Deeper and non-evident concepts


Matvei Petrovich Bronstein and his 1936 equations on a background of quantized chromodynamics.

In trying to understand the essence of the world, of our own physical existence, theoretical structures that describe the forces of nature have been defined. Attempting to unify the fundamental forces has been the primary activity of many physicists, for many decades. These efforts have led to the development of string theory, and the possibility of multiple universes, including parallel ones. The primary challenge in these efforts has been to incorporate the force of gravity.

One leader in trying to quantize gravity was Matvei Petrovich Bronstein (1906-1938). In a landmark 1936 article he wrote:

“The elimination of the logical inconsistencies … requires a radical reconstruction of the theory (Einstein’s theory of general relativity)…with quantities which are unobservable in principle, and perhaps also the rejection of our ordinary concepts of space and time, replacing them by some much deeper and non-evident concepts.”

He was suggesting a total restructuring of Einstein’s theories, and the formation of entirely new concepts of space and time.

On August 1, 1937, he was arrested in Kiev, and was accused of counterrevolutionary activity. All of the charges were false. He was imprisoned, and after a summary 20 minute trial, on February 18, 1938, he was executed by firing squad that same day.

While in prison he was well remembered by the few prisoners who survived. Not only did he distract the inmates with discussions about time, but he knew an extremely large number of poems, which he would recite.

Bronstein was interested in teaching science and authored several children’s books, Solar Matter, The X Rays and Inventors of Radiotelegraph. All of these books were eventually published.

His widow, Lydia Chukovskaya, was a writer and prominent human rights activist. She kept the memory of her husband alive. To commemorate the 400 year anniversary of the first scientific discoveries by Galileo, a symposium was convened about the origins of gravity. This meeting took place in 1991 in the Sicilian city of Erice, and was sponsored in part by the World Federation of Scientists. It was during this meeting that the accomplishments of Bronstein were presented to universal acclaim. The members of he Federation were so moved that they immediately established the Matvei Bronstein Scholarship, their second named scholarship. The first one was named after Andrei Sakharov.

Bronstein’s tragic history at the hands of Stalin’s genocidal forces, is in keeping with my own concern to commemorate the 70 year anniversary of the beginnings of mass deportations by Stalin to Siberia. Matvei Bronstein’s death is as senseless as the deaths of many millions others. The Hope and Spirit program that I organized is an attempt to educate the general public about these horrific events.

In fact, what was his crime? His surname was Bronstein, the same surname that Leon Trotsky had before changing it. Stalin was actively pursuing and killing anyone who may be sympathetic to Trotsky.

Further information can be found in Matvei Petrovich Bronstein and Soviet Theoretical Physics in the Thirties, by Gennady Gorelik and Victor Frenkel.

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