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 Yakov Zeldovich

Born:   March 8, 1914
Deceased:   December 2, 1987

famous Soviet physicist and astrophysicist


Zeldovich Yakov Borisovich, famous Soviet physicist and astrophysicist, was born in Minsk of Belarus on March 8 of 1914. His family moved to Petrograd (later known as Leningrad and St.Petersburg) soon after his birth. In 1930 young Yakov Zeldovich worked as a laboratory technician in the Institute of Mechanical Conversion of Mineral Resources. The following year he changed his workplace and was enrolled in the Institute of Chemical Physics, which became his second home for the rest of his life. At that time future scientist could not boast higher education, thus he dedicated almost all his spare time to self-education, and his colleagues did their best to help him.

Three years between 1932 and 1934 Yakov Borisovich was a part-time student of physics and mathematics faculty of Leningrad State University, but never graduated from this educational institution. In 1934 talented young man was admitted as a PhD student of physics and mathematics faculty of Polytechnic Institute and two years later defended his dissertation. In 1938 Zeldovich headed the laboratory of the Institute of Chemical Physics and prepared his Doctor Thesis in 1939.

Great Patriotic War (World War II) led the institute to move to Kazan in 1941, and in 1943 Yakov Borisovich and his laboratory ended up in Moscow. In February 1948 Yakov Zeldovich got involved into defense research, dealing with nuclear and hydrogen bombs. That work resulted in Lenin Prize for talented physicist. Since 1965 Yakov Borisovich headed the Institute of Applied Mathematics, and the same year he became the professor of physics faculty of Moscow State University and head of relativistic astrophysics department of State Institute of Astronomy.



Black hole
Theoretical astrophysics and cosmology became Zeldovich’s playground in early sixties. Yakov Borisovich was among fathers of relativistic astrophysics, new field of science, where general relativity theory was applied to astrophysical objects. The physicist developed a structure theory of superheavy stars, which are billion times heavier than our Sun. Another coin was a theory of compact star systems – these two theories can describe possible processes, taking place in galactic nuclei and quasars. Yakov Borisovich was the first to give a detailed description of last stages of evolution for stars with various mass and investigated conditions for a star to collapse into black hole or to become a neutron star. The scientist thoroughly studied properties of black holes and processes, taking place in their environment, and showed that these objects emitted X-rays in close binaries.

In 1962 Yakov Zeldovich showed that not only a massive star could collapse – this was a matter of density, not weigh. In 1970 the scientists discovered that rotating black holes spontaneously emitted electromagnetic radiation, thus giving ground to Stephen Hawking’s discovery of "quantum evaporation" of black holes.

His contribution to cosmology is also enormous. Main research problem for Yakov Zeldovich was formation of large-scale structure of the Universe. The scientists studied initial stages of cosmological expansion of the Universe, and his work resulted in a theory of interaction of expanding Universe’s hot plasma and radiation.



Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect
Zeldovich predicted several physical effects, which later found experimental proof. Recently researchers discovered vast empty spaces in the Universe. These spaces are surrounded by clusters of galaxies. Moreover, scientists detected decrease of luminance temperature of background radiation towards galactic clusters with hot intergalactic gas. This effect is called the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect and can help determine the value of the Hubble constant. Main research of the effect was conducted together with Rashid Sunyaev in 1969, 1972 and 1980.

Yakov Zeldovich was also studying formation of magnetic fields of stars and galaxies. His contribution to fundamental physics was huge: theories of knocking and burning, theory of shock waves and high-temperature hydrodynamic phenomena, nuclear power engineering, nuclear physics and elementary particle physics.

Yakov Borisovich Zeldovich was a member of Royal Society of London, National Academy of Sciences (USA) and many more scientific academies of the world.

Eminent scientist died in Moscow on December 2, 1987.


Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian science     

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