Life and Work of Academician Tzeno Hinkovski(a speech at his 80th anniversary)

Dear Academician Hinkovski,
Dear colleagues and guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Five years ago we celebrated the 75th anniversary of Academician Hinkovski - one of the most eminent agrarian scientists in our country.
I am saying that because, when more than 30 days ago I received the pleasant and honorable assignment to deliver this speech, I thought this was not going to be easy just because I already had the privilege five years ago. Going through the materials for the 75th anniversary of Academician Hinkovski, I tried again to recollect the beginning and all those years I knew this remarkable person and scientist.
“I came to an agreement with the Bulgarian Academy of Science and you shall become the Director of the Central Laboratory of Genetic Engineering”. Not even the slightest doubt that I will accept the proposal. This was the beginning of my acquaintance with him, the professional Hinkovski, in March 1985 - a charming charmer and person-of-the-day ever.
Today, at his 80th anniversary, the hall is full again. What is it that attracts us to him even when he is reproachful? What is this magnetic power that unites even people of opposite opinions that are well known for not standing each other? What is it that even his opponents have a respect for him?
Isn’t it the sense of responsibility and often the great risk he is always ready to take in the name of this science, called “agrarian” that politicians of all times have always rated “priority” but it never really has been. And if it ever got the attention it needed, wasn’t it because of personalities like Hinkovski that would never compromise even in the name of their careers.
How come he was and still is person-of-the-day?
Was it because he was born in Borovan village, Vratza district, to a family of teachers or because he graduated from high school in Vratza and later from the Georgi Dimitrov Agricultural University in Sofia in 1950 or joined early the revolutionary youth movement or married Masha - a remarkable supporter and friend. I hope I am not too banal but behind every great man there is a great woman. I don’t know the answer even though I am a scientist, a geneticist. Given the fact that he is one of the most eminent scientists in animal population genetics and the studies of genotype-environment correlation, he would be the right person to answer that.
The scientist Hinkovski has the unique ability to feel the pulse of time and his advice is always welcome at all levels. It was probably that insight that urged him to dedicated scientific research as of 1935 as a young scientist at the Animal Husbandry Institute in Kostinbrod through 1997, regardless of his administrative position. It was probably his swift thinking that prompted him to carry out some of the most profound and unique research in the field of animal population genetics with his team, forming a scientific school in this field.
He developed further the achievements of the American school in the field of population genetics and used his knowledge large-scale in the breed formation process in all animal species in our country, especially in sheep and cattle breeding. His solid knowledge in this field became obvious when he recently expressed a well-founded hypothesis on the genetic basis of mad cow disease in animal species and humans.
Always studious and knowledgeable. I recollect the meetings of the academic body in the last year. He was equally persuasive talking about evolution and Darwin’s theory both in front of the late Academician Rumen Tzanev and Academician Anton Donchev, Academician Golemanski, Academician Golovinski and P. Kenderov, etc. His encyclopedic knowledge extends well beyond the field of genetics, selection and reproductive biology. His knowledge of religion is amazing.
I keep asking myself - is this the reason for the never-ending flow of new ideas? And again, was it a mere chance? He is a natural. His long-term post graduation studies abroad in the ex-USSR, the USA, the United Kingdom and Australia have certainly contributed to his leadership in scientific research he is still involved in and also to his ability as a leading administrator, who is capable of giving a business orientation to a scientific study that would result in a final product of practical value, as he used to say. However, do we use his experience and knowledge nowadays? Each of us has to answer this question to himself.
The insight often gave him an incredible foresight. His ideas were dreams that flew beyond the ordinary and rigid boundaries of the time we lived in. He was aware that the new findings in the fields of biology and informatics would bring a new era in the development of humanity in the 21st century. Could our science find its own place in these areas? He was positive about that and with overwhelming initiative and courage established the embryo transfer laboratories, the Institute of Cryopreservation and Freeze-drying, the Institute of Genetic Engineering in Kostinbrod and a net of tissue culture laboratories within a short period of time. Wouldn’t you call him a person of the future? Time proved that - 18 years after the political and economic changes we are not ready to use the progressive technologies and innovations that would make us competitive in Europe.
Twenty five years ago, Prof. Hinkovski took up his duty as President of the newly established Academy of Agricultural Science and within a couple of years managed to get it out of the lethargy it had fallen into, turning it into an effective and working system, closely related to the problems of our agriculture. In other words, he managed to envelop into the system of agrarian science all units, working in this area and formerly included into separate agrarian enterprises or agrarian-and-industrial complexes. The system became integrated and acquired an independent budget from the Ministry of Finance. The research work expanded from soil microbiology through genetic and breeding at all levels, production systems and Black Sea biological resources to technology of fishing in the open ocean. Hinkovski achieved this not only by foresight but also in battles with opponents within and outside the system. He was a true warrior when facing a complex issue. He was able of finding supporters that could assist with quick resolutions. He was at his best when lobbying was involved in order to gain the needed attention and recognition from top officials to obtain adequate financing for the system. He would make friends with the devil to do it.
Being a member of five foreign academies, Academician Hinkovski never stopped showing that our system is ready for a new step - the establishment of joint applied science ventures with leading world agrotechnical companies. He didn’t have the time - the transition occurred. We were about to sign some of the most serious long-term contracts for scientific and technical cooperation with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the USA and the National Institute of Agrobiology Sciences, Tsukuba, Japan as well as the foundation of a Scientific Educational Center with the University of Oklahoma, the USA. We, the people that witnessed those initiatives, were pleasantly surprised and proud of the self-confidence he demonstrated that we were equal to the best in the world and can work with them in order to be competitive on the international scientific field. The question of when shall we have another opportunity like this remains unanswered.
Among his friends were the presidents of the Bulgarian Academy of Science and the Medical Academy as well as other people of the day. He talked to them as their equal. I am sure that there are a few ex-leaders of this country in the hall. He would often passionately argue with them but, at the end, the Academy of Agricultural Science was rendered the required support. He was on good terms with all the ministers of agriculture after the transition as well. Was it easy for Academician Hinkovski - what do you say?
Was Hinkovski able to raise trained personnel, to give away a piece of his own self to them, to be a model for them and be happy with what he was doing for them? I had the feeling that sending young people on post graduation studies abroad made him happy and satisfied. He would often open new doors. I will never forget the visit of the famous scientist, the late Prof. Jeff Schell, then director of the Max Planck Institute in Cologne, Germany, in 1988. At the official dinner, Hinkovski managed to negotiate three grants for long-term post graduation studies for young scientists and set the foundation of a joint research project between the Academy of Agricultural Science and the Max Planck Institute. The meetings with leading scientists revealed the erudition, culture and intelligence of the man and the scientist Hinkovski. His magnetism was enormous.
Most of us here are either his disciples or supporters. To all of us he left a message - the system should be preserved and develop further and we have to choose whether or not to make compromises in the name of agrarian science. Now that we proposed the foundation of an AgroBioCenter of Genomics that would boost the development of agrarian and biological science and introduce the innovative approach in the development of a new kind of competitive bioeconomy, Hinkovski did not hesitate to support us and took the lead of the Initiative Committee.
Hinkovski knew how to stand for agrarian science and still does. He was always diligent. This is what relates him to our eminent scientists of the recent past such as Atanas Popov, Pavel Popov and Hristo Daskalov, etc. He never looked for excuses when something had to be done for science, young scientists or the generation that had contributed to the development of this area in the past. The famous book on modern genetics of Ayala and Kiger was translated due to his active cooperation in the past. This book is still used by most of the students and scientists. Again, when our society finally found out that Academician Doncho Kostov deserved to be at the top of world science, it happened because of the activity of Academician Hinkovski.
We have gathered here again to celebrate his 80th anniversary because the person and scientist Tzeno Hinkovski never ceased his active scientific work. In the period 2002-2007, he published 17 scientific articles on genetics, selection and construction of genetic models for breeding programs for cattle, sheep and buffalo populations.
He presented reports on the plenary sessions of highland animal production symposia.
Academician Hinkovski is an active participant in the scientific life of the agrarian system. He is a member of the scientific boards of the Animal Husbandry Institute in Kostinbrod, Institute of Highland Agriculture and Animal Husbandry in Troyan and Agricultural Institute in Shumen.
During this 5-year period he has reviewed many PhD theses as well as some scientific programs. He is an active member of the Board of Editors of BJAS and Biotechnology and Biotechnological Equipment magazine.
The retrospection of his rich scientific, research, social and public activity shows that it has received the deserved recognition in our country and abroad. He has been awarded more than ten Bulgarian and foreign prizes, among them the Georgi Dimitrov medal, Honorary Scientist, Stara Planina medal, the award of the Veterinary Association of Egypt, Golden Medal of the Academy of Agricultural Science of Czechoslovakia, the highest reward of the Academy of Science of Poland and the Honorary Medal after the name of Academician N.P. Vavilov, etc.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I realize that it would take more than what I said so far to characterize the academic and person Hinkovski.
I am positive that we will be able to indulge in our contacts with him for years ahead, learn from him, be inspired and believe in the future and never forget that the prosperity of Bulgaria only depends on education, science and innovation.
On behalf of all of us in this hall, I would like to wish him to be as exuberant as ever and always stay a member of the family of agrarian scientists.
We wish him long life and good health. Let his charming personality inspire us! Thank you!

Academician A. Atanassov

September 4, 2007
Sofia, Park Hotel Moskva