First Things First

Isaak Pomeranchuk's Laboratory of Theoretical Physics in Moscow was one of the powerhouses of Soviet nuclear physics in the mid 20th century. Although staffed with theoreticians, it was funded by the Soviet nuclear complex which was an amazingly effective organization. His rules for how a research organization should prioritize its work still hit home (quoted from Boris Ioffe's memoirs):

  1. The Directorate must be respected. This meant that all problems formulated for theoreticians by the Institute Management and devoted to applied physics, such as nuclear reactor design, had to be solved with priority and full responsibility; any errors had to be completely ruled out .

  2. The experimentalists must be respected. This meant that if an experimentalist came with a question to our Theoretical division, or asked for help, the question had to be answered, and assistance provided, even if this required a complicated calculation.

  3. You may do science from 8 p.m. till 12 p.m. This meant that young people, even if they were busy doing their jobs, according to the points 1 and 2 above, had to find time for the science (i.e. purely theoretical work).