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Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg

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Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg

Vitaly Ginzburg
Born Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg
(1916-10-04)October 4, 1916
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died November 8, 2009(2009-11-08) (aged 93)
Moscow, Russia
Nationality Russia
Fields Theoretical Physics
Institutions P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute
Alma mater Moscow State University
Doctoral advisor Igor Tamm
Doctoral students Viatcheslav Mukhanov
Known for Superconductivity, Plasmas, Superfluidity, Ferroelectricity
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (2003)
Wolf Prize in Physics (1994/95)
Spouse Olga Zamsha Ginzburg (1937-1946; divorced; 1 child)
Nina Yermakova Ginzburg (m. 1946)

Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg, ForMemRS[1] (Russian: Вита́лий Ла́заревич Ги́нзбург; October 4, 1916 – November 8, 2009) was a Soviet and Russian theoretical physicist, astrophysicist, Nobel laureate, a member of the Soviet and Russian Academies of Sciences and one of the fathers of Soviet hydrogen bomb.[2][3] 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.[4]


He was born to a Jewish family in Moscow in 1916, the son of an engineer Lazar Efimovich Ginzburg and a doctor Augusta Felgenauer, 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. In 1944, he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Among his achievements are a partially phenomenological theory of superconductivity, the Ginzburg-Landau theory, developed with Lev 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.[5]

In 1937, Ginzburg married Olga Zamsha.

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 Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.[6]

Ginzburg was the editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk.[3] He also headed the Academic Department of Physics and Astrophysics Problems, which Ginzburg founded at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in 1968.[7]

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.[8]

In the 2000s (decade) Ginzburg was politically active, supporting the Russian liberal opposition and human rights movement.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] He criticized clericalism in the press and wrote several books devoted to the questions of religion and atheism.[12][13] Because of this, some Orthodox Christian groups denounced him and said no science award could excuse his verbal attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church.[14] 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.[2][15] He had been suffering from ill health for several years,[15] 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."[15]

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".[15] 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."[16]

Ginzburg was buried on November 11 in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, the resting place of many famous politicians, writers and scientists of Russia.[2]

Honors and awards

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the русский World Heritage Encyclopedia.
  • Order of Merit for the Fatherland;
    • 1st class (4 October 2006) - for outstanding contribution to the development of national science and many years of fruitful activity
    • 3rd class (3 October 1996) - for outstanding scientific achievements and the training of highly qualified personnel
  • Order of Lenin (1954)
  • Order of the Red Banner of Labour, twice (1956, 1986)
  • Order of the Badge of Honour, twice (1954, 1975)
  • Medal "For Valiant Labour in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945" (1946)
  • Medal "In Commemoration of the 800th Anniversary of Moscow" (1948)
  • Medal "For Valiant Labour. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin" (1970)
  • Vavilov Gold Medal (1995) - for outstanding work in physics, including a series of papers on the theory of radiation by uniformly moving sources

See also

  • List of Jewish Nobel laureates


External links

  • Vitaly L. Ginzburg, Autobiography in English at
  • Ginzburg's homepage
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Open letter to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir V. Putin
  • The Daily Telegraph 11 Nov 2009.
  • The Independent 14 Nov 2009 (by Martin Childs).
  • (Russian) Biography
  • (Russian) Obituary

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