Vitaly Ginzburg: Wikis


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Vitaly L. Ginzburg

Born October 4, 1916(1916-10-04)
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died November 8, 2009 (aged 93)
Moscow, Russia
Nationality Russia
Ethnicity Jewish
Fields Theoretical Physics
Institutions P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute
Alma mater Moscow State University
Doctoral advisor Igor Tamm
Known for Plasmas, superfluidity
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (2003)
Wolf Prize in Physics (1994/95)

Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg (Russian: Виталий Лазаревич Гинзбург; October 4, 1916 – November 8, 2009) was a Russian theoretical physicist, astrophysicist, Nobel laureate, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and one of the fathers of Soviet hydrogen bomb.[1][2] He was the successor to Igor Tamm as head of the Department of Theoretical Physics of the Academy's physics institute (FIAN), and an outspoken atheist.[3]



He was born to a Jewish family in Moscow in 1916, and graduated from the Physics Faculty of Moscow State University in 1938. He defended his candidate's (Ph.D.) dissertation in 1940, and his doctor's dissertation in 1942. He worked at the P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow from 1940. Among his achievements are a partially phenomenological theory of superconductivity, the Ginzburg-Landau theory, developed with Landau in 1950; the theory of electromagnetic wave propagation in plasmas (for example, in the ionosphere); and a theory of the origin of cosmic radiation. He is also known to biologists as being part of the group of scientists that helped bring down the reign of the politically connected anti-Mendelian agronomist Trofim Lysenko, thus allowing modern genetic science to return to the USSR.[4]

In 1946 he married his second wife, Nina Ginzburg (nee Yermakova), who had spent more than a year in custody on fabricated charges of plotting to assassinate Stalin.[5]

Ginzburg was the editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk.[2] He also headed the Academic Department of Physics and Astrophysics Problems, which Ginzburg founded at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in 1968.[6]

Ginzburg identified himself as a secular Jew, and following the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union, he was very active in Jewish life, especially in Russia, where he served on the board of directors of the Russian Jewish Congress. He is also well known for fighting anti-Semitism and supporting the state of Israel.[7]

In the 2000s Ginzburg was politically active, supporting the Russian liberal opposition and human rights movement.[8] He defended Igor Sutyagin and Valentin Danilov against charges of espionage put forth by the authorities. On April 2, 2009, in an interview to the Radio Liberty Ginzburg denounced the FSB as an institution harmful to Russia and the ongoing expansion of its authority as a return to stalinism.[9]

Stance on religion

Ginzburg was an avowed atheist, both under the militantly atheist Soviet government and in post-Communist Russia when religion made a strong revival. He criticized clericalism in the press and wrote several books devoted to the questions of religion and atheism.[10][11] Because of this, some Orthodox Christian groups denounced him and said no science award could excuse his verbal attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church.[12] He was one of the signers of the Open letter to the President Vladimir V. Putin from the Members of the Russian Academy of Sciences against clericalisation of Russia.


Irina Presnyakova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Academy of Sciences, announced that Ginzburg died in Moscow on November 8, 2009, from cardiac arrest.[1][13] He had been suffering from ill health for several years,[13] and three years before his death said "In general, I envy believers. I am 90, and [am] being overcome by illnesses. For believers, it is easier to deal with them and with life's other hardships. But what can be done? I cannot believe in resurrection after death."[13]

Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to Ginzburg's family, saying "We bid farewell to an extraordinary personality whose outstanding talent, exceptional strength of character and firmness of convictions evoked true respect from his colleagues".[13] President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, in his letter of condolences, described Ginzburg as a "top physicist of our time whose discoveries had a huge impact on the development of national and world science."[14]

Ginzburg was buried on November 11 in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, the resting place of many famous politicians, writers and scientists of Russia.[1]

Honors and awards

Ginzburg reads a Nobel lecture in Moscow State University.


  1. ^ a b c Mirovalev, Mansur (2009-11-09). "Nobel-winning Russian physicist dies at 93". Associated Press.  
  2. ^ a b "Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg — editor in chief of UFN".  
  3. ^ Nikonov, Vyacheslav (2004-09-30). "Physicists have nothing to do with miracles". Social Sciences (003): 148–150. Retrieved 2007-09-09.  
  4. ^ Medvedev, Zhores (1969). The Rise and Fall of T.D. Lysenko. New York: Columbia University Press.  
  5. ^ "Виталий Гинзбург: с Ландау трудно было спорить — Юрий Медведев."Уравнение Гинзбурга - Ландау" — Российская Газета — Академику и нобелевскому лауреату Виталию Гинзбургу исполняется 90 лет. Накануне юбилея он рассказал в интервью "РГ", как стал физиком-теоретиком, будучи "плохим" математиком, и почему он брал расписки со своего друга и учителя - знаменитого Льва Ландау, с которым вместе работал над сверхпроводимостью. Именно за эту работу Гинзбург впоследствии получил Нобелевскую премию. "Общаясь с Ландау, я много думал о его феномене, о пределах возможностей человека, огромных резервах мозга", - признался он". Retrieved 2009-11-11.  
  6. ^ "About Academic Department of Physics and Astrophysics Problems" (in Russian).  
  7. ^ Hein, Avi. "Vitaly Ginzburg". Jewish Virtual Library.  
  8. ^ "RUSSIA: Religious revival troubles Vitaly Ginzburg". University World News. Retrieved 2009-11-11.  
  9. ^ Михаил Соколов. "2009 RFE/RL, Inc.]". Retrieved 2009-11-11.  
  10. ^ Ginzburg, Vitaly (2009). "About atheism, religion and secular humanism". Moscow: FIAN.  
  11. ^ "Церковь ждет исповеди академиков" (in Russian).  
  12. ^ "Клирики против физика. Православные требуют привлечь к ответственности академика Гинзбурга" (in Russian). 2007-07-24.  
  13. ^ a b c d Osipovich, Alexander (2009-11-09). "Russian bomb physicist Ginzburg dead at 93". AFP.  
  14. ^ "Dmitry Medvedev sent his condolences to the family of Nobel Prize Winner Vitaly Ginzburg following the scientist's passing". President of Russia: Official Web Portal. 2009-11-09.  
  15. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2003". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-10-09.  

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg (October 4, 1916November 8, 2009) is a Russian theoretical physicist and astrophysicist and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is the successor to Igor Tamm as head of the Department of Theoretical Physics of the Academy's physics institute (FIAN), and an outspoken atheist.


  • Every physicist (naturally, this equally applies to other specialities, but I re- strict myself to physicists for definitiveness) should simultaneously know, apart from theoretical physics, a wealth of facts from different branches of physics and be familiar with the newest notable accomplishments.
    • in his Nobel lecture, December 8, 2003, at Aula Magna, Stockholm University.
  • In the past century, and even nowadays, one could encounter the opinion that in physics nearly everything had been done. There allegedly are only dim 'cloudlets' in the sky or theory, which will soon be eliminated to give rise to the 'theory of everything'. I consider these views as some kind of blindness. The entire history of physics, as well as the state of present-day physics and, in particular, astrophysics, testifies to the opposite. In my view we are facing a boundless sea of unresolved problems.
    • in his Nobel lecture, December 8, 2003, at Aula Magna, Stockholm University.

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