Pyotr Kapitsa

Pyotr Kapitsa
Pyotr Kapitsa

Born Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa
8 July 1894(1894-07-08)
Kronstadt, Russian Empire
Died 8 April 1984(1984-04-08) (aged 89)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Citizenship Soviet Union
Nationality Soviet Union
Fields Physics
Known for Superfluidity
Notable awards Franklin Medal (1944)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1978)

Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa (Russian Пётр Леони́дович Капи́ца) (8 July [O.S. 26 June] 1894[1] – 8 April 1984) was a prominent Soviet/Russian physicist and Nobel laureate.



Kapitsa was born in the city of Kronstadt and graduated from the Petrograd Polytechnical Institute in 1918. He worked for over ten years with Ernest Rutherford in the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1929 and was the first director (1930–34) of the Mond Laboratory in Cambridge. In the 1920s he originated techniques for creating ultrastrong magnetic fields by injecting high current for brief periods into specially constructed air-core electromagnets. In 1928 he discovered the linear dependence of resistivity on magnetic field for various metals in very strong magnetic fields.

In the 1930s he started doing low temperature research, beginning with a critical analysis of the existing methods for obtaining low temperatures. In 1934 he developed new and original apparatus (based on the adiabatic principle) for making significant quantities of liquid helium.

Kapitsa formed the Institute for Physical Problems, in part using equipment which the Soviet government bought from the Mond Laboratory in Cambridge (with the assistance of Rutherford, once it was clear that Kapitsa would not be permitted to return).

In Russia, Kapitsa began a series of experiments to study liquid helium, leading to the discovery in 1937 of its superfluidity (not to be confused with superconductivity). He reported the properties of this new state of matter in a series of papers, for which he was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for basic inventions and discoveries in the area of low-temperature physics". In 1939 he developed a new method for liquefaction of air with a low-pressure cycle using a special high-efficiency expansion turbine. Consequently, during World War II he was assigned to head the Department of Oxygen Industry attached to the USSR Council of Ministers, where he developed his low-pressure expansion techniques for industrial purposes. He invented high power microwave generators (1950–1955) and discovered a new kind of continuous high pressure plasma discharge with electron temperatures over 1,000,000K.

In November 1945, Kapitsa quarreled with Lavrentiy Beria, head of the NKVD writing to Joseph Stalin about Beria's ignorance of physics and his arrogance. Amazingly, Stalin backed Kapitsa, telling Beria he had to get on with the scientists. Kapitsa refused to meet Beria: "If you want to speak to me, then come to the Institute." Kapitsa refused to work with Beria even when he gave him a hunting rifle. Stalin offered to meet Kapitsa, this never happened.[2]

Immediately after the war, a group of prominent Soviet scientists (including Kapitsa in particular) lobbied the government to create a new technical university, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Kapitsa taught there for many years. From 1957, he was also a member of the presidium of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and at his death in 1984 was the only presidium member who was not also a member of the Communist Party.[3]

Kapitsa (left) and Nikolay Semyonov, the two Nobel laureates (portrait by Boris Kustodiev, 1921).

In 1978, Kapitsa won the Nobel Prize in Physics for the work in low temperature physics that he did about 1937. He shared this prize with Arno Allan Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson (who won for work unrelated to Kapitsa's).

Kapitsa resistance is the thermal resistance (which causes a temperature discontinuity) at the interface between liquid helium and a solid.

Kapitsa was married in 1927 to Anna Alekseevna Krylova, daughter of applied mathematician A.N. Krylov. They had two sons, Sergei and Andrei.

A minor planet 3437 Kapitsa, discovered by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina in 1982, is named after him.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Britannica online
  2. ^ Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin, pp 446-7
  3. ^ Graham, Loren R. 1994. Science in Russia and the Soviet Union: A Short History. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521287898. p. 212
  4. ^ Dictionary of Minor Planet Names - p.287

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pyotr Kapitsa — Piotr Kapitsa Semionov (à droite) et Kapitsa, portrait par Boris Koustodiev en 1921 Piotr Leonidovitch Kapitsa (en russe : Пётр Леонидович Капица), (9 juillet 1894 8 avril 1984) est un …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Pyotr Kapitsa — Kapiza (links) und Semjonow. Porträt von Kustodijew (1921) Pjotr Leonidowitsch Kapiza (russisch Пётр Леонидович Капица; * 26. Junijul./ 8. Juli 1894 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Kapitsa — ( Капица en alfabéto cirílico ruso) apellido ruso; las personas con tal apellido más destacadas son: Andrei Kapitsa o Andrey Kapitsa (a veces conocido por las transliteraciones de su nombre al inglés, francés, alemán etc. como Andrej Kapitsa o… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Kapitsa-Dirac effect — The Kapitsa Dirac effect is a quantum mechanical effect consisting in the diffraction of a well collimatedclarifyme particle beam (often an electron beam), by a standing wave of light. [ cite journal|title=The Kapitza Dirac… …   Wikipedia

  • Kapitsa, Pyotr Leonidovich — ▪ Soviet physicist also spelled  Kapitza  born June 26 [July 8, New Style], 1894, Kronshtadt, Russian Empire died April 8, 1984, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.       Soviet physicist who invented new machines for liquefaction of gases and in 1937… …   Universalium

  • Pyotr Leonidovitch Kapitsa — Piotr Kapitsa Semionov (à droite) et Kapitsa, portrait par Boris Koustodiev en 1921 Piotr Leonidovitch Kapitsa (en russe : Пётр Леонидович Капица), (9 juillet 1894 8 avril 1984) est un …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Kapitsa,Pyotr Leonidovich — Ka·pi·tsa (käʹpyĭ tsə), Pyotr Leonidovich. 1894 1984. Russian physicist. He shared a 1978 Nobel Prize for his inventions and discoveries concerning low temperature physics. * * * …   Universalium

  • Kapitsa — biographical name Pyotr Leonidovich 1894 1984 Russian physicist …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Kapitsa — /kah pyi tseuh/, n. Pyotr L(eonidovich) /pyawtrdd lyi u nyee deuh vyich/, 1894 1984, Russian physicist: Nobel prize 1978. Also, Kapitza. * * * …   Universalium

  • Kapitsa — Ka•pi•tsa or Ka•pi•tza [[t]ˈkɑp yɪt sə[/t]] n. big Pyotr L(eonidovich), 1894–1984, Russian physicist …   From formal English to slang

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