Biographical Remarks
Born in Ukraine in November 3rd, 1899, son of the Chief Engineer of the
Southern Imperial Railroads of the Russian Empire, Gleb Vassilievitch Wataghin
emigrated to Turin (Italy) soon after the Bolshevik revolution, during the civil war in
After getting his degree both in Physics (1922) and in Mathematics (1924),
with maximum grades, he started to teach at the Military Academy in Turin (1925-
1933), at the Polytechnic Institute (1929-1933) and at Physics School of the
University of Turin (1933-1934).
In 1934, he was invited, and accepted, by the Government of the State of
São Paulo (Brazil) to participate in the team, formed mainly by European scholars,
in charge of the foundation of the School of Philosophy, Sciences and Literature of
the new University of São Paulo.
At that time he was already a well known physicist in Europe, very well
related with the most outstanding physicists in Italy and abroad. For him, Brazil
was a completely different country, with no university tradition, and he had to rely
only on his own competence and capability to accomplish his duty to create a
School of Physics, incorporating general facilities, library, laboratories etc, starting
from essentially nothing, perhaps an unique enterprise in the recent history of
Physics. He immediately involved himself enthusiastically in this titanic job, and not
only succeeded very soon to establish the new school of Physics but also, due to
his character, his creativity, his contagious optimism and his deep human touch, in
a few years, created around him a strong group of young and promising students.
With his personal efforts and continuous pressure on the local authorities for
financial support, he built up a laboratory for Cosmic Ray Research, with up-to-
date facilities. Several of the most active physicists of those times visited his group,
mainly due to the quality of the work that Wataghin's group was doing and to the
personal acquaintance he had with many of them: Arthur Compton, Hideki
Yukawa, David Bohm, among others. Among the earliest Brazilian physicists we
should not forget Paulus Aulus Pompeia, Cesare Lattes (who later collaborated
with Powell in the discovery of the pion), Mário Schenberg (URCA process in
nuclear reactions in the Sun, together with George Gamow), Oscar Sala (who built
the biggest accelerator in South America in the fifties) and Marcello Damy de
Souza Santos. The seed laid by Wataghin flourished and Cosmic Ray Physics in
Brazil is still very active.
Based on a text by Enrico Predazzi, written by the occasion of the 150
anniversary of
the School of Natural Sciences of the University of Turin