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                                THE VISIT OF ANDREI SAKHAROV

                                                             19th June 1989


Academician Andrei Sakharov, the distinguished Soviet physicist, dissident, and winner of the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize, visited Sussex on Monday 19th June 1989 for the award of the degree Doctor of Science honoris causa. He was presented for the degree by Professor Roger Blin Stoyle and it was conferred by the Vice Chancellor, Sir Leslie Fielding, at a ceremony in the Meeting House. The ceremony took place during a special conference on Time Reversal and its Cosmological Consequences organised to mark the occasion. The invited talks were on topics to which Sakharov had made seminal contributions, and which were and are the subjects of Physics & Astronomy research at Sussex. Sakharov was accompanied throughout his visit by his wife, the fellow dissident and human rights activist, Yelena Bonner.

The final speaker at the conference was Sakharov himself who spoke in Russian translated by an interpreter supplied by the Soviet Embassy in London. His principal message was an appeal to Governments throughout the world to protest against the death penalties then being exacted on pro-democracy campaigners in the People’s Republic of China. He spoke too of the major events taking place in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, stopping several times to correct the interpreter’s translation of his speech. (Eventually, one of the Soviet physicists in the audience, Vladimir Gribov, at that time living in Hungary, replaced the official interpreter and Sakharov completed his address without further interruption.)

The whole event was arranged and coordinated by Norman Dombey, whose connections in the Soviet Union and in Oxford ensured that the Sussex event preceded a similar one in Oxford two days later. Communication with the Soviet Union was not easy in those days when email was yet to become commonplace. The following scanned documents illustrate the complexity of liaising simultaneously with the Soviet Union, the SERC, the Royal Society, the Vice Chancellor’s office and Oxford. At some point I hope that Norman will write his own account of the affair, but for the present these documents must suffice. (The above shot of Sakharov emerging from the Meeting House is also notable in that in contains one of the very few extant pictures of Norman wearing a tie!)

1.Memo from Norman to Bob Jamieson, Secretary to the Senate.Ndrimj.doc[ndrimj]
2. Letter from VC to Sakharov. [vcsakharov]
3. Correspondence between Roger Blin Stoyle and Bill Mitchell about funding. [rjbsserc12]
4. Memo from Bob Jamieson to the Registrar. [rimjlockwood]
5. Correspondence between Norman and the British Embassy, Moscow. [moscownd123]
6. Letter from Peter Higgs. [higgsnd]
7. Full programme for the Sakharov visit to the UK. [coiprog]
8. Programme for the conference Time Reversal and its Cosmological Consequences. [sakharovtvprog]

9. University Bulletin report of Sakharov visit.

David Bailin
24th July 2015