Wednesday, August 05, 2009
My Teacher, Prof. Enrique Modesto Sivori
In my times, the University of La Plata operated the "Comedero" that supplied meals to the students for only five pesos, which was no money, but in one of my secret survival self-trainings I took to eat only unpaid and preferably stolen food. The city of La Plata, designed following Hausmann's Paris, was full of eatable trees and animals and I discovered that behind the Faculty of Agriculture (calle 60) there were large demonstration fields, full of ripe maice and vegetables. For some weeks I made my "shopping" there, harvesting the neatly planted kohlrabi plots as soon as they matured. While making my scientific study of the different kohrabi varieties, I was cought by Professor Sivori and his Japanese sidekick Fermin Nakayama.
Instead of expelling me, Prof. Sivori explained the experiment he was trying to carry out but for me, carefully measuring and registering the growth of the different parts and weighting the yields. He invited me to continue foraging in his lab's kitchen and I volunteered to wash the glass instruments, got myself attached to his research team and soon became his paid teaching assistant. He was a tall, pallid, softspoken Northern Italian, and saw little of him but much of the Cordoba-born Japanese Nakayama, who was then some kind of graduate student. He was friendly but I had to be very careful with him as he was intent on showing that I was a fake. For example, once I mentioned Molotov bombs and he forced me to explain how it was built. I had a general idea but he demonstrated that I knew nothing, had never built one, I was a fake. Then he want on to explain in painful detail how it was done. Very embarrassing. Nakayama grew dwarf trees to measure their phytohormones, and in his Oriental sutility, used to distribute them strategically to provoke me to damage them. He married a nice Italian girl and went to become a Professor in the University of Rosario. Sivori, a student of Parodi, was one of the "dinosaurs" (ancestors) of the proud Argentine scientific tradition. In my times we had two working Nobel Prizes in Argentina, and I even visited the laboratory of one of them, Prof. Leloir. It was all destroyed by successive fascist regimes.