Mats Larsson

Since the PhD students are the ones who have made the biggest impression on me over the years, it only seems natural that my story will be about one of them. I will pick Shiri, born and raised in Iranian Azerbaijan. Shiri went to study physics in Tehran, and would probably have held a professorship in Iran today had he not been so politically active. During the Shah’s rule, Shiri periodically spent time in prison. After the Islamic revolution in 1979, he was imprisoned again and sentenced to death. The prison guard’s son used to come visit his father in prison, and Shiri would help him with his physics homework.

The day of his execution came, and the guard followed Shiri along with the officer who was going to lead the execution. They drove away in a car, but after a while the officer stopped the car to run a quick errand. When he was gone, Shiri heard the guard whistle a tune about a bird escaping from its cage. Shiri understood the signal and ran away as fast as he could. Via Turkey, he eventually made his way to Sweden, where he worked at Stockholm University Library for more than ten years before returning to physics. He received a PhD as part of my group. My wife and I sometimes get together with Shiri and his Persian wife. Having Persian food in their house is a real highlight for us.

Narrator: Mats Larsson