19 January 2015

Statement by H.E. Eleonora MITROFANOVA at the opening of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies


Mr. Chair,


Ladies and Gentlemen,


The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 will be a new remarkable page in the history of science and technology of the 21st Century. It will allow a new creative look at what was accomplished by the towering figures in science and technology in the 20th Century and earlier, and uncover new promising opportunities for the advancement of light research and the use of its fruits.

When recalling, for example, such world-known names as the 19th century Scotish physicist James Maxwell and the 20th century American physicist Richard Feyman we should not only pay tribute to the new far-reaching knowledge we owe to them, but also to the impact of their accomplishments which went far beyond their century. There is no doubt that these accomplisments, and those of many other scientists the world over, create a solid inspiring ground for deliberations and actions within the International Year of Light.

Russia has a longstanding interest and history of remarkable achievements in light-related research. The Russian physicist Pyotr Lebedev was the first to measure the pressure of light on a solid body. The physicist Pavel Cherenkov made the big discovery that radiation emitted as a charged particle moves through a medium at superluminal velocity. The Soviet physists Igor Tamm and Ilya Frank, who developed the theory of Cherenkov’s radiation, were awarded the Novel Prize in Physics together with Pavel Cherenkov himself. To two other Russian winners of the Nobel prize in physics, Nikolay Basov and Alexandre Prokhorov, together with the American Charles Towns, we owe the invention of laser and the development of laser science and technology. To Nikolay Basov, we also owe the ideas and experiments concerning the inertial confinement fusion that uses laser light to ignate and maintain nuclear fusion for the controled production of energy. Zhores Alferov, the Russian physicist and Nobel laureat together with the American physicist Herbert Kroemer, invented and developed fast opto- and microelectronic components based on semiconductor heterostructures. Tomorrow, Zhores Alferov will be giving a talk on “Efficient light conversion and generation” during this ceremony.

Thousands of Russian researchers continue to work creatively in light-related research, and the instutitutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences, like many other research institutions in the country, will take part in the International Year of Light. The Russian scientific community stands wide open for co-operation with scientists from other countries, and it would welcome partnerships with them since an exchange of ideas and co-operative brainstorming are an efficient, indispensible means for the advancement of science and technology.

However, the programme of the International Year of Light, that embraces a wide range of scientific areas, does not only target the scientific and industrial communities. It also addresses society at large since innovations being brought about by light-related research underlie progress in a vast number of areas. Among these areas are environmental control, undestanding climate change, medecine, information technologies, architecture, archeology, the quality of life and sustainable development. Light-related isues are at the crossroads of science, education and culture and, by virtue of its mandate, UNESCO is a very relevant instrument for promoting the activity of the International Year of Light and its follow up in co-operation with its partners. In the context of the International Year of Light, the Organization should, in particular, foster innovations stemming from the basic light-related sciences and the use of these innovations in response to societal needs. By acting together with a well-informed society we shall succeed in our joint endevour in this International Year of Light.