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From eccentric twins on sci-fi to dying days apart from Covid: Bogdanoff twins remembered

A friend had repeatedly advised the siblings to get vaccinated against Covid, Clémence Michallon writes

Wednesday 05 January 2022 15:23 GMT
Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff on French television on 20 October 2010 in Paris, France
Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff on French television on 20 October 2010 in Paris, France (FRED DUFOUR/AFP via Getty Images)

Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff, the most eccentric twins made famous on French television, died six days apart of Covid, two years into the coronavirus pandemic. Grichka died first, on 28 December 2021. Igor’s death followed on 3 January 2022. The siblings were 72 years old and unvaccinated.

If you are a Millenial and grew up in France (as is the case for this writer), chances are the Bogdanoffs were on television before your birth. Born in 1949 in the small village of Saint-Lary in southwestern France, both brothers moved to Paris after graduating high school. In 1976, they published their first book, Clefs pour la science-fiction, which has been described in some French reports as a popular science book, but appears to have been instead a study of science fiction as a literary genre.

From 1979 to 1986, they co-hosted the sci-fi show Temps X on the then-public channel TF1. The Bogdanoffs appeared on camera in spacesuit costumes, on a spaceship set. In 2002, they launched the pop science series Rayons X on France 2, also a public channel. Rayons X borrowed from Temps X’s aesthetic, except this time, the Bogdanoffs didn’t appear in person, but instead as animated characters.

Verifiable information about the Bogdanoffs is hard to come by. From the onset, the siblings cultivated their own mythologies, at times through bold assertions. In one notable instance, Grichka once claimed, according to France 24, that he and his brother had an IQ of 190. (Commonly used IQ scales generally deem someone’s IQ to be far above average from 130.)

The Bogdanoffs’ scientific work was contested by researchers. Grichka earned a PhD in mathematics from the prestigious École Polytechnique in Paris in 1999, while Igor got his in theoretical physics from the University of Bourgogne the following month. A theory they shared about what might have happened before the Big Bang devolved into what the New York Times called an “uproar” within the scientific community in 2002. (The controversy still has its own Wikipedia page.)

Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff with French writer and philosopher Jean Guitton on 6 September 1991 in Paris, France (MICHEL GANGNE/AFP via Getty Images)

“Scientifically, it’s clearly more or less complete nonsense, but these days that doesn’t much distinguish it from a lot of the rest of the literature,” Dr Peter Woit, a theoretical physicist and mathematician, told the newspaper at the time. The “Bogdanoff affair”, as it became known, sparked a broader conversation about the peer review system and the oversight of PhD theses.

Over the decades, the Bogdanoffs became known to the French public in part for their evolving facial features. The pair denied having had cosmetic surgery, though Luc Ferry – a French philosopher and politician and a friend of the brothers’ – told Le Parisien in a recent interview that their prominent chins were, in fact, the results of injections. Ferry also told the newspaper he had repeatedly advised the siblings to get vaccinated against Covid, but their attorney Édouard de Lamaze has confirmed the Bogdanoffs had not received a vaccine.

At the time of their deaths, the Bogdanoffs were planning to relaunch their show Temps X together. “Beyond our sadness and our condolences to the family, we realize that we have lost two great artists, two great TV hosts and two great friends for TV viewers dating back to the Eighties,” Lamaze told France Info. “They had big plans. Everything is stopped by death.”

A tribute has been planned at La Madeleine church in Paris. The brothers’ burial will take place privately, their agent told Le Parisien.

Igor’s ex-wife Amélie de Bourbon-Parme called the brothers’ death “unreal and extremely brutal” on BFMTV. “Igor survived a few days without his brother, which seemed unthinkable, since they were so close to each other. We couldn’t imagine them being separated. And at the same time, we wanted to believe [Igor would survive]. It was fate. They couldn’t be separated for too long.”

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