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“Ascending to One’s Limits”. 95th Anniversary of Roman Buyanov

22 February 2022

On February 21, 2022, Boreskov Institute of Catalysis held the memorial seminar dedicated to the 95th anniversary of Roman Buyanov (1927-2020), the prominent scientist in the field of inorganic chemistry and technology, technical chemistry and catalysis, one of the founders of the Institute of Catalysis, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1961-1995 Roman Buyanov was Deputy Director for Science in the Institute, and in 1996-2020, RAS advisor.

The story of the work life of Roman Buyanov amazes with its scale and the number of achievements. In 1950 after graduating from Moscow Mendeleev Institute of Chemical Technology he was sent to Chirchiq Electrochemical Plant to participate in construction of a large industrial object for deuterium isolation by rectification of liquid hydrogen, where he worked his way up to chief technologist of the unique, the world’s first production of heavy hydrogen. Under his immediate direction other large industrial objects were constructed, such as dry ice plant, thermal power plant, strong nitric acid facility. In 1960 for the work in the field of chemical technology (development and industrial implementation of the technology of deuterium obtaining by rectification of liquid hydrogen) Roman Buyanov was awarded Lenin Prize.

Roman Buyanov developed a fundamental theory of magnetic action of catalysts of low-temperature conversion of ortho-hydrogen into para-hydrogen. These works resulted in the launching of the industrial production of liquid para-hydrogen, the rocket fuel that was used for the flight of the Buran space shuttle.

In 1961 Roman Buyanov defended his PhD theses and was invited by Georgy Boreskov, Director of the Institute of Catalysis, to occupy two positions at once – Deputy Director for Science and Chief Engineer. Roman made a great contribution into the establishing of the Institute: his initiative and engineering experience helped successful organization of all workshops and departments of Chief Engineer, staffing and maintenance of the research laboratories of the Institute. Up to 1964 he directed the construction of the buildings of the Institute. At the same time he actively solved a number of problems related to the organization of the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. In 1967 he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor for the participation in the establishment of SB AS USSR and development of science in Siberia.

In the 1960-70s Roman Buyanov, in collaboration with the Research Institute of Monomers of Synthetic Rubber (Yaroslavl), was directly involved into the development and introduction into industry of the catalysts for obtaining the basic monomers of synthetic rubber – butadiene, isoprene, styrene. These catalysts were used by the whole Soviet synthetic rubber industry for more than ten years. In the 1980s Roman Buyanov directed the development of new catalysts for sulfur isolation by the Claus process from gases of various origins that exceeded in their characteristics the best world samples.

In 1979, Roman Buyanov was appointed the head of Coordination Center of CMEA (Council of Mutual Economic Assistance) on the problem of development of new catalysts and improvement of the catalysts used in industry, and in 1984-1990 represented the USSR in the Council of Authorized Countries of CMEA on the problem of industrial catalysts.

Roman Buyanov was an amazing person, he possessed an outstanding creative thinking and a huge life experience. Through the years he managed to retain such values as patriotism, honor, duty, family. For many of us he became a friend, a wise mentor, a patient teacher. He loved life, he loved science, Akademgorodok and Institute of Catalysts that he built and was extremely devoted to.

In commemoration of the date we publish a fragment from the book by Roman Buyanov, “Three lives in one (Me and the Environment)” that reflects his special philosophy.

***

Life of a person consists figuratively of two parts: birth and ascending to one’s limits and descending to one’s end. There again, these are like two symbolical time poles: birth and death. In their union there is an act of annihilation. The descend is a chain of losses of all that was the sense of life, the source of inspiration, joy of participation in life in its all rich content. For those in the phase of ascending the subject does not exist, it’s just an abstraction.

<…>

Life at the descend means continuously part, lose, see off and become more and more lonely. It is hard to be the last to go, and I gradually close in to the “title”. It’s hard because every loss enhances the earth’s gravity.

I have written about my wonderful friends. They were brilliant persons. “Were”, for they are not anymore. Each of them got out of the train of life at their own stations. <…> <…>

The years passed. And when they occurred at the part of life that I named “descend”, every one of them faced one and the same problem – transition into the zone of elevated earth gravity. Any alpinist knows that it’s much harder to go down from the top than to go up. Only in the descend the knees go weak, and only at the ascend the enthusiasm brings you up. <…> <…>

With the loss of my friends I meet more and more often with my loneliness. They were not to be replaced. I and my old friends were of the same epoch. All of them turned out to be one-of-a-kind people, brought up by the classic rules of the first half of the 20th century.

The time passed. Now it is another century, other values, interests, and emotions. Besides, I am not interested in many subjects of talks that bring people together. I don’t drink or smoke. I don’t chat about women. I am not into hunting, organized sport, gambling. I am far from the emotions of sport fans. I am not interested in gossips or in talking for talking sake. In my friends’ opinion I am not envious, nor vindictive, greedy, or trifling.

In general, if I collect all those “no” an image of a distilled stale “puritan” appears. So for the real men I am likely to be dull. Here I sort of “bully” myself, on the one hand. But the rules wouldn’t let me talk about my virtues.

But the main obstacle to coming closer with somebody is in that today every new generation differs greatly from the one before them. Let me give you one curious example.

Do you remember the emotions the Moscow people greeted Gagarin’s flight with?! It was a sensation for that generation. And just thirty years before that event there was another “epoch”, and it had its own sensations.

The cinema theater “Khudozhestvenny” at Arbatskaya Square demonstrated the animated feature “Three Little Piglets” bought in Germany. These three piglets excited the capital of the USSR with the emotions close to those elicited by Gagarin’s flight thirty years later. And the thing was that the movie was in color! Such “miracle” happened in the USSR for the first time. The movie was demonstrated in this cinema theater 3-4 times a day for several years. The whole Moscow talked about it. It was seen by many several times.

So, these two sensational events were separated by only thirty years, and these years were like an eternity. So my generation differs from those that followed.

In concluding of the manuscript I recalled the atmosphere in then newborn Akademgorodok. It was a marvelous enclave, a phenomenally light, sincere, kind society. It was reigned by harmony, harmony in the relationships of its inhabitants, harmony with nature, harmony with dreams. And it seemed that it saturated the whole atmosphere, that it could be filtered and collected as a separate magic potion.

I remember the virgin nature in particular: thousands of colorful butterflies, swarms of dragonflies, singing sands of the aggradation beach… It was a metastable, nonequilibrium, inimitable society induced by the passionate impulse of the pathfinders, dreamers, makers of Akademgorodok.

But the laws of nature and “laws” of development of civilization are relentless. And this fantastic society was destined for leveling, for equilibrium with the rest of the people’s civilization. Now this society lives only in the memory of those few living eyewitnesses and pathfinders of those years. Each epoch reproduces and loves its own children. Time flies by. And if a man was not able to realize himself in this epoch, the children of the next one will forget him.

Time changes everything, and this is the essence of life. People change, along with their environment, their relationships, ideals, dreams, etc. And while a man is at the ascend he keeps pace with these changes. For he himself is their engine. But at the descend he begins to fall behind them. The planet where he was born and lived gradually becomes strange, unknown.

I write about those who was living passionately at their ascend. I don’t write about those who lived like grass. They have no idea of ascend nor descend. I would not that such a schematic image of a man’s life is not a law of nature, but the most probable variant. And I could only wish to the readers of this biography to stay at their top for the rest of their days when they reach it. This variant is real, try it.



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