Химический факультет МГУ

In Memory of Lunin Valery Vasilievich

In Memory of Lunin Valery Vasilievich


I cannot remember precisely when I first met Valery Vasilievich Lunin but it was in the 1990s when my late friend Victor Bagratashvili took me to that impressive yet very friendly office in MGU, with its long table and many photographs and souvenirs. Valery Vasilievich was friendly from the very beginning. I was struck by his warmth, his knowledge and above all his enthusiasm. Everything excited him. To me he represented, and still represents, all that is best about Russian science – a unique combination of scientific rigour, optimism even in the most difficult of times and support for the younger generations of scientists. Each time that I saw him he would tell me about a new initiative to encourage schoolchildren into chemistry- a new book, a new Olympiad, and much more.

Our first serious scientific discussions were about the possibilities of supercritical fluids, a topic which he immediately embraced with huge enthusiasm and continued to support to the end of his life. You can see him in the photo holding an issue of the journal “Supercritical fluids – Theory and Practice” which he helped create and which flourishes to this day. He launched the series of supercritical conferences, the most recent of which was held in Rostov last September and which, sadly, neither he nor I could attend. I was also very sad that his poor health prevented him from attending the Mendeleev Congress in St Petersburg to celebrate the International Year of the Periodic Table.

He was an extraordinary scientific leader and a scientist of the top quality. I also counted him as a special friend. I would see him every time that I came to Moscow. He attended my 50th birthday party in 1997 in the restaurant, named after Bulgakov’s Cat Behemoth. He visited us in Nottingham where the damp weather felt colder than Moscow. In 1999, he nominated me as Honorary Professor of MGU, a position that I feel privileged to hold to this day. He subsequently nominated me as Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and my admission to the Academy in 2012 was one of the proudest moments of my life. I really felt that I had returned to the land of my father and grandfather. I cannot thank Valery Vasilievich enough for all of his support and for giving me such wonderful opportunities.
His passing is a huge loss to science globally and to science in Russia in particular. However, I feel that he would want us to be positive, even at this very sad time. He has given us a wonderful example of how he overcame personal tragedy with the tragic death of his first wife. I think that he would have wanted us to look to the future and to encourage the new generation of Russian chemists to follow in his footsteps and to build on the wonderful foundations that he created.

It has been an honour and a privilege to know Valery Vasilievich and I shall cherish his memory. I am sure that all of you have you own very special memories but I have so many warm memories, particularly of him enthusing over his latest idea for a new project and of him at the dinner table raising his glass for another toast. I can imagine him now, glass in hand, proposing a toast “To Chemistry, to Supercritical Fluids, to the Future”! May he rest in Peace.

Martyn Poliakoff

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