Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa
Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa was active in the international Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, founded in 1957 to provide a forum for influential scientists and public figures concerned with reducing the danger of armed conflict. Although the discovery of superfluidity stands as one of the most significant in physics in the 20th century, it was to be 40 years before the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences honoured this seminal discovery with a Nobel prize - an exceptionally long interval. In 1978 Kapitsa, by then 84, was awarded half of that year’s Nobel Prize for Physics.
Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa was born on June 26 (July 9), 1894 in the port and the naval fortress of Kronstadt in a noble family. His father, Leonid Kapitsa, was a military engineer, major general of the Russian army, his mother was a teacher, researcher of Russian folklore. In 1905 he entered the gymnasium. A year later, due to poor academic performance in Latin, he transferred to the Kronstad real school. In 1914, P.L. Kapitsa entered the Electromechanical Department of the Petersburg Polytechnic Institute. There, the outstanding physicist A.F. Joffe noted the student’s ability to physics and played an outstanding role in his formation as a scientist. In 1916, in the Journal of the Russian Physicochemical Society, the first scientific works of P.L. Kapitsa “Inertia of electrons in ampere molecular currents” and “Preparation of Wollaston filaments”.
At the beginning of 1915 P.L. Kapitsa was on the front of the First World War for several months, and, working as a driver of an ambulance, he drove the wounded on the Polish front.
Due to the turbulent revolutionary events P.L. Kapitsa graduated from the Polytechnic Institute only in 1919. From 1918 to 1921 he was Lecturer at the Petrograd Polytechnic Institute, at the same time worked as a researcher in the Department of Physics of this institute.
In the terrible conditions following the Russian Revolution and the Civil War, food and fuel were in short supply; famine and epidemics broke out. Kapitsa lost his father and young wife, whom he had married in 1916, and his two small children [a son aged 1.5 years and a newborn daughter three days old] to scarlet fever and the Spanish influenza. Overwhelmed by these tragic losses, he was unable to work for a time. To help him in this difficult personal situation, Ioffe appointed Kapitsa to join a commission of the Russian Academy of Sciences for renewing scientific relations with other countries.
In the same 1920, P.L. Kapitsa and future world famous physicist and Nobel laureate N.N. Semenov propose a method for determining the magnetic moment of the atom, based on the interaction of the atomic beam with an inhomogeneous magnetic field. This scientific work of Kapitsa was the first notable experience in the field of atomic physics.
Joffe believed that a promising young physicist needed to continue his studies at a reputable foreign scientific school, but it was not possible to organize travel abroad for a long time. Thanks to the intervention of Maxim Gorky in 1921, Kapitsa, as part of a special commission, was sent on a scientific mission to England. Kapitsa obtained admission to the internship at the Cavendish Laboratory of the great physicist Ernst Rutherford in Cambridge. At first, the relationship between Rutherford and Kapitsa was not easy, but gradually the Soviet physicist managed to gain his trust and soon they became very close friends. The investigations made by him in this laboratory in the field of magnetic fields brought P.L. Kapitsa world fame. In 1923, he became a doctor at Cambridge University, in 1925 - an assistant director for magnetic research at the Cavendish Laboratory, in 1926 - director of the Magnetic Laboratory he created as part of the Cavendish Laboratory. In 1928, he discovered the law of a linear, in magnetic field, increase in the electrical resistance of metals (Kapitsa law).
For these and other scientific achievements in 1929 P.L. Kapitsa was elected a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences and, in the same year, a full member of the Royal Society of London. In April 1934, for the first time in the world, he received liquid helium in a plant he created. This discovery gave a powerful impetus to research in low-temperature physics.
Until 1934 P.L. Kapitsa and his family lived in England and regularly came to the USSR on vacation and to see relatives. The government of the USSR several times invited him to stay at home, but the scientist invariably refused. In 1934, during one of the visits to the USSR for teaching and advisory work P.L. Kapitsa was detained in the USSR (he was refused permission to leave). The reason was the fear of the Soviet leadership that he would remain abroad, and the desire to continue his scientific work in the USSR. Kapitsa was initially categorically against this decision, since he had an excellent scientific base in England and wanted to continue research there. In 1934, the Institute of Physical Problems of the USSR Academy of Sciences was established by a resolution of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR and Kapitsa was temporarily appointed its first director (in 1935 he was approved in this position at a session of the USSR Academy of Sciences). He was asked to create a powerful scientific center in the USSR, for which, with the assistance of the Soviet government, he was delivered all the equipment of his laboratory from England.
In his letters of the late 1930s, P.L. Kapitsa admitted that the opportunities for work in the USSR were inferior to those that were abroad - this is despite the fact that he received at his disposal a scientific institution and practically had no problems with financing. It was depressing that the problems solved in England by a single telephone call were mired in bureaucracy. The harsh statements of the scientist and the exceptional conditions created by him by the authorities did not contribute to establishing mutual understanding with colleagues in the academic environment.
From 1936 to 1938 P.L. Kapitsa developed a method of liquefying air using a low-pressure cycle and a highly efficient turboexpander, which predetermined the development of modern large-scale air separation plants for the production of oxygen, nitrogen and inert gases worldwide. In 1940, he made a new fundamental scientific discovery - superfluidity of liquid helium (during the transition of heat from a solid to liquid helium, a temperature jump occurs at the interface, which is called the Kapitsa jump; the value of this jump increases sharply with decreasing temperature).
In January 1939 P.L. Kapitsa was elected a full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
During the Great Patriotic War, together with the Institute of Physical Problems P.L. Kapitsa evacuated to Kazan and returned to Moscow in August 1943. In 1941-1945 he was a member of the Scientific and Technical Council under the Commissioner of the USSR State Defense Committee. In 1942, P.L. Kapitsa developed a plant for the production of liquid oxygen, on the basis of which in 1943 the Experimental Plant was put into operation at the Institute of Physical Problems.
In May 1943, Academician P.L. Kapitsa was appointed head of the Main Directorate of the Oxygen Industry at the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR (Glavkislorod).
In January 1945, the TK-2000 liquid oxygen production unit was put into operation in Balashikha with a capacity of 40 tons of liquid oxygen per day (almost 20% of the total liquid oxygen production in the USSR).
For the successful scientific development of a new turbine method for producing oxygen and for the creation of a powerful turbo-oxygen unit for the production of liquid oxygen, by a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR dated April 30, 1945, Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa was awarded the title Hero of Socialist Labor with the award of the Order of Lenin and the Gold Hammer and Sickle Medal.
Naturally, a world-famous physicist was one of the first to be involved in work on the atomic project of the USSR. August 20, 1945 I.V. Stalin signed the Decree on the creation of a uranium management body — the Special Committee of the GKO of the USSR. The same decree for the direct management of research ... and industrial enterprises on the use of atomic energy of uranium and the production of atomic bombs under the Special Committee created a Technical Council of 10 people, which included P.L. Kapitsa. In the Tech Council, he led the commission for heavy water.
On November 13, 1945, the Technical Council of the Special Committee heard the question: “V. On the organization of research on the peaceful uses of atomic energy (commission of the Special Committee). At the meeting, it was decided: to charge TT. Kapice P.L. (convocation), Kurchatov I.V., Pervukhin M.G. within a month, prepare and submit for consideration by the Council proposals on the organization (volume, program and participants) of research on the use of intra-atomic energy for peaceful purposes ... ”. (For several reasons, this order was not fulfilled. According to the certificate on the progress of the execution of the TS orders, P.L. Kapitsa had to make proposals on the use of production wastes for peaceful purposes).
However, on November 25, 1945 P.L. Kapitsa sent a letter to I.V. Stalin about the organization of work on the problem of the atomic bomb and asking for his release from work in the Special Committee and the Technical Council.
“Comrade Stalin, for almost four months I have been sitting and actively participating in the work of the Special Committee and the Technical Council for the Atomic Bomb (AB). In this letter, I decided to give you a detailed account of my thoughts on the organization of this work with us and also ask you to once again free me from participating in it.
"In the organization of work on A.B., it seems to me that there is a lot of abnormality. In any case, what is being done now is not the shortest and cheapest way to create it. The task before us is this: America, spending $ 2 billion, in 3-4 years did AB, which is now the most powerful weapon of war and destruction. If we use so far known reserves of thorium and uranium, then they would be enough to destroy everything that is on the dry surface of the globe 5-7 times in a row.
"But it’s stupid and ridiculous to think that the main possibility of using atomic energy will be its destructive power. Its role in culture will undoubtedly be no less than oil, coal and other sources of energy, moreover, its energy reserves in the earth's crust are greater and it has the unusual advantage that the same energy is concentrated ten million times less weight than conventional combustible. A gram of uranium or thorium is equivalent to about 10 tons of coal. A gram of uranium is a piece of half a silver dime, and 10 tons is a load of coal from almost an entire platform.
"Secret A.B. unknown to us. The secret to key issues is carefully guarded and is the most important state secret of America alone. So far, the information received is not enough to create AB, often they are given to us, undoubtedly, in order to lead us astray. To implement AB, the Americans spent $ 2 billion, which is approximately 30 billion rubles for our industrial products. Almost all of this should be spent on construction and engineering. During reconstruction and in 2-3 years it is unlikely that we can raise it. So we can’t quickly go along the American path, but if we go, we’ll lag behind anyway ...
"Life has shown that I could force myself to obey only as Kapitsa, the chief of the headquarters at the Council of People's Commissars, and not as a world-famous Kapitsa scientist. Our cultural education is not yet enough to put Kapitsa the scientist above Kapitsa the chief. Even a comrade like Beria does not understand this. This is what happens now in solving the problem of A. B. The opinions of scientists are often taken with skepticism and behind the back they do in their own way.
"A special committee should teach comrades to believe scientists, and scientists, in turn, will make them feel more responsible, but this is not yet. This can only be done if responsibility is assigned to the scientists and comrades of the Special Committee to the same extent. And this is possible only when the position of science and scientist will be accepted by all as the main force, and not an auxiliary one, as it is now ...
Comrades Beria, Malenkov, Voznesensky behave in the Special Committee as superhuman. In particular, Comrade Beria ...
"I would like Comrade Beria got acquainted with this letter, because this is not a denunciation, but a useful criticism. I would tell him everything myself, but to see him is very troublesome. ”
I.V. Stalin decided to withdraw P.L. Kapitsa from the committee, but this conflict with L.P. Beria cost the scientist dearly: in 1946 he was removed from the post of head of the Glavkislor at the Council of Ministers of the USSR and from the post of director of the Institute of Physical Problems of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The only consolation was that he was not arrested.
Since Kapitsa was denied access to secret developments, and almost all the leading scientific and research institutions of the USSR were involved in the creation of atomic weapons, he was left without work for some time. In order not to sit idle, P.L. Kapitsa created a home laboratory in a summer house near Moscow, where he dealt with the problems of mechanics, hydrodynamics, high-power electronics and plasma physics.
In 1941-1949 He became a professor and head of the Department of General Physics of the Physics and Technology Faculty of Moscow State University, but in January 1950, for a demonstrative refusal to attend ceremonies in honor of the 70th anniversary of I.V. Stalin was fired from there. In the summer of 1950 P.L. Kapitsa was enlisted as a senior research fellow at the Institute of Crystallography of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, while he continued to research in his laboratory.
In the summer of 1953 after the arrest of L.P.Beria, Kapitsa reported on his personal developments and the results obtained in the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences. It was decided to continue research in August 1953 P.L.Kapitsa was appointed director of the Physical Laboratory of the USSR Academy of Sciences, which was then created. In 1955, he was re-appointed director of the Institute of Physical Problems of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (he headed it until the end of his life), and also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics. In these positions, the academician worked until the end of his life.
At the same time since 1956 P.L. Kapitsa headed the Department of Physics and Technology of Low Temperatures and was chairman of the Coordinating Council of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Supervised fundamental work in the field of low temperature physics, strong magnetic fields, high power electronics, plasma physics. The author of fundamental scientific works on this topic, which have been published many times in the USSR and many countries of the world.
For outstanding achievements in the field of physics, many years of scientific and teaching activities, Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of July 8, 1974 Pyotr Kapitsa was awarded the second gold medal "Hammer and Sickle" with the award of the Order of Lenin.
In later years, P.L. Kapitsa became interested in a controlled thermonuclear reaction. In 1978, Academician Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for fundamental inventions and discoveries in the field of low-temperature physics." The academician met the news of the award during his vacation in the sanatorium Barvikha. Kapitsa, contrary to tradition, devoted his Nobel speech not to those works that were awarded a prize, but to modern research. Kapitsa referred to the fact that he moved away from issues in the field of low-temperature physics about 30 years ago and is now passionate about other ideas. The Nobel laureate’s speech was called “Plasma and Controlled Thermonuclear Reaction”.
In difficult periods of the history of the homeland P.L. Kapitsa had always shown civic courage and integrity. So, during the period of mass repressions of the late 1930s, he achieved release under the personal guarantee of future academicians and world-famous scientists V.A. Fock and L.D. Landau . In the 1950s, he actively opposed the anti-scientific activities of T.D. Lysenko, having come into conflict with the support of the latter N.S. Khrushchev. In the 1970s, P.L. Kapitsa refused to sign a letter condemning Academician A.D. Sakharov , at the same time served and to take measures to improve the safety of nuclear power plants (10 years before the Chernobyl accident).
P.L. Kapitsa was a laureate of two Stalin Prizes of I degree (1941 - for the development of a turboexpander for low temperatures and its use for liquefying air, 1943 - for the discovery and study of the phenomenon of superfluidity of liquid helium). Grand Gold Medal of the USSR Academy of Sciences named after M.V. Lomonosov (1959).
The scientist received worldwide recognition during his life, having been elected a member of many academies and scientific societies. In particular, he was elected a member of the International Academy of Astronautics (1964), the International Academy of the History of Science (1971), a foreign member of the US National Academy of Sciences (1946), the Polish Academy of Sciences (1962), and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences ( 1966), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (1969), the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Yugoslavia, 1971), the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (1980), the Physical Society of Great Britain (1932), a member of the American Academy of Arts and sciences in Boston (USA, 1968), the Physical Society of the USA (1937), etc. P.L. Kapitsa is an honorary doctor of 10 universities, a full member of 6 scientific institutes.
P.L. Kapitsa was awarded the Six Orders of Lenin (1943, 1944, 1945, 1964, 1971, 1974), the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1954), medals, the Order of the Partisan Star (Yugoslavia) , 1964).
Kapitsa was director of the Institute for Physical Problems. Since 1957 he was a member of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He was one of the founders of the Moscow Physico-Technical Institute (MFTI), and head of the department of low temperature physics and cryogenics of MFTI and chairman of the Coordination Council of this teaching Institute. He was the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics and member of the Soviet National Committee of the Pugwash movement of scientists for peace and disarmament.
He was married in 1927 to Anna Alekseevna Krylova, daughter of Academician A.N. Krylov. They had two sons, Sergei and Andrei.
P.L. Kapitsa died on April 8, 1984. He was buried in Moscow at the Novodevichy cemetery.
P.L. Kapitza has a bronze bust in the Soviet park of Kronstadt. In the same place, in Kronstadt, on the facade of school building No. 425 on Uritsky Street, house No. 7/1, a memorial plaque of red granite was installed on which was carved: “In this building, a former real school, Peter Leonidovich studied in 1907-1912 Kapitsa, an outstanding Soviet physicist, academician, twice Hero of Socialist Labor, Nobel laureate. " Plaques were also erected in St. Petersburg on the building of the Polytechnic University and in Moscow on the building of the Institute of Physical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in which he worked. The Russian Academy of Sciences established the P.L. Gold Medal Kapitsa (1994).
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