenhouse glass by quartz glass and did not find any difference. The first monograph on the development of a new parameterization of long-wave radiation transfer that I wrote, Long-wave Radiation Transfer in the Atmosphere, was published in 1950. A revised and expanded version was published in 1965 under the title Radiative Heat Exchange in the Atmosphere. We also carried out special investigations and numerical modelling of the greenhouse effect of various planetary atmospheres such as those of Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Titan. I presented one paper, entitled "Lunar meteorological observations", in Athens in 1965 on the occasion of the International Astronautical Congress.

H.T. — You were already an assistant professor in 1946. Did your assignment involve a great deal of teaching?

K.Y.K. — I had to teach almost all the courses in the Department of Physics because the Head, Prof. P. N. Tverskoy, an outstanding geophysi-cist, was rather old and often ill. I gave courses in dynamic and synoptic meteorology, hydrome-teorology and geophysics. It was because of this teaching experience that I became interested in writing books; an interest which I maintain to this day. In 1951, I participated in the preparation of a basic textbook called Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics. An expanded version of it appeared in 1953.

H.T. — It was at this time that you started your collaboration with the Main Geophysical Observatory in Leningrad. Can you tell us something about that period?

K.Y.K. — During my increasing contacts with the Main Geophysical Observatory, I had various assignments, such as senior research scientist and head of the department of radiation studies. This period was a major component of my scientific career, since the opportunities to conduct research were much greater than at the university. I had an excellent research group. The main core of our research was formed around problems related to atmospheric greenhouse effects. Together with Dr N. I. Moskalenko, from Kazan, we worked on a project which lasted some 10 years, investigating both infra-       red and short-wave radiative transfer in the atmosphere. We studied absorption spectra of various active components such as water vapour, carbon dioxide, ozone and smaller components, such as methane, fluorocarbons and others. All these studies became basic material for the book we published in 1983: Greenhouse Effect of the Atmosphere.

H.T. — After the Sputnik launch, I believe you diverted a great part of your interest and scientific activities towards the emerging field of satellite meteorology?

K.Y.K. — The interpretation of data obtained from meteorological satellites soon became a new challenge for atmospheric scientists around the world. In the USSR, researchers established close collaboration under the leadership of Academician M. V. Keldysh. This group of outstanding scientists, all members of the Academy, set up a broad programme of theoretical and experimental studies. They were encouraged and stimulated by the launching of the US meteorological and Earth's resources satellites. A major component of this programme consisted of high-level balloon and aircraft observations. In the USSR, we had already made considerable progress in the design and manufacture of instrumentation such as solar spectrometers, pyranometers, aerosol impactors and filters, etc. Consequently, we were able to conduct, during the 1960s, a series of 22 high-altitude large balloon (800 kg each) flights launched from a site in the middle Volga River region. The main purpose of this effort was to gather data on the vertical profiles (up to 30-33 km) of spectral transparency of the atmosphere, total direct solar radiation and downward and upward short-wave radiation fluxes with simultaneous information on aerosol properties. The set of data obtained from this project is unique in its kind and its interpretation resulted in numerous scientific publications, including the 1972 WMO publication Radiation Processes in the Atmosphere (WMO-No. 309).

H.T. — What were some of the results of this project?

K.Y.K. — An unexpected result of processing balloon data was the discovery of anomalous absorption of solar radiation in the stratosphere. We thought this phenomenon was related to the nuclear tests conducted in the atmosphere in the early 1960s. The explosions produced substantial amounts of nitrogen dioxide, which absorbed solar radiation strongly. The possibility of a "little nuclear winter" was also imagined. These questions were discussed in the 1988 monograph Climate Shocks: Natural and Anthropogenic. Balloon observational data were also helpful in substantiating a few hypotheses concerning the impact of solar activity on climate and obtaining first direct measurements of the solar constant.
 

 
A meeting of the GATE Radiation Subprogramme at the Main Geophysical Observatory. Leningrad, USSR

As regards the aircraft observations which I mentioned, we used Ilyushin-18 four-engine turbojets. One of the aircraft was given to the Main Geophysical Observatory and later on offered to the Department of Radiation Studies when I was the Chief of Department. These aircraft had three major functions: (a) to test prototypes of satellite instrumentation; (b) to test remote-sensing instrumentation; and (c) to investigate radiation processes in the free atmosphere which are responsible for climatic changes.

H.T. — You may wish to say something about satellite data interpretation and remote-sensing in the early stages.

K.Y.K. — The interpretation of data concerned mainly the analysis of observations of cloudiness and radiation obtained from American satellites. Our immediate efforts were aimed at discussing statistical characteristics of global clouds and radiation fields, such as space and time variability of cloud amount and Earth radiation budget. We tried to apply an approach which had been used in turbulence theory, which means studying correlations between various fields and their structural analysis.
 

 
Prof. Kondratyev received an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens, Greece, in December.

As far as remote-sensing is concerned, this meant the interpretation of measurements to retrieve vertical temperature, moisture profile and cloud characteristics. The Main Geophysical Observatory was the first institution in the early 1960s to develop a remote-sensing technique for the microwave regions of the spectrum with the use of microwave thermal emission of the atmosphere as a source of information to retrieve temperature, moisture, etc. It was also used as a source of information on sea-ice properties, such as thickness, surface temperature, age, etc. In the early 1970s, the Soviets and Americans agreed to conduct a joint Bering Sea Experiment to retrieve sea-ice properties and sea-state characteristics. For this purpose, we used two ships, an American ice-breaker and a Soviet research vessel and three aircraft (American Condor 990 and Russian llyushin-14). We published the results in a joint report in Russian and in English.

H.T. — Please tell us about the Complex Atmospheric Energetics Experiments (CAENEX) and the Global Atmospheric-Aerosol-Radiation Experiment (GAAREX).

K.Y.K. — CAENEX and GAAREX were a combined aircraft and surface observation effort during the 1970s. They covered various parts of the USSR having different climatic conditions, such as the central Asian desert, the southern Russian steppe, the Arctic, urban environment, etc. These two field projects made substantial contributions to the Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP) Atlantic Tropical Experiment (GATE). In this context, the two studies carried out during the two special observing periods should be mentioned. These were: (a) aerosols and their impacts on climate (expedition to the Kara-Kum desert); and (b) interaction of extended cloudiness and radiation in the Arctic. Another field experiment which should be mentioned in this context was that carried out over the industrial region of Zaporozhye (Ukraine), which revealed information concerning so-called "dirty" (polluted) clouds, such as cloud chemistry, micro-physics and radiation characteristics. The main conclusions of these efforts were the following:

(a) on average, solar radiation absorption by aerosols in the clear atmosphere is close to absorption by water vapour; (b) the heat balance of the summer atmospheric boundary layer in the steppe region is determined by long-wave radiation flux divergence (but not sensible heat exchange); (c) cloud cover is always characterized by significant solar radiation absorption which becomes very strong in case of "industrial dirty clouds"; and (d) Saharan dust transport during duststorms to the Antarctic changes the radiative regime of the free atmosphere.

H.T. — Would you like to say a few more words about "dirty clouds"?

K.Y.K. — During our expedition in 1972 over Zaporozhye, we realized from aircraft observations that the "dirty clouds" were contaminated by various sources of pollution from the surface in the highly industrial regions. We made observations of spectral radiation fluxes and took samples of cloud water for chemical analysis. We were appalled when we saw the samples; the water taken from the clouds a few kilometres above us was dark grey. Although this was an especially industrial region, it was nevertheless not a very local phenomenon. My conclusion was that, in such areas, there must be a complete change of cloud properties and this might have significant effects on the phenomena of excess absorption. Studies have shown that absorption by dirty clouds can be as much as 25 W m-2.

H.T. — What about observations from manned spacecraft?

K.Y.K. — In the 1964 publication Our Planet from Space we discussed for the first time the importance of images of the Earth obtained by Soviet cosmonauts. More detailed and up-to-date information was contained in a later report entitled Investigations of the Environment from Manned Orbital Stations, published in 1972. Observational data from manned spacecraft were obtained with two instruments: a hand-held spectrograph for the visible wavelength region and a complex of solar spectrometers for the visible and near infra-red. Needless to say, we had close contact with the cosmonauts, who made a number of valuable visual observations in the atmosphere, in particular near the edge of the planet and Earth's surface. We developed various techniques for retrieving vertical aerosol profiles in cases of brightness measurements for twilight horizon and day-time horizon.
 

 
WMO Headquarters, 22 April 1968 — Prof. Kondratyev (standing) receives the twelfth IMO Prize. Seated right Dr Alf Nyberg. President of WMO from 1963-1971

Aerosol properties were also retrieved by measuring attenuation of solar radiation by the atmosphere during sunset and sunrise. Other techniques were used for retrieving vertical water vapour and ozone profiles in the stratosphere. We finally organized a somewhat complex field programme over the Kara-Kum desert with the use of simultaneous data from three manned spacecraft, aircraft and surface stations.

H.T. — In 1982, you joined the Institute for Lake Studies in St.. Petersburg. Could you please tell us about it?

K.Y.K. — This Institute is part of the Academy of Sciences of which I was already a member. I remained there for some 10 years and my research work concentrated on limnological studies. We designed and developed quite a number of remote-sensing techniques. The three main components of our research were: remote-sensing to study limnological environmental dynamics; the use of lakes as test sites to verify remote-sensing techniques and, finally, consideration of lakes as natural simulation models to study similar processes in seas and oceans. Through the development of limnological remote-sensing techniques we tried to determine various parameters such as water-surface temperature and state, snow- and ice-cover properties, etc. Our main efforts, however, were directed at understanding the basic properties of natural waters such as phytoplankton, suspended matter and dissolved organic matter concentrations. A number of field experiments were conducted on Ladoga Lake, Onega Lake (north-east of St.. Petersburg) and Sevan Lake (Armenia). On the basis of numerical simulation modelling and field observations, techniques were developed for the measurements of water-surface brightness and water fluorescence. We made an intercomparison between limnological environments of the American Great Lakes and the Russian Great Lakes (Baikal, Ladoga, Omega). The results were published in cooperation with Canadian colleagues in a monograph on optical properties and remote-sensing of natural waters. Two international expeditions to the Rybinsk reservoir on the Volga River crowned the project.

H.T. — You are very much involved in what is called global change studies. What is this exactly?

K.Y.K. — The principal aim of multidimensional global change studies is the analysis of interaction between societal and environmental dynamics. In the beginning of the 1970s, when the Club of Rome was developed, I organized a seminar with the purpose of identifying key issues of global change and requirements for observations and research. A main step in this direction was the development by Dr V. G. Gorshkov of a concept of biotic regulation of the environment. In this context we wrote two books: The Biosphere; Remote Sensing from Space (1989) and Key Issues of Global Ecology (1990). Our main effort has been to identify the principal priorities— not an easy task. Let us take the case of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992). Agenda 21 consists of some 700 pages of text embracing hundreds of problems. Yet the important role played by the biosphere is not adequately emphasized. In the case of the global carbon cycle, everybody is worried about the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and a catastrophic scenario is feared. Yet we know that the actual increase is not as much as the calculations show. The main reason for this is that the biosphere assimilates a great deal of carbon dioxide emitted in the atmosphere and guarantees future ecological safety. If we destroy the biosphere which functions as a sink for carbon, we create an ecological catastrophe. The question of the interaction between the geospheric and biospheric components has been the main aim and purpose of many international programmes, such as the International Geophysical Year, the International Quiet Sun Year and the World Climate Programme. One of the main purposes of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme was to study the global changes specifically with a view to the atmospheric impact on the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus and water, as well as the role of life-supporting factors such as solar radiation, water and soil fertility. The problem of global change cannot be solved without using a system's approach comprising all processes involved. Studying carbon dioxide or ozone in isolation will serve little purpose. Such studies should be made in the context of the overall problem.

H.T. — In the context of the global change and climate dynamics, you often talk about the optimization of observing systems. Could you please elaborate on this?

K.Y.K.All components of the geosphere and biosphere are affected by anthropogenic impacts. A full study of the existing problems can be achieved only through a systems approach. This requires a global observing system making use of both conventional and space-borne means. In the context of Earth resources and environmental studies, various remote-sensing techniques have been used. These include photographic, TV, multichannel spectral lidar, thermal passive macrowave, radar, ships, buoys, balloons, aircraft and other platforms. Automated satellites carrying multispectral radiometers are now the basic means of continuous monitoring of the Earth's environment. The manned orbital stations such as Salyut, Mir and Skylab have become scientific laboratories for carrying out complex experiments, testing various scientific instruments and making visual-instrumental studies. To establish a long-term programme of global change studies from space, however, these possibilities should be optimized, taking into account the available financial resources in order to set priorities, such as the coordination of compatible observing systems and the means of transmitting the data to Earth. Knowledge and experience should be exchanged between different countries.

H.T. — Tell us about the Nansen International Environment and Remote Sensing Centre (NIERSC).

K.Y.K. — The NIERSC was created as a joint venture between Russian and other scientists to deal with environmental problems. It came into existence through the collaboration between the St.. Petersburg Research Centre for Ecological Safety in Russia and the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Centre in Bergen, Norway. Later on, other institutions, such as the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan, USA, and the Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology, Germany, also joined. In December 1993, a special agreement was signed between the NIERSC and the Joint Research Centre of the Commission of the European Communities represented by the Space Applications Institute in Ispra, Italy. The Centre has a board composed of delegates from the founding institutions and is chaired jointly by Prof. Johannessen and myself. The daily management of affairs is executed by the Director of the Centre, Dr Leonid Bobylev, and the international Co-Director and senior scientist of the Centre, Lasse H. Pettersson. The NIERSC is a non-profit-making, independent institution and its aim is to study and monitor regional and global pollution and environmental and ecological problems. Its function is to serve as an international focal point establishing collaboration between Russian scientists and the rest of the scientific world. Its programmes are funded by multinational agencies, research, government councils and other organizations. The scientific activities of the NIERSC focus on environmental and pollution monitoring and the modelling of the atmosphere, land, and inland and oceanic, including ice-covered, waters. The geographical region concerned extends from the north-western Russian region, including the Kara and Barents Seas, to the land and water system of the western Siberian coast, the St.. Petersburg region and the Baltic Sea. Apart from regional ecological studies, the NIERSC also conducts research in the field of global change, including the human dimension. We have a Nansen Fellowship Programme for young Russian scientists. In collaboration with St.. Petersburg University, a Ph.D. fellowship programme for Russian students was inaugurated in 1996.

H.T. — Could you mention some of the research activities of the NIERSC?

K.Y.K. — The ultimate goal is the integration of efforts for establishing a remote monitoring service in the St.. Petersburg region. One objective is to collect oceanographic data in order to establish a numerical model for the simulation of transport and dilution of radioactive waste and dissolved pollutants in the Kara Sea. Another is to improve real-time sea-ice monitoring in the northern sea route using satellite radar technology (ice watch). The overall objective of this project is to demonstrate the usefulness of the synthetic aperture radar data from European satellites to assist and facilitate ship navigation in that part of the world. Another activity concerns the use of space technology for major risk management by civil protection authorities and international and relief organizations.
 

 
Prof. Kondratyev with cosmonaut Colonel Alexander Volkov in 1965

Another project concerns the use of surface ultraviolet radiation and ozone content as indicators of environment quality. This is a three-year project to study changes in stratospheric and tropospheric ozone content and variations of UV solar radiation at the Earth's surface.

H.T. — Could you tell us about your collaboration with other institutions and organizations outside the USSR?

K.Y.K. — Most memorable was my collaboration with the WMO Advisory Committee at a time when WWW and GARP were conceived, as well as the lecture I gave during the Sixth World Meteorological Congress in 1971 ("Radiation processes in the atmosphere"). I also collaborated closely with the International Astronautical Federation; we established the Committee on Application of Satellites, which was active for more than a decade. I was also involved with the International Radiation Commission (IAMAP). The Soviet-American agreement on collaboration in environmental protection, signed in 1972, survived for more than 20 years. I participated in several Soviet-American expeditions both in the USA and the USSR. An important event was the preparation and conduct of the Bering Sea Experiment to develop remote-sensing techniques for the retrieval of atmospheric parameters, ice-cover properties and state of the sea. During the period 1988- 1993, Dr S. Tilford and I served as co-chairmen of the Soviet-American Working Group on Remote-Sensing. Our studies were related to many diverse fields, such as the Kamchatka volcanoes, remote-sensing of Siberian forests, preparation and installation of the American total ozone mapping spectrometer on board the Russian meteorological satellite Meteor-3M, as well as preparation of an international Earth's resources module for the space station Mir launched in 1988.

H.T. — Perhaps you could tell us about the visits you made to other countries and the work involved.

K.Y.K. — These included a rather prolonged visit to the Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany; Athens University in Greece; and the University of Colima in Mexico. More recently, I spent six months in Tokyo at the Centre for Climate System Research of the University of Tokyo. I was invited by the head of the Centre, Prof. A. Sumi, and my colleagues were Prof. T. Nakajima of the Centre and Dr T. Tanaka of the Japanese Agency for Space Research. My main interests were, firstly, the role or aerosols in climate variations and, secondly, the optimal planning of global change observations. Dr Nakajima and I intend to publish a book together and I have suggested as its title "The atmosphere as a colloidal medium". At present, I am also working on a report dealing with climate— or, rather, climate change as a component of global change. While in Tokyo, we agreed that a number of joint research activities should be initiated on the basis of the observations obtained from satellites and ground-based stations, as well as numerical models.

H.T. — Could you tell us about the new institute where you are working now, the Research Centre for Ecological Safety?

K.Y.K. — Ecological safety is an interdisciplinary area of knowledge. At present, we are trying to understand the large body of information concerning the environment when it is exposed to technological and human activities. In order to carry out interdisciplinary studies, a special institute was established within the Russian Academy of Sciences—the St.. Petersburg Scientific and Research Centre of Ecological Safety. Its activities incorporate theoretical and field experiments on numerous issues pertaining to ecological safety. I joined the Centre in In 1992; my work covers various environmental problems on global to local scales. We have mathematicians, physicists, chemists, modellers and even experts in economics and politics. I enjoy an excellent position and have special privileges: some 10 years ago, the Russian Academy of Sciences decided that all its members of 65 years and above could have the title "Counsellor of the Academy".
 

 
Kirill and Svetlana Kondratyev at home in August 1997 Photo: H. Taba

As such, I have a full salary and am free to do the work I want with a small group of assistants. Every now and then, we organize meetings in which we tackle specific scientific problems. I work at home and go to the Centre once a week but am constantly in contact with my colleagues. I used to travel a great deal; last year, I spent 80 per cent of my time outside the country. I hope I can now stay at home 90 per cent of the time at my desk. That is the way I enjoy life.

H.T. — Among the various awards and recognitions you have received which one you esteem most?

K.Y.K. — Without hesitation, I can say that this was the Twelfth IMO Prize, which I was awarded in 1967 and received in 1968.

H.T. — Kirill, thank you for this interview. You are an exceptional person: a great scientist and an excellent companion and friend. Your appetite to learn and to share your knowledge is enormous. Allow me to conclude with some words from the Norwegian scientist, Fridtof Nansen:

Man wants to know; and, when man no longer wants to know, he will no longer be man.

 

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