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Chemistry International
Vol. 23, No.5
September 2001


Tribute to Prof. Valentin A. Koptyug and his IUPAC Career

Prof. Boris F. Myasoedov

Prof. Valentin A. Koptyug

Prof. Valentin A. Koptyug was an outstanding scientist, a great thinker, an excellent organizer of science (for 17 years, he was Chairman of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences), and a strong and determined person. Although his commitments at the Academy took most of his time, he managed to take an active part in the work of leading international organizations. Many years of his life were dedicated to IUPAC, the most authoritative organization consolidating chemists from 56 countries of the world. The first activities of Prof. Koptyug in IUPAC (1973-1983) were connected with the activities of the Commission on Molecular Structure and Spectroscopy (I.5) within the Physical Chemistry Division. Realizing the increasing importance of computer technology to the chemical sciences, he initiated and successfully accomplished a project on the development of electronic databases for properties of chemical compounds.

At the 30th IUPAC General Assembly (Davos, Switzerland, 1979), Prof. Koptyug was elected to the Bureau (1979-1989). At the 33rd IUPAC General Assembly (Lyon, France, 1984), he became IUPAC Vice President (1986-1987). This election signified the international recognition of his scientific achievements. In January 1988, he became IUPAC President. The election of Prof. Koptyug as a member of the Bureau led to the most productive period of his activity in IUPAC. During his years as a Bureau Member and Officer, environmental problems acquired a global significance, and Prof. Koptyug 's scientific and organizational work focused on finding solutions to these challenges. He concentrated his efforts on the reorganization of the Union 's activities in order to respond adequately to the global changes occurring in the world and to solve various environmental problems.

Prof. Koptyug actively supported the idea of "horizontal" interdisciplinary specialized programs in which the IUPAC Divisions and Commissions were supposed to be engaged. In February 1989, he proposed the first program on "Chemistry and the Environment", which was adopted by the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and the International Council for Science (ICSU) to deal with environmental problems. In August 1989 at the 35th General Assembly (Lund, Sweden), the IUPAC Bureau approved the "Chemistry and the Environment" program, and Prof. Koptyug became its coordinator. Prof. Koptyug realized that the only way to solve global environmental problems is to consolidate the efforts of the entire chemical community. He prepared and published the digest of articles entitled "Compilative Information on International Organizations and Programs Relating to Chemical and Biochemical Aspects of Environmental Problems" (IUPAC, SB RAS, Novosibirsk, 1991), where information on international organizations dealing with environmental problems was summarized and analyzed.

At the end of his presidency, Prof. Koptyug was appointed an IUPAC representative to ICSU-SCOPE (1989-1997). In 1992, he became Vice President of ICSU-SCOPE. Prof. Koptyug responsibly and actively supported the concept of sustainable development, which was accepted as the main principle of development of the human community at the famous UN Conference in Rio de Janeiro (1992), where Prof. Koptyug represented Russia. For his remaining years after this conference until his death on 10 January 1997, Prof. Koptyug was actively engaged in developing and popularizing this concept. As the IUPAC representative to ICSU-SCOPE, he participated in organizing the International Conference ASCEND21, where the role of science in the 21st century, as well as various approaches to the solution of environmental problems, were discussed. Prof. Koptyug undertook many efforts to organize a series of international conferences on Chemical Research Applied to World Needs (CHEMRAWN), including CHEMRAWN VIII: "Chemistry and Sustainable Development Toward a Clean Environment, Zero Waste, and Highest Energy Efficiency", which he organized with academician Prof. Oleg M. Nefedov, Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in September 1992 in Moscow. This conference was held soon after the UN Conference in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1993, owing to Prof. Koptyug 's efforts, a new international journal, Chemistry for Sustainable Development, was created. The primary goal of the journal was to promote better understanding of chemical sciences, as well as the role of industry in the development of human society. The fruitful work of Prof. Koptyug in IUPAC and ICSU-SCOPE lasted for 24 years, from 1973 until 1997 and the last days of his life. Prof. Koptyug easily established contacts with foreign scientists due to his excellent knowledge of English. His activity in IUPAC was highly appreciated by scientists all over the world.

Prof. Koptyug had a strong feeling of responsibility toward people and society. The range of his scientific interests was extremely wide. He worked on both fundamental and applied problems. His main concern was with the social role of science and education and their contribution to the solution of environmental problems and to the sustainable development of mankind on the threshold of the 21st century.

Prof. Boris F. Myasoedov (V. I. Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, Radiochemistry Laboratory, Kosygin Street 19, Moscow, RU117975; Email:[email protected]), Russian National Representative for the IUPAC Commission on Radiochemistry and Nuclear Techniques (V.7) and Vice Chairman of the National Committee of Russian Chemists, has contributed the following tribute to Prof. Valentin A. Koptyug (IUPAC President, 1987-1989) on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the birth of the late Prof. Koptyug (1931-1997). This article previously appeared in Chemistry in Russia and in the Mendeleev Chemical Society Journal and is published here gladly at the request of Prof. Myasoedov on behalf of the National Committee of Russian Chemists.


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