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Vitaly L. Ginzburg

Vitaly L. GinzburgAKA Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg

Born: 4-Oct-1916
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: 8-Nov-2009
Location of death: Moscow, Russia
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Novodevichye Cemetery, Moscow, Russia

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: Russia
Executive summary: Type-II superconductors

Russian physicist Vitaly L. Ginzburg had only four years of formal education as a child, starting school at the age of 11 and leaving at 15 to become an x-ray operator at a local college. Inspired by the physics of his work and by popular-science magazines, he tried to enroll in college when rules were changed to allow open competition for admissions. His test results were borderline and he was initially rejected, but he was admitted to Moscow State University in 1933, when a few students with higher scores were unable to give the school a commitment. Seven years later he graduated with a PhD in physics. He studied under Igor Y. Tamm, and with Lev Landau he developed a new theory of superconductivity, the reduction and disappearance of electrical resistance temperatures drop toward absolute zero, and showed that superconductivity and magnetism could only co-exist within very narrow parameters. Ginzburg was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics, sharing the honor with American scientist Alexei A. Abrikosov and British physicist Anthony J. Leggett.

His career was threatened in 1946 when he married his second wife, Nina Ermakova Ginzburg, who had been convicted and imprisoned for three years for plotting to assassinate Josef Stalin, charges that both Ginzburgs always denied as absurd. He later said that he was saved from oblivion by his knowledge of physics, which led to his assignment on the program that developed the Soviet Union's hydrogen bomb, where he worked for three years alongside Andrei Sakharov before Stalin had Ginzburg removed from the project. Stalin was planning to have the Soviet Union's Jews exiled to labor camps, but instead died or was killed on 5 March 1953, a date celebrated by Ginzburg and his wife for the rest of their lives.

He also studied the propagation of radio waves in the ionosphere, developed a new explanation for the production of radiation in interstellar space, and with Iosif S. Shklovskii he showed that cosmic rays near the Earth had originated in supernovae. After the collapse of the Soviet Union he was an outspoken critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whose policies he derided as returning to Russia's totalitarian past. His daughter and son-in-law are Irina and Lev Dorman, both physicists, and his granddaughter, Viktoria Dorman, is also a physicist.

Father: Lazar Efimovich Ginzburg (water engineer, b. 1863, d. 1942)
Mother: Avgusta Veniaminovna Vil'dauer-Ginzburg (physician, b. 1866, d. 1920 typhoid)
Wife: Olga Zamsha Ginzburg (physicist, m. 1937, div. 1946, one daughter)
Daughter: Irina Ginzburg Dorman (physicist)
Wife: Nina Ermakova Ginzburg (m. 1946)

    University: BS Physics, Moscow State University (1938)
    University: PhD Physics, Moscow State University (1940; thesis 1942)
    Scholar: P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute (1940-42)
    Teacher: Physics, Gorky University (1945-68)
    Professor: Physics, Moscow Technical Institute of Physics (1968-2009)

    International Academy of Humanism Laureate
    Russian Academy of Sciences 1956
    Russian Academy of Sciences Director of Theory Group (1971-88)
    State Prize of Soviet Union 1953
    Lenin Prize 1966 (with Alexei A. Abrikosov)
    Wolf Prize in Physics 1994 (with Yoichiro Nambu)
    Nobel Prize for Physics 2003 (with Alexei A. Abrikosov and Anthony J. Leggett)
    Heart Attack fatal (8-Nov-2009)
    Russian Ancestry (paternal)
    Latvian Ancestry (maternal)
    Jewish Ancestry

Author of books:
Crystal Optics with Spatial Dispersion and Excitons (1984, with Vladimir M. Agranovic)
On Superconductivity and Superfluidity: A Scientific Autobiography (2009, memoir)


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