The Institute of Geochemistry named after A. Vinogradov (Irkutsk), the oldest institution in the structure of the RAS Siberian Branch, celebrated its 55th anniversary in late 2012. Established in 1975 to coordinate geochemical studies in Siberia, it became, in effect, the only research center beyond the Ural Mountains, focused on studies of chemical dynamics of the Earth, evolution of its magnetism, metamorphism and oregenesis, as well as global environmental and climatic changes. The Science in Siberia newspaper correspondent interviewed Vladislav Shatsky, RAS Corresponding Member, the institute's present director, and Acad. Mikhail Kuzmin, director of the institute from 1988 to 2011, who spoke of the rich history and present-day activities of this scientific institution.
As mentioned by Kuzmin, in the early July 1957 Acad. Alexander Vinogradov, director of the Moscow Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry named after V. Vernadsky, while exchanging ideas with the eminent mathematician Acad. Mikhail Lavrentyev, on the recently released Decree of the Government on the establishment of the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences, made a proposal to set up an Institute of Geochemistry in Irkutsk and recommended as its director his disciple, the 40-year old Lev Tauson, Cand. Sc. (Geol. & Miner.), who at that time was preparing to defend his doctoral thesis. Mikhail Kuzmin supported this idea and the proposed nominee.
It is worth saying that Irkutsk was not an occasional place for the Institute of Geochemistry. After launching of the first hydroelectric power station in the structure of the Angara Cascade-Irkutsk ΗPS-and beginning of construction of a Bratsk ΗPS, this city turned into a power center of Siberia. In addition, it has always been the center of geological studies carried out in the vast territory of Eastern Siberia and Far East. It has long been a training center for geologists-in Irkutsk, there are two higher educational institutions: Irkutsk University and the Institute of Mining and Metallurgical (later on, renamed into the Polytechnical Institute), and the College of Geology and Prospecting. Such concentration of specialized schools and educational facilities was typical only of Moscow and Leningrad.
As Kuzmin pointed out, the Institute of Geochemistry was set up in 1975, but only in black and white. The first employees-graduates of Moscow and Leningrad institutions and Irkutsk State University-appeared only in 1958-1959. Premises for work were arranged in a number of rooms at the Irkutsk College of Geology and Prospecting and wooden residential houses with stove heating, where construction workers had lived. These premises were used as living accommodation, laboratories and crushers for sample processing. The equipment was first represented by a microscope and some mortars; at the same time, special machines for carrying out chemical tests were assembled at the laboratories. The first "own" premises were located in a two-storeyed building in Vuzovskaya Embankment (today, Yuri Gagarin Boulevard), the former office of the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia. It is a place where the Siberian School of Geochemistry has originated.
According to Kuzmin, it is difficult to underestimate the role of Tauson (Academician from 1981) in its creation. His main works were dedicated to geochemistry of rare elements in genetic series of volcanic rocks and ore clusters attributed to deep-seated faults. As head of the institute, he directed efforts of his team at studies of endogenic magmatic and metamorphic processes, ore-genesis conditions, geochemical methods of exploration and mapping. Later on, he paid much attention to studies of geochemical composition of the environment and creation of environmentally friendly production sites. The institute organized laboratories that worked in the field of experimental geochemistry, physical and chemical modeling, mineral synthesis, chemical and analytical, spectroscopic and isotope studies. Research trends initiated by the scientist 55 years ago are being developed to the present days.
"Lev Vladimirovich had a unique talent to create a friendly, kind climate in the team,"-Kuzmin added,- "he knew how to support his employees in their work, promote scientific growth of young people and, if needed, settle their household problems." With such a director, the institute was growing fast: in 1960 no less than 89 employees worked there. That very year first 9 articles were published; 3 of them were written by Tauson. Two years later, the team got its first Laureate of Lenin Prize-Liya Pozharitskaya. The typical signs of those years are regular geochemical seminars and discussions on possible trends of scientific development held either at the institute or at the hostel during evening tea.
The year of 1965 became another starting point: that year, on the day of the 102nd birth anniversary of Acad. Vladimir Vernadsky*, a new four-storeyed laboratory building began functioning in the campus located in the south-western part of Irkutsk on the left bank of the Angara River. By that time, the institute had 175 staff members, who published 35 articles a year each. In 1964-1966 it got its "own" candidates of sciences, who defended their theses on the basis of scientific results obtained at the institute. Sergei Brandt was the first who
* See: O. Yanitsky, "Vladimir Vernadsky: Politician, Historian, Public Figure"; V. Volkov, "Pages From Vernadsky's Diary of 1943-1944", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2013.-Ed.
defended his doctoral thesis in 1964, Boris Shmakin, Valentin Polikarpochkin and Roid Dubov were awarded the same academic degree in the late 1960s-early 1970s.
According to Kuzmin, after Nikolai Losev and Yakov Raihbaum, former employees of Irkutsk Research Institute of Precious and Rare Metals and Diamonds, and Leningrad specialists joined the institute, the local analytical service boosted. It had two laboratories-Laboratory of Chemical Analysis and Emission Spectral Analysis-completed with graduates of the Irkutsk University. Later on, there appeared an isotope geochemistry laboratory, rontgenospectral analysis laboratory and rönt-genostructural analysis room equipped with national and imported devices for atomic absorption analysis and electron microprobe analysis. Specialists mastered express methods of spectral analysis that enabled them to examine much more samples, which was of high importance for an exploratory geochemistry, and did a lot to introduce them in the field practice in the Asian part of Russia and in Central Asia. Specialists in rönt-genospectroscopy, first of all Nikolai Losev and Valery Afonin, laid foundations of the röntgenospectral analysis and took part in the development of national quanto-meters (devices to determine chemical composition of metals according to emission spectra); first pilot devices were tested in this very place, at the institute.
The Irkursk Center became an active participant in international workshops and conferences. Foreign magazines began to publish articles on the results obtained by Irkutsk geochemists.
Meanwhile, the most active creative period of the institute fell on 1970s-1980s. By this period, about 300 staff members were employed there, including 7 doctors of sciences and 37 candidates of sciences, who published around 100 articles a year. At that time scientists obtained a number of important results contributing significantly to the development of science, in particular, on geo-chemical typification of granitoids. These works were headed by Tauson and he summarized them in his monograph Geochemical Types and Potential Ore Content of Granitoids (1977).
The institute formed the strongest national school of pegmatite specialists, who studied pegmatite formations. They prepared and published a multivolume work dedicated to the development of blind pegmatite vein search methods, which was the only scientific work on this topic for a long time. Representatives of this school are now working on a multivolume work on geochemistry, mineralogy and genesis of different types of pegmatites (first 2 volumes are already published).
In the 1970s, Igor Karpov, Dr. Sc. (Miner.), together with his colleagues and disciples developed theoretical fundamentals of modeling of physico-chemical processes in geochemistry and petrology based on a mathematical instrument of a convex (non-linear) programming and created a database of thermodynamic properties of minerals and related substances verified against global results of experimental petrology.
Specialists of the laboratory of mineral synthesis (later on, the laboratory of monocrystal physics), who carried out crystal-chemical studies of useful minerals and crystal matrixes not found in the nature, offered some methods of fluoride crystallization, which made it possible to create solid-state dosimeters and use them in future to study consequences of the nuclear catastrophe at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (Ukraine, 1986).
In the 1990s, in the time of economic and political perturbations that produced a crucial effect on the national science, the institute managed to focus on some strategic trends, which helped preserve its scientific potential. For example, the department of monocrystal physics was transformed into the department of radiation physics and focused, inter alia, on radioecology. Employees of the department continued to synthesize and grow new materials, in particular, crystals of alkali-land haloids and silicon, assessed tech-nogenic pollution of the region with caesium-137 and studied distribution of radon within the Baikal rift sys-
tern, where occurrence of this gas is associated with endogenous natural sources.
Mikhail Kuzmin, Lev Zonenshain and Lev Natapov obtained quite interesting results in the course of analysis of the geological structure of our planet in terms of plate tectonics. Research works in the field of in-depth geodynamics were initiated in 1981 and summarized in a 2-volume monograph The Tectonics of Lithosphere Plates in the Territory of the USSR (1990) that enabled its authors to attribute all manifestations of intraplate mag-matism to four hot mantle fields. Geochemical and seismic tomography data, including analysis of manifestations of this type of magmatism in time, resulted in a conclusion on the interrelation of magmatic events with hot fields taking place deep in the entrails of the Earth, on the "core-mantle" boundary. In 1997, these works were awarded the RF State Prize-they made it possible to create a single picture of in-depth geodynamics of our planet that can change tectonics of lithosphere plates to a new geological paradigm.
The Institute of Geochemistry made an indisputable contribution to implementation of the international project on a deep-water drilling of benthic sediments "Baikal Drilling" (1996-1999) aimed to identify changes in the natural environment and climate in Central Asia (the program coordination board was headed by Acad. Mikhail Kuzmin.-Ed.), carried out by American and Japanese colleagues in cooperation with other RAS SB institutes. A number of winter expeditions were organized and five well clusters were drilled with the water column of 200-1,400 m and the maximal sediment drilling depth of 600 m. After analysis of the obtained data, experts managed to get a continuous paleoclimatic record for Central Asia for 8 mln years and identified the interrelation of climatic changes and variations in orbital parameters of the Earth and the Cainozoic geological processes occurring on the Asian continent. In addition, analysis of the sediment core made it possible to clarify some issues associated with the development of the Baikal rift for the past 8 mln years.
Mikhail Kuzmin pointed out some other important achievements of the institute: elaboration of a model of magmatic sulfurization of the genesis of copper-nickel deposits, pioneer studies of volcanic rocks in the central part of the Tungus syneclise (the biggest geological structure of the Siberian Platform), volvanogenic complexes of the Deccan Plateau on the Indian subcontinent and in the Red Sea, discovery of carbonatite deposits in the course of studies of alkali-ultrabasic magmatism in Russia (the Sayan Mountains, the Murun massif, Aldan and Anabar) and Mongolia (Southern Gobi alkaline granite belt and Southern Gobi province of carbon-atites). Scientists of the institute first in the world designed thermoluminescent monocrystal detectors DTG-4 tested in the Chernobyl disaster zone and developed a relevant production technology, discovered new minerals (armstrongite, mongolite, kovalenkoite, tau-sonite), gathered, under the guidance of Samuil Lon-tsikh and Lev Petrov, Drs. Sc. (Chem.), a collection of 32 state standard samples of the composition of mineral substances (magmatic, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, gold-containing ore and products of its processing) entered into the State Register. The information on the collection published in all issues of prestigious international catalogues (Geostandard Newsletter, Special Issues) and was entered into the electronic database of the International Atomic Energy Agency (Vienna, Austria). The main designation of this unique collection is to control accuracy of the data obtained in the course of analysis of an elementary composition of natural and technogenic environments.
According to Vladislav Shatsky, RAS Corresponding Member, who became head of the institute in 2011, his key task for today is to attract the youth to research work.
"This is a task of the highest priority, given that we aim to create an isotope center using existing infrastructure of the RAS SB institutions-Institute of Geochemistry, Institute of the Earth Crust, and the Geological Institute of the Buryat Research Center (Ulan-Ude). Further development of geochemistry is hardly possible without isotope measurements, and if we want our scientific results to be on the international level, we should take care of the improvement of research instruments."
Shatsky also added that there already exist preconditions for such development. With the help of the RAS SB Instrument Commission, geochemists have already bought a number of analytical devices (for example, modern mass-spectrometers) enabling them to carry out intricate studies, and have updated the available instrumental pool by 90 percent. Their main task for today is to ensure efficient use of newly acquired equipment.
The director of the institute is absolutely convinced that studies in the field of ore natural resources (gold and noble metals the Irkutsk Region is rich in) should be expanded in view of a high interest to this topic. "At the moment, research activities are segmented and carried out by a number of laboratories. Our task is to unite them in a single structure. Of course, mining technologies are out of the sphere of our interest, but we can provide data on the availability of ore in this or that form, peculiarities of formation of diamonds and precious metals, which is interesting for technologists and search specialists."
According to Shatsky, the institute stakes on ecological studies that are in high demand in the world: the institute has organized a successfully operating laboratory specializing in the environmental monitoring; its research works are planned to expand significantly at the expense of a federal program on the development of the Baikal territory and monitoring activities in Siberian reserves and natural parks, since the institute has considerable potentialities for analytical studies of water medium, biota, soils and rocks.
According to Shatsky, crystal-related studies are most promising: in addition to a solar grade silicon, there is a high demand in detectors for gamma logging (measurements of γ-radiation of natural radioactive elements contained in rocks)-they are widely used in oil prospecting and extraction. The task here is to find crystals that could work in terms of high temperatures and to meet requirements of high-energy physics.
With its highly qualified staff members and modern analytical equipment, the RAS SB Institute of Geochemistry has an opportunity to make its research competitive on the international level. And its employees are determined to make use of the situation. As stated by Shatsky, enhancement of cooperation with foreign colleagues is one of its priorities. "Today, we can be not only sample providers but also equal partners."
The Institute of Geochemistry Is 55. "Science in Siberia" newspaper, No. 48, 2012
Illustrations from the RAS SB photoarchives
Prepared by Marina KHALIZEVA
Опубликовано на Порталусе 08 ноября 2021 года
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