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Lev Landau

Lev LandauAKA Lev Davidovich Landau

Born: 22-Jan-1908
Birthplace: Baku, Azerbaijan
Died: 1-Apr-1968
Location of death: Moscow, Russia
Cause of death: Accident - Automobile
Remains: Buried, Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow, Russia

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

Nationality: Russia
Executive summary: Superfluidity of helium

Soviet scientist Lev Landau won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1962 for his work on superfluidity, the frictionless flow of liquid at temperatures near absolute zero. Though he was a child prodigy in mathematics his academic progress was haphazard, due to the disarray in Soviet education system following the Russian revolution. He never graduated high school but entered college at the age of 13. He was 17 when his first scientific paper was published, but he never wrote a doctoral thesis the Soviet Union had briefly abolished academic degrees. He was granted a doctorate at the Ukrainian Physico-Technical Institute in 1934 on the basis of his scientific accomplishments and renown, as he was promoted to full professor. Students and colleagues called him "Dau" from the last syllable of his surname.

He conducted research into the density matrix method in quantum mechanics, the dynamics of ferromagnets, the intermediate state of superconductors, the quantum theory of diamagnetism, the renormalization of electron charge in quantum electrodynamics, second-order phase transitions, the statistical theory of nuclei, superconductivity, the theory of Fermi Liquid, and the two-component theory of neutrinos. He is considered a founder of the quantum theory of condensed matter, and his work had a substantial impact on astrophysics, condensed-matter theory, nuclear physics, particle physics, quantum electrodynamics, statistical physics, thermodynamics, and other branches of 20th century physics. With his friend and colleague Evgeny Lifshitz, he wrote a ten-volume text in advanced physics which was used in Soviet scientific education for decades. As of 2008 his four most widely-read papers had been cited in almost 200,000 subsequent studies.

Landau was an iconoclastic man he tended to wear checkered shirts to formal events, his marriage was open, and he never joined the Communist Party. He was willing to look at all sides of every problem, a characteristic that caused nearly cost him his life when, in April 1938, he was observed accepting and discussing an anti-Stalinist pamphlet on the street. He was immediately arrested and imprisoned for over a year as a suspected spy for Germany, a highly unlikely accusation as Landau's family was Jewish. He was released from prison only after Pyotr Kapitsa, his supervisor at the Institute of Physical Problems in Moscow, wrote to Soviet Premier Vyacheslav Molotov, pleading that Landau's presence was vital to Kapitsa's work. Emaciated and with hair turned gray at 31 years of age, Landau said later that he believed he had but weeks to live before his release order was received.

He considered himself a socialist, but abhorred Josef Stalin for what Landau considered his "betrayal of the socialist ideal", and he wrote that the Soviet Union of the 1930s and '40s was more fascist than socialist. He did some slight work on the USSR's atomic weapons program, but only, he said discreetly, the minimum necessary for his own personal safety. After Stalin's death in 1953 he declined all classified work.

In 1962, the same year he won the Nobel Prize, Landau was traveling in a car that was involved in a head-on collision with a truck. He suffered eleven broken bones, a fractured skull, and a month and a half in a coma. Doctors were able to save his life but he never fully recovered, never resumed his scientific work, and he died six years later from complications related to the accident.

Father: (engineer)
Mother: (physiologist)
Wife: K. T. Drobanzeva (m. 1937, one son)
Son: Igor (physicist)

    University: Baku Economical Technical School (attended, 1921-22)
    University: Kirov Azerbaijan State University (attended, 1922)
    University: BS Physics, Leningrad State University (1927)
    Scholar: Physics, University of Zurich (1928-29)
    Scholar: Physics, University of Copenhagen (1929-30)
    Scholar: Physics, Cambridge University (1930-31)
    Teacher: Physics, Ukrainian Physico-Technical Institute (1932-34)
    University: PhD Physics, Ukrainian Physico-Technical Institute (1934)
    Professor: Physics, Ukrainian Physico-Technical Institute (1934-37)
    Professor: Physics, Institute of Physical Problems, Moscow (1937-38)
    Professor: Theoretical Physics, Kharkov A.M. Gorky State University
    Professor: Theoretical Physics, Moscow State University (1943-62)

    Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (1929-31)
    Imprisoned (27-Apr-1938 to 29-Apr-1939)
    Stalin Prize 1941
    Russian Academy of Sciences 1946
    Stalin Prize 1946
    Royal Danish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member (1951)
    Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences Foreign Member (1956)
    Institute of Physics Foreign Member (1959)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences Foreign Member (1960)
    Fritz London Memorial Prize 1960
    National Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1960
    Max Planck Medal 1960
    Royal Society Foreign Member (1960)
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1962
    French Physical Society Foreign Member
    New York Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Coma 7-Jan-1962 (auto accident, six weeks in coma)
    Azerbaijani Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry
    Russian Ancestry
    Lunar Crater Landau (41.6 N, 118.1 W, 214 km. diameter)

Author of books:
Course of Theoretical Physics (1938, textbook; ten volumes; with Evgeny Lifshits)


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