Seminar: The strange history of Runar Gåsström, a Finnish-American-Soviet Physicist

The fates of Finns under Stalin´s regime in the Soviet Union were often severe. The exciting story of Runar Gåsström, Finnish-Russian nuclear physicist, will be introduced in the one hour lecture by Jukka Maalampi on Tuesday the 16th of February.

Seminar of Helsinki Institute of Physics (HIP)
Tuesday 16 February 2021 at 10.15

Jukka Maalampi (Jyväskylä): The strange history of Runar Gåsström, a Finnish-American-Soviet Physicist

Abstract: Runar Viktor Gåsström (1914-1998) was born to a Finnish immigrant family in New York. The family moved back to Finland in 1917, to immigrate ten years later to Vancouver, Canada, and further on to Petroskoi, Soviet-Karelia.

Gåsström studied physics in the Moscow State University, allegedly as a student of Pjotr Kapitsa. In 1946 Gåsström, quite surprisingly, moved to Helsinki. He worked for ten years at the Department of Physics in the nuclear physics group of Lennart Simons, being e.g. responsible of the construction of a Van de Graaff generator.

Gradually, some of his actions, such as his frequent and inquisitive visits in nuclear physics research centers around the Western Europe and his possible role in the defection of Italian nuclear physicist Bruno Pontecorvo to Soviet Union, as well as his background, started to raise concerns.

Gåsström left Finland in 1954 and moved to Groningen, Netherlands, and then to Vienna to work for the IAEA.

In 1960 he returned to Soviet Union, where he thereafter held many distiguished positions in Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, and Kaliningrad, working in the fields of nuclear electronics and radiophysics.

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