Theremin, Leon

Theremin, Leon thĕrˈəmən [key], 1896–1993, Russian engineer and inventor, b. St. Petersburg as Lev Sergeyevich Termen. He studied and worked in his native city, attending its university and conservatory and directing a lab at one of its technical institutes, where he invented the theremin, an early electronic instrument. In 1927 he moved to New York City; there he developed new musical instruments and other inventions. In 1938 he abruptly returned to the USSR; many believe that Soviet agents kidnapped him. Accused of anti-Soviet activities, he was sent to a labor camp. During World War II, however, his talents were in demand and he was transferred to a military laboratory. There he invented submarine tracking systems, remote controls, and a miniature eavesdropping device. He later taught at the Moscow Conservatory and worked at the Moscow Polytechnic Institute.

See biography by A. Glinsky (2000).

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