Laboratory B in Sungul’ - Scientific Divisions - Radiobiophysics


In 1925, as the Russian part of a collaborative effort between Russia and Germany, the Russians sent Timofeev-Resovskij, and his colleague Sergei Romanovich Tsarapkin, to Germany. There, they worked with Oskar Vogt, director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut für Hirnforschung (KWIH, Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Brain Research), to establish the Abteilung für Experimentelle Genetik (Department of Experimental Genetics) and Timofeev-Resovskij became its director. Timofeev-Resovskij stayed in Germany through World War II, and built his department to world-renowned status. On the basis of false denunciations, Timofeev-Resovskij and Tsarapkin were arrested by the NKVD in September 1945, returned to Russia, and both sentenced to 10 years in the Gulag. They ended up in the Karaganda prison camp in northern Kazakhstan, one of the most terrible camps in the Gulag; the harsh conditions of Timofeev-Resovskij’s transportation and incarceration in the labor camp contributed to a significant decline in his health, including the degradation of his vision brought on by malnutrition. Colonel General Zavenyagin, who had intended to utilize Timofeev-Resovskij’s talents in the Soviet atomic bomb project, had Timofeev-Resovskij and Tsarapkin sent to Laboratory B in 1947. Timofeev-Resovskij’s wife Elena Aleksandrovna, after receipt of a letter in his handwriting, left Berlin in 1948, with their son Andrew, to join him in Sungul'. The house occupied by the three Timofeev-Resovskijs was every bit as nice as that planned for the German scientists working at the Sungul' institute. (In 1992, Timofeev-Resovskij was rehabilitated, 11 years after his death!)

Born, Catsch, and Zimmer, who had worked for Timofeev-Resovskij in Berlin and who were sent to Laboratory B by Riehl in December 1947, were able to conduct work similar to that which they had done in Germany, and all three became section heads in Timofeev-Resovskij’s department. Born examined fission products, developed methods of separating plutonium from fission products created in a nuclear reactor, and investigated and developed radiation health and safety measures. Catsch began his work on developing methods to extract radionucleotides from various organs, which he would continue when he left Russia.

The radiobiophysics division under Timofeev-Resovskij had four sections which conducted experimental studies in four basic directions:

  • Effects of radioactive isotopes on animals.
  • Cytological effects of radiation on plants and animals.
  • Effects of weak concentrations of radioactive materials and low doses of ionizing radiation, mainly on crop cultivated plants.
  • Effects of the distribution and accumulation of different radioactive materials introduced into the soil, ground water, and freshwater bodies.

The agrobiological and hydrobiological experiments were united on the general basis of the biogeochemical analysis of the experimentally created elementary biogeocenosis and the introduction of special factor radioactive materials into it.

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