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Nikolay Semyonov

Nikolay SemyonovAKA Nikolay Nikolayevich Semyonov

Born: 15-Apr-1896 [1]
Birthplace: Saratov, Russia
Died: 25-Sep-1986
Location of death: Moscow, Russia
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist, Physicist

Nationality: Russia
Executive summary: Combustion, explosions, and chemical kinetics

Military service: White Movement Army, 1917-20

Russian physicist Nikolay Semyonov studied chemical reactions, and showed that most chemical transformations result from chain and branched-chain chemical reactions. His work on controlled explosions led to increased efficiency in automotive, jet, and rocket engines, and other industrial machinery. In 1927 he introduced the theory of branched chain reactions, explaining the character of an explosion, in which the number of chain carriers is increased with each propagation, causing the reaction to accelerate very quickly. He shared the 1956 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Sir Cyril Hinshelwood.

Semyonov was a staunch supporter of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union, and after The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists criticized Soviet scientific censorship in 1953, he authored what was effectively the official Soviet response, denying that science or scientists were censored in the USSR in any way. He was the most famous signatory to a 1971 public letter from Soviet scientists to American President Richard M. Nixon, protesting perceived unfairness in the murder trial of Angela Davis. His name is sometimes presented in English as Semenoff, Semenov, Semionov, or Semyonova.


[1] 3-Apr-1896 per the old-style calendar, used in Russia until 1918.

Father: Nikolai Alex and Elena Dmitrieva Semyonov
Mother: Elena Dmitrieva Semyonov
Wife: Maria Boreishe-Liverovsky (linguist, m. 1921, d. 1923)
Wife: Natalya Nikolaevna Semyonov (neice of Semyonov's first wife; m. 15-Sep-1924, two children)
Daughter: Ludmilla Nikolaevna
Son: Yurii Nikolaevich

    University: University of St. Petersburg (1917)
    Lecturer: University of Tomsk, Siberia (1917-20)
    Scholar: Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute, Leningrad, Russia (1920-31)
    Professor: St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University (1928-44)
    Administrator: Institute of Chemical Physics (1931-44)
    Professor: Moscow State University (1944-86)

    Hero of Socialist Labor
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1956 (with Sir Cyril Hinshelwood)
    Order of Lenin (five times)
    Soviet Official Deputy in the Supreme Soviet (1958, 1962, 1966)
    All-Union Society for Propagation of Political and Scientific Knowledge
    Central Committee of the Communist Party 1961 (alternate)
    German Academy of Science Foreign Member
    Indian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    National Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Order of Red Banner of Labor
    Royal Society Foreign Member
    Royal Society of Chemistry Foreign Member
    Russian Academy of Sciences 1932
    Jewish Ancestry
    Russian Ancestry

Author of books:
Chemical Kinetics and Chain Reactions (1934, textbook)
Some Problems of Chemical Kinetics and Reactivity (1954, chemistry; two volumes)


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