Lev Davidovich Landau (1902-1968)
photo by D. Gay, |
from Michael Shatnov.
|from Boris Zakhariev.|
|from Boris Zakhariev.|
from the Washington Post |
- Landau was born in Baku (Azerbaijan) in 1908. His father was an
engineer and his mother was a physician. Here are his family photos.
- Family Photo available from the AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives.
- Lev Landau with his parents in Leningrad (1935).
- Another family photo in Leningrad (1932).
- During the years 1929 - 1931, he visited Heisenberg in Germany, Pauli in
Switzerland, Peierls in England. He was with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen
for an extended period, and it is said that Landau was heavily influenced by
Bohr. His visits to these places were supported by the Rockefeller Foundation
of the United States.
- During 1932 - 1937 he was the head of the Theoretical Department of
Physico-Technical Institute in Kharkov. While in Kharkov, he assembled the
top Soviet brains including Evgeny Lifshitz, Alexander Akhiezer, and Isaak
Pomeranchuk. This is the beginning of the Landau school of physics, which
formed the core of the Soviet physics establishment until today. Here are
- Landau with Lifshitz and Akhiezer presumably in Kharkov, linked from the AIP Segre Visual Archives.
- Alexander Akhiezer. I went to Kharkov to attend the Akhiezer Memorial Conference in 2001. I read his book on quantum electrodynamics when I was a graduate student.
- Isaac Pomeranchuk was born in Poland and became a very prominent Soviet physicist. In his early years, we worked with Landau in Kharkov, and later became the first head of the theoretical division at the ITEP in Moscow. Pomernchuk's outstanding contributions are also well known.
However, during Stalin's great purge (1937-8), Landau was imprisoned presumably because his travel to Western Europe (1929-31) was supported by American capitalists, but was released with the help of Pyotr Kapitsa who wrote a personal letter to Stalin. The Kapitsa-Landau relation did not end here. Kapitsa in 1938 discovered superfluidity, and Landau provided a theory for for quantum fluid during the years 1941-48. They both won Nobel prizes in physics (Landau in 1962, Kapitza in 1978).
In 1937, Landau became the head of the Theoretical Department of the Institute
for Physical Problems of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. in Moscow, and
gave lectures at Moscow State University. He was also maintained a professor
at Kharkov State University. It is remarkable that Landau maintained his
connection with Kharkov throughout his life. Indeed, Landau regarded Kharkov
as the home base for his Landau school of physics. Why was Kharkov so dear
Landau was seriously injured from an automobile accident in 1962.
He was not able to travel to Sweden to accept his Nobel prize in 1962.
The prize was given to him in his hospital room by the Swedish
ambassador to the Soviet Union. Landau left us in 1968.
- Landau was a great physicist, but why am I so excited about him?
I never met him, and my research interest does not coincide with
the research lines pioneered by him. Yet, I learned physics from
the great textbooks he wrote with his colleagues, especially with
Lifshitz. I read his book "The Classical Theory of Fields" when I
was in my senior (4th) year at Carnegie Tech (now called Carnegie-Mellon).
Since then, I purchased all of his graduate-level textbooks. They are
- The Classical Theory of Fields, L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
- Mechanics, L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
- Quantum Mechanics: Non-Relativistic Theory, L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
- Statistical Physics, L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
- Fluid Mechanics, L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
- Theory of Elasticity, L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
- Electrodynamics of Continuous Media, L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz and L. P. Pitaevskii
- What is then so great about those books? I am a kind of person who
could get easily bogged down in the swamp of mathematics. Even these
days, many bright physicists spend 120 percent of their time in the
maze of mathematics. Their reasoning is that they will find a new
physics if they do enough mathematics. Thanks to Landau's textbooks,
I am not one of them.
My reasoning is in the opposite direction. If we do enough physics, we are likely to produce new mathematics, as Isaac Newton did. My recent papers follow this line of thinking, but I choose not to elaborate this point now. I may later add my story to this webpage.
In the meantime, please send us your own story about how Landau's influence on your mode of doing physics.
About the City of Kharkov
There were many attractive cities in the Soviet Union. For instance,
Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Yalta, Riga, Kazan, Khavarosk, etc. The
question is how Kharkov was chosen by Landau and his associate for
Dmirij Volkov was of course one of the pioneers of
supersymmetry, and was the central figure in Kharkov in the post-Landau
era. Yet, not many people know that Kharkov was his homebase.
Many years before, I knew about two important industrial products from the Soviet Union, but did not know they came from Kharkov.
- Soviet Leica Cameras
In 1950, I was a high-school student in Korea, too young to know who
Isaac Newton was. One of my friends bragged about his
Leica camera made in the Soviet Union. He claimed his Soviet Leica was
superior to those made in Germany. I was envious. I did not know they
were made in Kharkov until recently, and I bought two of those Soviet
Leicas called FED cameras.
- Tanks. On June 25 of 1950, I was in the South Korean city of Seoul. It was a Sunday morning. Seoul's radio said there would be an important announcement and asked the listeners to stay tuned. At 1:10 PM, the radio said the North Korean tanks crossed the 38th parallel about 50 km north of Seoul. Those tanks completely destroyed the South Korean army and came into Seoul after three days. This is how the Korean War started, and those North Korean tanks were Soviet-made T-34 tanks. In 2000, I was happy to find out the T-34 tank was originally developed in Kharkov. During World War II, the T-34 tanks were mass-produced in the Ural-mountain city of Chelyabinsk. It is well known that those tanks destroyed the core of the German army in Stalingrad.
Pleasure of Meeting Again: Beautiful Hearts and Minds
Volkova 2000. Volkova 2001.
- Mrs. Volkov. I went to Kharkov to attend the Volkov memorial conference in 2000. At that time, Mrs. Volkov had to greet many people, but I was fortunate enough to have a photo with her. One year later, I went there again in order to participate in the Akhiezer memorial conference. Mrs. Volkov was kind enough to remember me and asked me what happened to the photo we had one year before.
- Two Sweet Girls. While in Kharkov (July 2000), I invited these two girls to a photo with my colleague. They were just walking by. In November of 2001, they came to me while I was attending the Akhiezer memorial conference held in Kharkov. It was a total surprise to me. They asked me whether I brought their photos. I apologized to them and promised to put the pictures on my website, and I invited them to join me in the conference banquet. However, the conference organizers rejected my idea. Their reasoning was that these girls are too young. We were thoroughly disappointed. I could partially heal their wounds by posting these photos in my website.
- Dresden. In July of 2000, I was waiting for a flight to Kharkov at the Vienna airport. While there, I was able to talk with a very intelligent lady sitting next to me. She said she now lives in Dresden (Germany) and was visiting her parents in Kharkov. One week later, I was waiting for a return flight to Vienna at the Kharkov airport. We met again! We produced this photo.
- Gift Shop in Kharkov (Ukraine, November 2001). While in Kharkov, I was interested in picking up a souvenir item and went into a gift shop. This shop attendant suggested a key chain, and I bought it and had a photo with her. Next day, I went there again in order to get her address (in order to send a copy of the photo). We took another photo. Can you tell these two different pictures contain the same set of people?
- Promotion. In 2000, she
was working at the Kiev in Kharkov restaurant, but she became promoted to
the manager's position when I went to Kharkov again in 2001.
She was birght, cheerful and warm-hearted. It was a pleasure to see
- Georgy Afanasiev. I met him at the Hotel Akademicheskaya (Moscow) in October of 1990. The big news at that time was that Mikhail Gorbachev got the 1990 Nobel peace prize. Afanasiev was kind enough to come all the way from Dubna (about 100 km north of Moscow) to pick me up. Since then, we met several times. He gave me his Soviet Army belt because he knew I am collecting old Soviet items. Recently, I bought one at a souvenir shop in the Washington area, and I am ready to return his belt to him. During the above-mentioned Kharkov meeting, we had a peaceful moment for a photo. He asked me whether I thought he was a KGB agent when I saw him first time in 1990. I said Yes even though my true answer was No. This photo was taken in October of 2001 in Kharkov, Ukraine.
- Affluence. I was there in 1999, while Ukraine was going through a transition. At that time, we thought Ukrainians, without money, could not live affluently. It was not so. Perhaps they did not have money, but the concept of affluence is quite orthogonal to money. I have many other photos to prove this point, but I will show them later.
- Looking like my Mother. I spotted this lady working at a cosmetics store on the main street of Kharkov. She looks like my mother. I went into the store and told my story. She agreed to have a photo with me. Many people say I look like my mother. Thus, she should look like me!
- with two Ukrainian physicists, during the Akhiezer memorial conference held in Kharkov (Ukraine, November 2001). On my right is Vadim Demchik, and on my left (with eye glasses) is Andrey Shcherbakov. Both came from Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine). They sent me this photo, taken during the conference banquet.
- Soviet Leica Cameras In 1950, I was a high-school student in Korea, too young to know who Isaac Newton was. One of my friends bragged about his Leica camera made in the Soviet Union. He claimed his Soviet Leica was superior to those made in Germany. I was envious. I did not know they were made in Kharkov until recently, and I bought two of those Soviet Leicas called FED cameras.
The immediate answer could be that Kharkov had a strong scientific and industrial base.
To tell the truth, I did not know Kharkov was Landau's homebase until I went there in 2000 to participate in the Volkov memorial conference.
It is possible that Landau and his people decided to choose Kharkov as their homebase because of the human environment of beautiful hearts and minds.
Please send us the links to your articles about Landau.
Arkady L.Kholodenko, Landau's Last Paper and its Impact on Developments in Mathematics, Physics and Other Disciplines in New Millennium
copyright@2008 by Y. S. Kim, unless otherwise specified.