Lev Landau

Lev Landau

Infobox Scientist
name = Lev Davidovich Landau

imagesize = 170px
birth_date = birth date|1908|1|22|mf=y
birth_place = Baku, Russian Empire
death_date = death date and age|1968|4|1|1908|1|22
death_place = Moscow, Soviet Union
field = Physics
alma_mater = Saint Petersburg State University
doctoral_students = nowrap|Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov
Isaak Markovich Khalatnikov
work_institution = Kharkiv University
Kharkiv Polytechnical Institute
Institute for Physical Problems
known_for = Superfluidity, superconductivity
prizes = nowrap|Nobel Prize in Physics (1962)

Lev Davidovich Landau (Russian language: Ле́в Дави́дович Ланда́у) (January 22, 1908 – April 1, 1968) was a prominent Soviet physicist who made fundamental contributions to many areas of theoretical physics. His accomplishments include the co-discovery of the density matrix method in quantum mechanics, the quantum mechanical theory of diamagnetism, the theory of superfluidity, the theory of second order phase transitions, the Ginzburg-Landau theory of superconductivity, the explanation of Landau damping in plasma physics, the Landau pole in quantum electrodynamics, and the two-component theory of neutrinos. He received the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physics for his development of a mathematical theory of superfluidity that accounts for the properties of liquid helium II at a temperature below 2.17 K (−270.98 °C).


Early years

Landau was born January 22, 1908 into a Jewish family in Baku, Azerbaijan. Recognized very early as a child prodigy in mathematics, Landau was quoted as saying in later life that he scarcely remembered a time when he was not familiar with calculus. Landau graduated at 13 from gymnasium. His parents regarded him too young to attend university, so for a year attended the Baku Economical Technicum. In 1922, at age 14, he matriculated at Baku State University, studying in two departments simultaneously: Physico-Mathematical and Chemical. Subsequently he ceased studying Chemistry, but remained interested in the field throughout his life.

In 1924, he moved to the main centre of Soviet physics at the time: the Physics Department of Leningrad University. In Leningrad, he first made the acquaintance of genuine theoretical physics and dedicated himself fully to its study, graduating in 1927. Landau subsequently enrolled for post-graduate study at the Leningrad Physico-Technical Institute, and at 21, received a doctorate. Landau got his first chance to travel abroad in 1929, on a Soviet government traveling fellowship supplemented by a Rockefeller fellowship. After brief stays in Göttingen and Leipzig, he went to Copenhagen to work in Niels Bohr's Institute for Theoretical Physics. After the visit, Landau always considered himself a pupil of Bohr's, and his attitude to physics was greatly influenced by Bohr's example. After his stay in Copenhagen he visited Cambridge and Zürich before returning to the Soviet Union. In the period of 1932-1937 he headed the department of theoretical physics at Kharkov Mechanics and Machine Building Institute.

The Landau school

Apart from his theoretical accomplishments, Landau was the principal founder of a great tradition of theoretical physics in the Soviet Union centered at Kharkov (now Kharkiv, Ukraine), sometimes referred to as the "Landau school". He was the head of the Theoretical Division at the Institute for Physical Problems from 1937 until 1962 when, as a result of a car accident, he suffered injuries from which he was never able to recover fully. [Dorozynski] His students include Lev Pitaevskii, Alexei Abrikosov, Arkady Levanyuk, Evgeny Lifshitz, Lev Gor'kov, Isaak Khalatnikov and Boris Ioffe.

Landau developed a comprehensive exam called the "Theoretical Minimum" which students were expected to pass before admission to the school. The exam covered all aspects of theoretical physics, and between 1943 and 1961 only 43 candidates passed. In this way his students became proper physicists, rather than narrow specialists.

It was also in Kharkov that, with his friend and former student, E.M. Lifshitz, he began writing the well-known "Course of Theoretical Physics", ten volumes that together span the whole of the subject and are still widely used as graduate-level physics texts.

Great Purge

During the Great Purge, Landau was investigated within the UPTI Affair in Kharkov, but he managed to leave for Moscow. Still, he was arrested on April 27, 1938 and held in an NKVD prison until his release on April 29, 1939 after his colleague Pyotr Kapitsa, an experimental low-temperature physicist, wrote a letter to Stalin, personally vouching for Landau's behavior.

Death and legacy

On January 7, 1962, Landau's car collided with an oncoming lorry. He was severely injured and spent three months in a coma. Landau never fully recovered, and was much less creative than before the accident. His death on April 1, 1968 was also a consequence of the injuries from the accident.

In 1965 former students and coworkers of Landau founded the
Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics, located in thesmall town of Chernogolovka near Moscow, and headed for thefollowing three decades by Isaak Markovich Khalatnikov.

The minor planet 2142 Landau discovered in 1972 by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Chernykh is named in his honor. [cite book | last = Schmadel | first = Lutz D. | coauthors = | title = Dictionary of Minor Planet Names | pages = p. 174 | edition = 5th | year = 2003 | publisher = Springer Verlag | location = New York | url =http://books.google.com/books?q=2141+Simferopol+1970 | id = ISBN 3540002383] The lunar crater Landau is named in his honor.

Landau's list

Landau kept a list of names of physicists which he ranked on a logarithmic scale of productivity ranging from 0 to 5. The highest ranking, a 0, was assigned to Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein received a 0.5. A rank of 1 was awarded to Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Paul Dirac and Erwin Schrödinger, the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, as well as Satyendra Nath Bose and Eugene Wigner. Landau ranked himself as a 2.5 but later promoted himself to a 2. David Mermin, writing about Landau, referred to the scale, and ranked himself in the fourth division, writing "My Life with Landau: Homage of a 4.5 to a 2".cite book | last = Hey | first = Tony | title = Einstein's Mirror | publisher = Cambridge University Press | date = 1997| pages = p. 1 | id = ISBN 0-521-43532-3] [ [http://www.aip.org/pt/vol-59/iss-11/p10.html "Physics Today"] , November 2006, letter from Asoke Mitra] In spite of his low self-regard, he is universally considered one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century.


Landau and Lifshitz "Course of Theoretical Physics"
* vol. 1: "Mechanics". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
* vol. 2: "The Classical Theory of Fields". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
* vol. 3: "Quantum Mechanics: Non-Relativistic Theory". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
* vol. 4: "Quantum Electrodynamics". V. B. Berestetsky, E. M. Lifshitz and L. P. Pitaevskii
* vol. 5: "Statistical Physics Pt. 1". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
* vol. 6: "Fluid Mechanics". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
* vol. 7: "Theory of Elasticity". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz
* vol. 8: "Electrodynamics of Continuous Media". L. D. Landau, E. M. Lifshitz and L. P. Pitaevskii
* vol. 9: "Statistical Physics Pt. 2". E. M. Lifshitz, L. P. Pitaevskii
* vol. 10: "Physical Kinetics". E. M. Lifshitz, L. P. Pitaevskii

Other books
* "General Physics, Mechanics and Molecular Physics". A. I. Akhiezer, E. M. Lifshitz

ome books about Landau

* Dorozynski, Alexander (1965). "The Man They Wouldn't Let Die". (After Landau's 1962 car accident, the physics community around him rallied to attempt to save his life. They managed to prolong his life until 1968.)
* Landau-Drobantseva, Kora: [http://lib.ru/MEMUARY/LANDAU/landau.txt "Professor Landau: How We Lived"] (1999. In original Russian).
* I.M. Khalatnikov (editor): "Landau. The physicist and the man. Recollections of L.D. Landau" Translated from the Russian by J.B. Sykes. (Pergamon Press, 1989) ISBN 0-08-036383-0
* Janouch, Frantisek: "Lev D. Landau: His life and work" (CERN, 1979) ASIN B0007AUCL0
* Kojevnikov, Alexei B.: "Stalin's Great Science: The Times and Adventures of Soviet Physicists", History of Modern Physical Sciences Series. (Imperial College Press, 2004) ISBN 1-86094-420-5

ee also

* Landau-Hopf theory of turbulence
* Landau-Lifshitz-Gilbert equation
* Landau-Lifshitz model
* Landau (crater)
* Landau theory of second order phase transitions
* Ginzburg-Landau theory of superconductivity


Further reading

* [http://www.nobel-winners.com/Physics/lev_davidovich_landau.html Lev Davidovich Landau]
* [http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0204295v1 Landau’s Theoretical Minimum, Landau’s Seminar, ITEP in the Beginning of the 1950’s] by Boris L. Ioffe, Concluding talk at the workshop "QCD at the Threshold of the Fourth Decade/Ioeffest".
* [http://www.ejtp.info/landau.html EJTP Landau Issue 2008]

NAME= Landau, Lev Davidovich
DATE OF BIRTH= January 22, 1908
DATE OF DEATH= April 1, 1968

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