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Ilya M. Frank

Ilya M. FrankAKA Ilya Mikhaylovich Frank

Born: 23-Oct-1908
Birthplace: St. Petersburg, Russia
Died: 22-Jun-1990
Location of death: Moscow, Russia
Cause of death: unspecified

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

Nationality: Russia
Executive summary: Cherenkov radiation

Russian nuclear physicist Ilya M. Frank explained the phenomenon of Cherenkov radiation, the odd low-level blue light emitted when a radioactive material such as radium is suspended in a liquid. In 1937, working with his colleague Igor Y. Tamm, Frank determined that the radiation emits charged particles that move faster than the speed of light — not faster than the sped of light in a vacuum, but faster than the reduced speed of light in a liquid. In exceeding this limit the particles shed a portion of their energy, which the human eye perceives as the color blue.

Their experiment proving this was conducted in an all-night work session at Tamm's smoke-clouded home, and as Frank wrote later, "In the morning, I left [Tamm's] house with the feeling that we did something very important!" This seemingly obscure discovery led to development of the Cherenkov counter, which measures the angle of light emitted by the blue-light phenomenon and allows scientists to determine the the speed of the particles. Frank, Tamm, and Pavel A. Cherenkov, who first discovered the blue-light effect, shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1958.

Frank also conducted extensive research into gamma rays, physical optics, and neutron beams, and worked on the Soviet Union's project to develop its first uranium-graphite reactor. He is the namesake of the Frank Award, presented annually by Russia's Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, for outstanding achievements in neutron physics. His uncle, Semen Frank (1877-1950) was a Russian-German philosopher of some renown.

Father: Mikhail Lyudvigovic Frank (mathematician, b. 1878, d. 1942)
Mother: Yelizaveta Mikhailovna Gratsianova (physician)
Brother: Gleb Michailovich Frank (biophysicist, b. 1904, d. 1976)
Wife: Ella Abramovna Beilikhis (historian, m. 1937, one son)
Son: Alexander

    University: BS Mathematics & Physics, University of Moscow (1930)
    University: PhD Physics, University of Moscow (1935)
    Scholar: P. N. Lebedev Institute of Physics, Moscow (1934-44)
    Professor: Physics, University of Moscow (1944-90)

    Stalin Prize 1946 (with Pavel A. Cherenkov, Sergei Vavilov and Igor Y. Tamm)
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1958 (with Pavel A. Cherenkov, Igor Y. Tamm)
    Russian Academy of Sciences 1946
    Jewish Ancestry Paternal
    Polish Ancestry Paternal
    Russian Ancestry


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