Lev Davidovich Landau

(1908—1968) Soviet theoretical physicist

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Soviet physicist, who was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on low-temperature physics.

Born into a Jewish family in Baku (his father was an engineer, his mother a physician), Landau was educated at Baku University and the University of Leningrad, where he graduated in 1927. A mathematical prodigy, he travelled throughout Europe visiting most of the leading research centres before being appointed head of the theoretical physics department at the Physical-Technical Institute in 1932. In 1937, at the suggestion of Peter Kapitza, Landau was invited to join his Institute for Physical Problems in Moscow; in 1943 he became professor of physics at Moscow University.

At the institute Landau was asked by Kapitza to investigate the recently discovered phenomenon of superfluidity. In the early 1940s Landau worked out the mathematical theory of superfluidity, introducing a number of new concepts into the work. Involved in a serious car accident in 1962, Landau was unable to attend the Nobel ceremony, and although he lived another six years was unable to do any creative work.

In addition to his theoretical work, Landau is well known in the West for his much-translated multi-volume encyclopedic Course in Theoretical Physics, written in collaboration with his pupil E. M. Lifshitz and first published in 1938.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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