Little is known in the West, as well as in the East, about the man who discovered the oscillating chemical reaction. His biography cannot be claimed typical, it is unusual for ordinary people, but not for SCIENTISTS.

B.P.Belousov: the way to the discovery.

B.P. Belousov was born in an ordinary russian family of bookkeeper of a private trading firm at the end of 19-th century. He was one of five kids in the family. That period the idea after Paris Commune: "Liberte, egalite et fraterite" was very popular in Russia. In other words, this was an idea to change the Empire to the Communist Republic.

Maybe the first interest in chemistry arose in Boris mind when he together with his elder brother tried to compose a bomb to kill Czar. Making bombs must be an interesting activity for teenagers.

In 1905 there was the first, unsuccessful russian revolution. After civil disturbances The Belousov's family was arrested. Boris was so young that took his bear-doll to the Police headquarter.

Soon the family was released, but forced to go out of Russia. They moved to Switzerland. There Boris finally leaved his political activity and devoted himself to science. He got his chemical education in Zurich.

With the beginning of World War I, he forgot his insults for the Empire and returned back with great desire to help his homeland country. But he was not admitted to the army because of health problems. He came to a military laboratory under the supervision by the famous chemist Professor Ipatiev.

Little is known about Belousov's activity in the military lab. According to the references, he was regarded as a very skillful chemist. He was awarded a military rank Combrig - rather unusual for a chemist to get it. In the modern army this rank corresponds to Colonel or even to General. In the military lab he addicted to strict discipline, to the well organized work.

After he was retired, he must be filled himself as a military man. It was difficult for him to get accustomed at a new place in a medical institute. His new activity was related to toxicology.

Difficult to say how Belousov came to the discovery of oscillating chemical reaction. In the beginning of 50-th he wrote a manuscript about the oscillating reaction. The paper was sent to a journal and rejected due to the referee comments "it is impossible". Why impossible? Obviously because chemical reactions should go to the thermodynamic equilibrium. These should go to the equilibrium smoothly - this was the conventional opinion of that time.

If someone's paper is rejected, this spoils mood to the author. But something different happens to Belousov. He WAS OFFENDED. About all his activity was connected to a military lab. There people many times check out the results before a statement. But if they say: "this is so", this must be so, and other should trust them, for they are sure: the results have been verified many times.

Possibly Belousov expected similar logic in the chemical journals. But he was mistaken. This was his tragedy; he decided to leave science forever.

Maybe the development of nonlinear sciences would be delayed by decades, or by just several years, if no-one would be aware of the Belousov's discovery. However, the history chose another way: in the middle of 50-th a young biochemist S.E. Shnoll, now Professor of the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics (Puschino), was interested in periodic processes in biochemistry.

He had heard something about the Belousov's work and met him in Moscow. He tried to encourage Belousov to continue the work, but unsuccessfully. Belousov finally decided to leave science. He just handle the recipe of the reaction to Shnoll and agreed to publish his own article in the institute's 1957 annual assay of radiobiology. Why there ?- to avoid reviewing.

Then A.M.Zhabotinsky under the supervision by S.E.Shnoll has investigated the mechanism of the reaction in detail; he was the first who used the reaction to study spatially distributed patterns. These results become known to the physicists who seem just waiting something similar to appear...

In 1966 the congress devoted to oscillating and excitable systems was held in Puschino. Since that time dozens of meetings took place around the World. B. P. Belousov did not participate in the work of any. The only his article was published in 1957.

Was him expected that his work become so famous among physicists, biologists, mathematicians? I do not know the answer. He was just a chemist who discovered the oscillating reaction.


The biographic details are known due to communication to Professor S.E. Shnoll, who keeps files with the original documents. More interesting facts can be read in the article "The Discovery by Combrig" by Professor S.E. Shnoll, Scientific newspaper "Eureka", #3, 1993 (in Russian).