Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Leon Theremin

Leon Theremin (Lev Sergeyevich Termen) was born on August 27, 1896, in St. Petersberg, Russia. His family was French and German. As a child and even more so a high school student, Leon was interested in science, specifically electricity. He experimented with many different things, and even built a million volt Tesla Coil in his laboratory. As a student he met several famous scientists, most notably a physicist named Abram Ioffe, and they began to look into working together. At this point WWI began in full swing and Theremin was required to serve in the army. Through the army he received advanced education and rose to moderate prominence within the armed forces. He worked mainly on radio stations for the war and seems to have spent WWI and the entire Russian Civil War involved in that field. After the war he continued working with Ioffe. He worked there for a while, inventing many diverse things, including, accidentally, the theremin, which became the first mass produced instrument, as well as the first electronic instrument. The theremin came about on accident when Theremin was trying to figure out some legitimate scientific concept. For some reason this was pretty popular with people and spread throughout Europe and the United States. He went on to travel widely and eventually moved to the US where he invented a number of other interesting things, and greatly improved television. He later married and African-American ballerina. Soon afterwards he was kidnapped back to the Soviet Union and imprisoned in a Gulag. While incarcerated, he invented what he is possibly best known for, aside from the strange instrument that shares his name, which is known as "The Thing". This was a sophisticated listening device used by the KGB during the Soviet era. After the end of the Soviet years he worked on instruments for a while until it was declared that electricity and music should not mix. He spent some of his late years traveling, even performing at the Hague. He died in Russia in 1993.

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