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Pyotr Kapitsa

Pyotr KapitsaAKA Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa

Born: 8-Jul-1894
Birthplace: Kronshtadt, Russia
Died: 8-Apr-1984
Location of death: Moscow, Russia
Cause of death: unspecified

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

Nationality: Russia
Executive summary: Discovered superfluidity

Soviet physicist Pyotr Kapitsa was born and educated in the Soviet Union, but first made his mark in science while working at Cambridge University, where in 1934 he invented a new device to produce liquid helium. His invention was the first machine capable of manufacturing large quantities of liquid helium without using liquid hydrogen for pre-cooling, making the process far more affordable and allowing a major expansion in the study of low-temperature physics.

In the same year, he returned to his homeland to visit family, and when his visit was finished Soviet officials refused to allow his return to England. As a result, he spent the remainder of his career in Russia, where he was admired and to some extent protected by Josef Stalin despite Kapitsa's persistent criticism of Soviet policies. He was not allowed to leave the USSR until 1965, and he spent the years 1946-55 under house arrest, punishment for his refusal to participate in atomic weapons research.

In 1937 he discovered the superfluidity of liquid helium, a phenomenon characterized by a complete absence of viscosity under certain circumstances, allowing superfluids to circulate endlessly in a closed loop with no friction. When helium is cooled to what is called its lambda point, a temperature of approximately 2.17 K, the liquid's density drops and a portion of the liquid becomes a zero viscosity "superfluid". Kapista won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1978, for his research, inventions, and discoveries in the field of low-temperature physics.

Father: Leonid Petrovich Kapitsa
Mother: Olga Ieronimovna Stebnitskaia
Wife: Nadezhda Tschernovsvitova (div.)
Wife: Anna Alekseevna Krylova (m. 1927, two sons)
Son: Sergei
Son: Andrei

    University: BS Physics, Petrograd Polytechnical Institute (1919)
    University: PhD Physics, University of Cambridge (1923)
    Lecturer: Physics, Petrograd Polytechnical Institute (1919-21)
    Lecturer: Physics, University of Cambridge (1921-26)
    Scholar: Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge (1924-32)
    Administrator: Royal Society Mond Laboratory, University of Cambridge (1930-34)
    Administrator: Institute of Physical Problems, Moscow (1934-46, 1955-84)

    IET Faraday Medal 1942
    Order of Lenin 1943
    Benjamin Franklin Medal 1944 (by the Franklin Institute)
    Order of Lenin 1944
    Hero of Socialist Labor 1945
    Order of Lenin 1945
    Order of the Red Banner of Labor 1954
    Mikhail Lomonosov Gold Medal 1959
    CAS Medal for Merits in Science and to Mankind 1964
    Niels Bohr Gold Medal 1964
    Order of Lenin 1964
    IOP Rutherford Medal and Prize 1966
    Order of Lenin 1971
    IOP Simon Memorial Award 1973
    Hero of Socialist Labor 1974
    Order of Lenin 1974
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1978 (with Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences Foreign Member, 1968
    Finnish Academy of Science and Arts Foreign Member, 1974
    Franklin Institute Foreign Member, 1944
    French Physical Society Foreign Member, 1931
    German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina Foreign Member, 1958
    Indian Academy of Sciences Foreign Fellow, 1947
    Institute of Metals Foreign Member, 1943
    Institute of Physics Foreign Member, 1934
    International Academy of Astronautics 1964
    International Academy of the History of Science 1971
    Journal of Theoretical and Experimental Physics Editorial Board, 1955-84
    National Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1946
    National Institute of Sciences of India Foreign Member, 1957
    New York Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1946
    Polish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1962
    Royal Danish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1946
    Royal Irish Academy Foreign Member, 1948
    Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1969
    Royal Society 1929
    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member, 1966
    Russian Academy of Sciences 1939
    Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts Foreign Member, 1971
    Russian Ancestry
    Asteroid Namesake 3437 Kapitsa

Author of books:
The Heat Transfer and Superfluidity of Helium II (1941)
Research into the Mechanism of Heat Transfer in Helium II (1941)
High Power Microwave Electronics (1964)
Collected Papers of P. L. Kapitsa (1964-67, three volumes)
Society and the Environment (1977)
Experiment, Theory, Practice (1977)


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