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Influences: Russian training

Published on 11.20.2018 in Journal of General Physiology


Alexander I. Sobolevsky

Volga River Embankment in Yaroslavl City

I grew up in Yaroslavl, an old Russian city on the Volga River, which celebrated its 1,000th anniversary in 2010. Because my mom, a medical nurse, and my dad, a railroad worker, belonged to the working class, I had no intentions of becoming a scientist. As a kid, I dreamed about becoming many things, from an army officer to a school teacher or a doctor, but never a scientist. Both my parents and my grandma Irma taught me that any work I do is good if it is done for the sake of other people and done well. The first person who influenced my future scientific career was my high school biology teacher, Lilia Denisovna Petrova. Noticing how bored I was in her class – preferring to solve mathematical problems rather than study animal anatomy – Lilia Denisovna gave me a popular book about the guiding role of the brain in human life. The brain was pictured as a mysterious computational organ, which operated according to principles that nobody had a clear idea about. Being in love with mathematics, I thought that figuring out how the brain works would be a lot of fun. These thoughts became a dream I entertained when pacing along the Volga riverfront, observing the calming flow of water, which generations of my ancestors had similarly watched before. […]

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