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The man who inspired George Lucas to create Dart Vader

Joint project of St.-Petersburg Mining museum and Forpost Nord-West.
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What can be common between the Soviet scientist who founded the whole paleontological science of tafonomy and the legendary director George Lucas? Why do some critics accuse the American of plagiarism?

Geologist and one of the largest science fiction writers of the 20th century, Ivan Efremov was born in 1907 in the village of Vyritsa, St. Petersburg province. His father, merchant Antip Efremov, was a tenant of a local sawmill and was considered quite a rich entrepreneur. A descendant of farmers, he wanted to make his way in life: he changed his name from the lower-class "Antip" to the modern "Anton", donated to churches and built village schools. He also had an impressive library in his own house, the only reader of which was the timber merchant’s little son Ivan. Already at the age of 6, he was reading adventure novels by Jules Verne. It was precisely the passion for learning new worlds and those long gone into the past, acquired under the influence of the founder of science fiction, that became the main guide in Efremov’s life, a compass, which determined his future route.

In 1914 the family moved to Berdyansk, where Ivan entered the gymnasium. After a couple of years, parents divorced, and mother with children went to Kherson. There she met her "new love:" a Red Army commander, left the children with relatives, and went away with him. Thus, Efremov turned out to be an orphan with living parents. At that time, Crimea was in the midst of the Civil War, accompanied by armed conflicts between several political and ethnic groups. A Red Army auto squadron was deployed in Kherson; with it, as a "son of the regiment," Ivan reached Perekop and participated in the liberation of the peninsula from the White Army. In 1921, he received a shell shock and was demobilized. The young man is only 13 years old.

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He understands that without knowledge his prospects are significantly narrowed. Therefore, he comes to Petrograd and enrolls to a senior school, where he takes a five-year course in two and a half years. In parallel with his studies, he works as a loader, firewood sawyer, assistant chauffeur, then a night-shift chauffeur.

In 1923, Efremov read an article by the famous zoologist Peter Sushkin about extinct reptiles in the journal Nature. The persistent young man met the academician and became his laboratory assistant at the Geological Museum of the USSR Academy of Sciences. There he received basic paleontological training: for example, he learned to extract fossilized animal remains from the rock. In search of information, he turned to the Russian Paleontological Society. Its chairman, Professor Yakovlev, could not withstand Ivan's pressure and personally gave him permission to use the library of the Mining Institute, the main center for the development of Russian geology.

However, scholarly articles proved to be much more difficult to understand than novels from his father's library. The frustrated young man made a daring decision: he passed the exam for the navigator of coastal navigation at the Petrograd Nautical Courses and left for the Far East. He spent the entire 1924 as a sailor of a sailing-motor ship off the coast of Sakhalin and in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk. A year later, he returned to Petrograd and entered the biological faculty of Leningrad University. However, he quickly realized that he made a mistake with his specialization and transferred to the geological faculty; shortly after, he quit his studies altogether. A new era of countless scientific expeditions and discoveries began in the life of Efremov. First as a student, then as an employee of the Geological Museum, Ivan Efremov visited Azerbaijan, the Volga region, the Urals, Central Asia, the Far East. The findings he made served as material for his first scientific articles. For example, he found the remains of a Wetlugasaurus, being the second person in the world to manage to do that.

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Фото © Общественное достояние, Экспедиция, 1926 год

In 1932-1935, Ivan Efremov studied as an external student at the Leningrad Mining Institute. In August 1935, he was awarded the degree of Candidate of Geological and Mineralogical Sciences based on the collection of scientific works: by this time, he had authored 35 published articles. Paradoxically, he received a institute graduation diploma "with honors" only in 1937. Shortly after, in 1940, he already became a doctor of sciences.

In the course of analyzing his field observations, the scientist notices obvious patterns in the distribution of fossils in the rocks and came to understanding that the locations of extinct animals were not formed by chance: their location had logical justifications. On the basis of these conclusions, Ivan Efremov formulated a new paleontological science - taphonomy. The scientific work describing its main theoretical provisions was completed in 1943, but the Academy of Sciences prohibited its publication.

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Фото © Общественное достояние, Нижнеамурская геологическая экспедиция, 1931 год

Only after the geologist brought the richest material from Mongolia, the academicians gave the go-ahead. Several train carriages of dinosaur bones and the fact that the American expedition, which had worked there a few months earlier, returned empty-handed, proved the validity of the new doctrine. In 1950, the manuscript Taphonomy and the Geological Chronicle was published, and in 1952 it was awarded the USSR State Prize. The science received international recognition only in the 1970s, but what a recognition it was! In many American textbooks and reference books Efremov is called the "father" of modern paleontology, who combined geological and paleontological data into a single discipline. Another work was his monograph Bentosuchus sushkini Efr. - a labyrinthodont from the eotrias of the Sharzhenga River ", dedicated to osteology and anatomy of labyrinthodonts, brought the scientist an honorary diploma from the Linnean Society. Located in London, it is a worldwide scientific society for the study of all aspects of biology.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Палеонтологический зал Горного музея

It should be mentioned that the scientist never wrote his articles in dry clerical language. Many novelists are not even able to come close to the intensity of emotions with which Efremov described the life of long-extinct animals.

“Giant waves walked over a large area, immediately raising the water level in coastal lagoons, lakes and swamps by several meters, sweeping away everything that was not adherent to the bottom, by the force of their pressure. Therefore, the ancient four-legged inhabitants of the coastal areas could live only in flooded forests or on the coast protected by barrier reefs.”

However, it was no craving for creativity that prompted the geologist to write the first works of art, but a serious illness. At the beginning of the war, he was evacuated to Alma-Ata and from there to the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Frunze (today's Bishkek). There the paleontologist suffered a severe form of typhoid fever, which confined him to bed for many months.

Being in a hopeless state of forced rest, Efremov turned to literary activity. Some episodes from his expeditionary life, diluted with his own impressions and fiction, he was putting on paper. For two years, more than 10 stories have appeared, including Starships, Cutty Sark, Sublunar Loach. All of them were written at the junction of science fiction and adventure, beloved by Efremov since his childhood. He even names his son Allan after Allan Quartermain, the hero of the Henry Ryder Haggard series of books.

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Amazingly, in his works he predicted two major events: the discovery of diamond deposits in Yakutia (Diamond Pipe) and holography (Shadow of the Past).

The author got the idea of ​​the Diamond Pipe while still in the auditorium of the Mining Institute, after a lecture by a professor who focused on the method of geological analogies. He told the students about the similarity of the layers of South Africa, where the stones were mined, and the rocks of Western Yakutia, and convinced them that there must be diamonds in Siberia. Ten years later, in the Udachninsky region of Yakutia, as Efremov predicted, Leningrad geologist Larisa Popugayeva found the first in the USSR diamond pipe.

According to the plot of the story Shadow of the Past, during an expedition, a group of scientists found a layer of petrified resin, in which they sawa the mirage of a Tyrannosaurus. They discovered a rare photoelectric effect: a light print without the silver bromide process. As a result, the protagonist constructs an optical camera capable of seeing natural photographs. The creator of practical holography, Yuri Denisyuk, noted in an interview that it was thanks to Efremov’s story that he got inspired by the idea of ​​holography.

Despite the fact that the scientist continued to work as a paleontologist, he devoted more and more time to literature. The most famous works of that time was At the edge of the Oycumene, Road of the Winds, and Andromeda nebula.

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In 1959, for health reasons, Efremov quit the Paleontological Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences, where he had worked for almost 30 years. In subsequent years, he wrote The Hour of the Bull, Razor Edge, and Thais of Athens.

They say that in the 1930s the young geologist wanted to join the party, but was not accepted because of his “wrong” social background. After the release of the Andromeda Nebula, which was gaining incredible popularity, was translated into 36 languages, ​​and became a landmark for the genre of science fiction around the world, he was offered to join the ranks of the party members. Efremov refused with the words: "My social origin has not changed."

In 1967, the novel was filmed. This was a new line in cinema: a story about the cosmic future, about the "Great Ring" of the worlds of the Universe, and the planet turned by its inhabitants into a blossoming garden. The Andromeda Nebula was published in the United States and became a bestseller. Americans were also getting acquainted with the film adaptation. Without thinking twice, they decided to use the plot of the galactic community of civilizations in their filmmaking.

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The author of the Star Wars George Lucas has repeatedly said that the creation of the space saga was strongly influenced by Soviet science fiction. According to rumors, during his visit to Moscow in the perestroika period, he wanted to meet with Pavel Klushantsev, who shot the 1962 film Planet of Storms based on the story of Alexander Kazantsev. Efremov by that time was no longer alive - he died in 1972 from heart failure. But most likely, the American would have added his name to the list of Russians with whom he would like to meet. Benevolent critics call Klushantsev and Efremov the “godfathers” of the Star Wars, while more categorical critics accuse Lucas of plagiarism. Both works are an allusion to the Soviet Union, only in the Soviet version it is the utopian world of the future, and in the American version it is the “evil empire”. But the main complaint was the similarity of the characters” Efremov's Gift of the Wind in Hollywood became Darth Vader, and the android with a laser cutter from the Andromeda Nebula persistently resembles the C-3PO robot.

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Фото © Обложка DVD-версии оригинальной трилогии «Star Wars». Художники: Тим и Грег Хильдебрандты

Lucas, and then the Disney media holding, to which he sold the production company and transferred ownership of the film's franchise, squeezed the most out of the plot. Films have brought in tens of billions of dollars. But the continuation of our space saga, which was conceived by Ivan Efremov as a trilogy, awaited the opposite fate: books were withdrawn from libraries and banned for publication. The reason was that in the civilization described in the novel, which has reached a dead end, the party functionaries recognized the future society of developed socialism.