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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lev Landau

Lev Davidovich Landau (1908-1968)
Born January 22, 1908(1908-01-22)
Baku, Azerbaijan, Russian Empire
Died April 1, 1968 (aged 60)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Residence Soviet Union
Citizenship Soviet Union
Fields Theoretical Physics
Institutions Baku State University
Kharkiv University
Kharkiv Polytechnical Institute
Institute for Physical Problems
MSU Faculty of Physics
Alma mater Leningrad State University
Leningrad Physico-Technical Institute
Doctoral students Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov
Isaak Markovich Khalatnikov
Other notable students Evgeny Lifshitz
Known for Superfluidity
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1962)

Lev Davidovich Landau (Russian language: Ле́в Дави́дович Ланда́у; born January 22, 1908 – died April 1, 1968) was a prominent Soviet physicist who made fundamental contributions to many areas of theoretical physics. His accomplishments include the co-discovery of the density matrix method in quantum mechanics, the quantum mechanical theory of diamagnetism, the theory of superfluidity, the theory of second order phase transitions, the Ginzburg-Landau theory of superconductivity, the explanation of Landau damping in plasma physics, the Landau pole in quantum electrodynamics, and the two-component theory of neutrinos. He received the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physics for his development of a mathematical theory of superfluidity that accounts for the properties of liquid helium II at a temperature below 2.17 K (−270.98 °C).




Early years

Landau was born on January 22, 1908 to a Jewish family in Baku, in what was then the Russian Empire. Recognized very early as a child prodigy in mathematics, Landau was quoted as saying in later life that he scarcely remembered a time when he was not familiar with calculus. Landau graduated at 13 from gymnasium. His parents regarded him too young to attend university, so for a year he attended the Baku Economical Technicum. In 1922, at age 14, he matriculated at Baku State University, studying at two departments simultaneously: the department of Physics and Mathematics, and the department of Chemistry. Subsequently he ceased studying chemistry, but remained interested in the field throughout his life.

In 1924, he moved to the main centre of Soviet physics at the time: the Physics Department of Leningrad State University. In Leningrad, he first made the acquaintance of genuine theoretical physics and dedicated himself fully to its study, graduating in 1927. Landau subsequently enrolled for post-graduate study at the Leningrad Physico-Technical Institute, and at 21, received a doctorate. Landau got his first chance to travel abroad in 1929, on a Soviet government traveling fellowship supplemented by a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship.

After brief stays in Göttingen and Leipzig, he went to Copenhagen to work at Niels Bohr's Institute for Theoretical Physics. After the visit, Landau always considered himself a pupil of Niels Bohr and Landau's approach to physics was greatly influenced by Bohr. After his stay in Copenhagen he visited Cambridge and Zürich before returning to the Soviet Union. Between 1932 and 1937 he headed the department of theoretical physics at the National Technical University's "Kharkov Polytechnical Institute" (now known as the Kharkiv Mechanics and Machine Building Institute).

Great Purge

During the Great Purge, Landau was investigated within the UPTI Affair in Kharkov, but he managed to leave for Moscow. Still, he was arrested on April 27, 1938 and held in an NKVD prison until his release on April 29, 1939, after his colleague Pyotr Kapitsa, an experimental low-temperature physicist, wrote a letter to Stalin, personally vouching for Landau's behavior.

Last years

On January 7, 1962, Landau's car collided with an oncoming truck. He was severely injured and spent two months in a coma. Landau never fully recovered, and never returned fully to scientific work.

In 1965 former students and coworkers of Landau founded the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics, located in the town of Chernogolovka near Moscow, and headed for the following three decades by Isaak Markovich Khalatnikov.


Landau died on April 1, 1968, aged 60, from complications of the injuries from the accident. He was buried at Novodevichy cemetery.[1][2]

The Landau School

Apart from his theoretical accomplishments, Landau was the principal founder of a great tradition of theoretical physics in Kharkov, Soviet Union (now Kharkiv, Ukraine), sometimes referred to as the "Landau school". He was the head of the Theoretical Division at the Institute for Physical Problems from 1937 until 1962 when, as a result of a car accident, he suffered injuries from which he was never back to science.[3]His students included Lev Pitaevskii, Alexei Abrikosov, Arkady Levanyuk, Evgeny Lifshitz, Lev Gor'kov, Isaak Khalatnikov, Boris L. Ioffe and Isaak Pomeranchuk.

Landau developed a comprehensive exam called the "Theoretical Minimum" which students were expected to pass before admission to the school. The exam covered all aspects of theoretical physics, and between 1943 and 1961 only 43 candidates passed.

In Kharkov, he and his friend and former student, Evgeny Lifshitz, began writing the Course of Theoretical Physics, ten volumes that together span the whole of the subject and are still widely used as graduate-level physics texts.


The minor planet 2142 Landau discovered in 1972 by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Chernykh is named in his honor.[4] The lunar crater Landau is named in his honor.

Landau's List

Landau kept a list of names of physicists which he ranked on a logarithmic scale of productivity ranging from 0 to 5. The highest ranking, a 0.5, was assigned to Albert Einstein. A rank of 1 was awarded to 'historical giant' Isaac Newton, Satyendra Nath Bose, Eugene Wigner, and the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Paul Dirac and Erwin Schrödinger. Landau ranked himself as a 2.5 but later promoted himself to a 2. David Mermin, writing about Landau, referred to the scale, and ranked himself in the fourth division, in the article My Life with Landau: Homage of a 4.5 to a 2.[5][6]


Landau and Lifshitz Course of Theoretical Physics

  • vol. 1: "Mechanics". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz, (3rd ed. ISBN 0750628960)
  • vol. 2: "The Classical Theory of Fields". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz, (4th ed. ISBN 0750627689)
  • vol. 3: "Quantum Mechanics: Non-Relativistic Theory". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz, (3rd ed. ISBN 0750635398)
  • vol. 4: "Quantum Electrodynamics". V. B. Berestetsky, E. M. Lifshitz and L. P. Pitaevskii, (2nd ed. ISBN 0750633719)
  • vol. 5: "Statistical Physics Pt. 1". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz, (3rd ed. ISBN 0750633727)
  • vol. 6: "Fluid Mechanics". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz, (2nd ed. ISBN 0750627670)
  • vol. 7: "Theory of Elasticity". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz, (3rd ed. ISBN 075062633X)
  • vol. 8: "Electrodynamics of Continuous Media". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz and L. P. Pitaevskii, (2nd ed., ISBN 0750626348)
  • vol. 9: "Statistical Physics Pt. 2". E. M. Lifshitz, L. P. Pitaevskii, (1st ed. ISBN 0750626364)
  • vol. 10: "Physical Kinetics". E. M. Lifshitz, L. P. Pitaevskii, (1st ed. ISBN 0080206417)

Other books

  • "General Physics, Mechanics and Molecular Physics". A. I. Akhiezer, E. M. Lifshitz (ISBN 0080091067)

Some books about Landau

  • Dorozynski, Alexander (1965). The Man They Wouldn't Let Die. (After Landau's 1962 car accident, the physics community around him rallied to attempt to save his life. They managed to prolong his life until 1968.)
  • Landau-Drobantseva, Kora: Professor Landau: How We Lived (1999. In original Russian).
  • I.M. Khalatnikov (editor): Landau. The physicist and the man. Recollections of L.D. Landau Translated from the Russian by J.B. Sykes. (Pergamon Press, 1989) ISBN 0-08-036383-0
  • Janouch, Frantisek: Lev D. Landau: His life and work (CERN, 1979) ASIN B0007AUCL0
  • Kojevnikov, Alexei B.: Stalin's Great Science: The Times and Adventures of Soviet Physicists, History of Modern Physical Sciences Series. (Imperial College Press, 2004) ISBN 1-86094-420-5

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Dorozynski, Alexander, The Man They Wouldn't Let Die (1965)
  4. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D. (2003). Dictionary of Minor Planet Names (5th ed.). New York: Springer Verlag. pp. 174. ISBN 3540002383.  
  5. ^ Hey, Tony (1997). Einstein's Mirror. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1. ISBN 0-521-43532-3.  
  6. ^ Physics Today, November 2006, letter from Asoke Mitra

Further reading


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Lev Davidovich Landau (1908-01-221968-04-01) was a prominent Soviet physicist who made fundamental contributions to many areas of theoretical physics.


  • Главное, делайте всё с увлечением, это страшно украшает жинь.
    • It is important to do everything with enthusiasm, it embellishes life enormously.
    • in a letter to his niece Maya Bessarab, as quoted by her in Lev Landau, biography. Moscovskiy Rabochiy (Moscow Worker). 1971.  
  • This work contains many things which are new and interesting. Unfortunately, everything that is new is not interesting, and everything which is interesting, is not new.
  • We mathematicans are all a bit crazy.

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