Viktor Evtuhov, physicist and amateur historian, passed away peacefully in his home in Pacific Palisades on Saturday, November 9, of complications related to cancer. He was 84 years old.
Viktor was born in Russia in 1935. He and his family fled communist Russia, traveling on foot through a war-torn Europe, at a time of shifting borders and allegiances. The family landed in Germany, near Munich, and lived in a Displaced Persons camp for Russian refugees. There, at the age of 8, Viktor met the girl who would later become his wife, Tanya.
In 1949, Viktor’s family sailed to the U.S., arriving in Boston Harbor in February, and then finding a home in New York. Viktor remembered attending high school in Brooklyn with no knowledge of the English language at all. Nonetheless, he was placed in the most advanced math classes, as the education he had received at the camps in Germany was of the highest caliber.
Viktor and his family moved to Los Angeles so that he could attend UCLA, where he majored in engineering, his English skills obviously having caught up with those he possessed in mathematics. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1956, Viktor attended the California Institute of Technology, earning his master’s and PhD from that institution in engineering and physics, now known as Applied Sciences.
During his time as a graduate student at CalTech, Viktor worked at Hughes Research Labs in Culver City with a team of scientists led by Theodore Maiman, a prominent engineer and physicist at the lab. In July of 1960, the team announced the results of its research: the creation of the first laser.
At the Optical Society of America’s 50th anniversary celebration of the laser in 2010, Viktor was interviewed at length about the creation of this ruby laser and of his subsequent experimentation with it.
“It was difficult. There were other continuous lasers and a continuous ruby laser at lower temperature that were demonstrated before ours, but ours was at room temperature. And it became, as far as I’m concerned, an interesting tool. We did a lot of experiments with that laser.”
Never did he imagine that this laser would become such an integral part of our daily lives today, from scanning groceries to laparoscopic surgery.
It was in 1960 that Hughes Research Labs moved to Malibu, and Viktor and Tanya along with it, buying a home in Pacific Palisades. Viktor and his family lived in the same home in the Palisades throughout his 35-year career at Hughes Research Labs and then Hughes Aircraft Company, and until the present day—nearly 60 years.
After his retirement, Viktor concentrated on writing a comprehensive history of his family, dating back to 16th-century Russia. The completed 1,800-page tome was written in his native Russian and details his family’s history, using primary materials, letters and official documents to illustrate its stories.
His ancestors were well-known in St. Petersburg society and several generations of his predecessors were composers, while serving as officers in the Russian Imperial Army. One of them, Nikolai Alexeyevich Titov, is, according to The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, even now known in Russia as “the father of Russian song.”
Viktor honored this legacy by being an active lover and supporter of the arts, subscribing to the LAOpera since its inception and being a regular patron of the LAPhilharmonic’s concert season. He was also active locally in the arts, as a supporter of Chamber Music Palisades.
Viktor is survived by his wife, Tanya Evtuhov, daughters Catherine and Nina, and his granddaughters, Alexandra (Sasha) and Clara Schoettler.