10 September 2011

Sometimes you can have it all

Today's having-it-all exhibit: Alexander Borodin.

Borodin was both a chemist and a muician, two fields that would seem to demand total concentration for excellence, yet he refused to choose between them.

The leading chemist of Czarist Russia, Nikolai Zinin, an early mentor of Borodin, is supposed to have told him: "I have placed all my hopes in you to be my successor one day. You waste too much time thinking about music. A man cannot serve two masters."

See the book "The Imperial Laboratory" by Galina Kichigina for more on their relationship, and for late-Czarist chemistry in general.

Borodin served both masters pretty well. As a scientist he became one of the co-discoverers of what are called "aldol reactions." I'm  told (I am hardly qualified to judge such poiints) that aldol reactions are foundational to organic chemstry. As a musician, he attracted the favorable attention of such peers as Franz Liszt, Alexander Glazunov, and Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov.

Borodin composed durable chamber music, most famously his String Quartet 2 in D major, composed in 1881, featured more than seventy years later in a Broadway musical, and later in a Hollywood movie, Kismet.

So, yes: you can have it all. Ain't life grand?

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.