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Igor Y. Tamm

Igor Y. TammAKA Igor Yevgenyevich Tamm

Born: 8-Jul-1895
Birthplace: Vladivostok, Russia
Died: 12-Apr-1971
Location of death: Moscow, Russia
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow, Russia

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

Nationality: Russia
Executive summary: Cherenkov radiation

Soviet physicist and mathematician Igor Y. Tamm won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1958, sharing the honor with Pavel A. Cherenkov and Ilya M. Frank, for their 1937 work unraveling the science behind the blue glow of radioactive material immersed in liquid, called the Cherenkov effect. He is perhaps better known for his 1932 prediction of what are now called surface states or Tamm states (specific types of electronic states which are bound at the edge of semi-infinite periodic potential), and for his work on the Soviet Union's hydrogen bomb project.

In 1945 he introduced a simplified method to calculate singly-excited states, now commonly called the Tamm-Dancoff approximation. In 1948, he was assigned to double-check the work of other Soviet scientists on the feasibility of developing a hydrogen bomb. He immediately brought in Andrei Sakharov and Vitaly L. Ginzburg for assistance, and together they rejected the other scientists' work, proposing instead the "Layer Cake" design, alternating layers of uranium and thermonuclear fuel. This design was successfully tested in 1953.

Tamm never joined the ruling Communist Party, but even without party membership his scientific renown made him one of his country's most famous and successful scientists. Fiercely independent in his thinking, he opposed Russia's participation in the First World War. He was a young man during the Russian Revolution, but did not take up arms and was imprisoned at various times by both factions.

Father: Evgenij Tamm (electrical engineer)
Mother: Olga Davydova
Wife: Natalia Shuiskaya (one daughter, one son)

    University: University of Edinburgh (studied 1913-14)
    University: BS, Moscow State University (1918)
    Teacher: Moscow State University (1922-30)
    Scholar: University of Leiden (1928)
    Professor: Moscow State University (1930-41)
    Administrator: Director of Theoretical Physics, P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute, Moscow (1934-71)
    Professor: J. M. Sverdlov Communist University
    Professor: Crimea State Medical University

    Stalin Prize 1946 (with Pavel A. Cherenkov, Ilya M. Frank, and Sergei Vavilov)
    Hero of Socialist Labor 1953
    Stalin Prize 1953
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1958 (with Pavel A. Cherenkov, Ilya M. Frank)
    Mikhail Lomonosov Gold Medal 1967
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences Foreign Member
    Polish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Russian Academy of Sciences 1933
    Swedish Physical Society Foreign Member
    German Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry
    Russian Ancestry
    Ukrainian Ancestry
    Lunar Crater Tamm (4.4 S, 146.4E, 38 km. diameter)

Author of books:
Relativistic Interaction of Elementary Particles (1935)
On the Magnetic Moment of the Neutron (1938)
Theory of Electronics (1949)
Selected Papers (1990)


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