[visionlist] Angel Vassilev

Lothar Spillmann lothar.spillmann at zfn-brain.uni-freiburg.de
Thu Sep 16 08:57:07 -04 2021

It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Angel Vassilev,
retired member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, at the age of 86
in Sofia. I remember Prof. Vassilev from a business meeting in Brighton
(1980), when he spoke out in favor of the European Conference of Visual
Perception (ECVP) as a travelling conference, organized by a local
committee, rather than a meeting entrusted to a permanent governing
body. „We in the East know what freedom means“, he exclaimed. Later he
asked me, whether I would consider a conference proposal from Bulgaria.
The idea was put to a vote and, in 1987, ECVP took place in Varna on
the coast of the Black Sea with Leon Mitrani presiding and Angel
Vassilev organizing. 

It was the first international vision meeting in an East European
country, championed by a handful of enthusiastic Academy members, among
them Stefan Mateeff, Naum Yakimoff, and Dimitar Mitov, who together
with Vassilev had been attending ECVP almost from the very beginning.
In an effort to facilitate communication between East and West, the
organizers had invited representatives from other Eastern Bloc
countries, most notably Vadim D. Glezer and Nikita Podvigin
(Leningrad), Boguslaw Zçernicki (Warsaw), Aleksei (Alexey) L. Byzov,
and Igor A. Shevelev (Moscow). True to the aim of the conference, half
of the invited lecturers came from the East and half from the West. For
example, Glezer spoke on modules and basic functions of the visual
cortex, and A.B. (Beau) Watson spoke on human visual representation of
spatial imagery. Other invited speakers were John Robson lecturing on
visual adaptation on a spatially modulated background and Richard
Cavonius on binocular interaction. Ocular fixation, saccadic
suppression, and cerebral lateralization were other timely topics.

This meeting got us in touch with esteemed colleagues from East
European countries, boosted vision research in Bulgaria, and opened
ECVP to future venues in Zichron Yaakov (Baruch Blum, 1989), Vilnius
(Algis Bertulis, 1991), Kusadasi (Tulunay Keesey & Andrew Watson,
2001), Budapest (József Fiser, 2004), St. Petersburg (Yuri E. Shelepin,
2006), and Belgrade (Suncica Zdravkovic, 2014). There was also hope 
to hold ECVP in Kraków. Reaching out beyond political barriers seemed 
the right thing to do. Angel Vassilev, next to his achievements in the 
visual sciences, took responsibility for bringing scientists from the 
East and West together, when the political tensions of the Cold War 
were still very much present. 

ECVP, now in its 44th year, is fortunate for having had supporters such
as Angel Vassilev, who helped importantly to steer this meeting through
its fledgling years. This was at the time, when Vision Research still
published articles in English, German, French, and Russian (up to
volume 31, 1991). 

Lothar Spillmann, Freiburg

Photos courtesy of A.B. Watson:
Angel Vassilev with Beau Watson
Stefan Mateeff with Beau Watson
Dimitar Mitov
Vadim Davidovich Glezer with Peter Thompson

Lothar Spillmann
Neumattenstr. 14
79102 Freiburg im Breisgau
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