Igor Evgenevich Tamm

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Igor Tamm, 1958

Igor Tamm ( Russian Игорь Евгеньевич Тамм ., Scientific transliteration Igor Tamm Evgen'evič * June 26 jul. / 8. July  1895 greg. In Vladivostok ; † 12. April 1971 in Moscow ) was a Soviet physicist .

In 1958, Tamm received the Nobel Prize in Physics "for the discovery and interpretation of the Cherenkov effect " together with Pawel Cherenkov and Ilja Frank . He is also known, together with Andrei Sakharov , for developing the tokamak principle.


Tamm was the son of Yevgeny Tamm, an engineer of Russian-German origin, and Olga Dawydowa. He attended high school in Yelisavetgrad in Ukraine . He studied in 1913/14 with his school friend Boris Hessen at the University of Edinburgh and then at the Lomonossow University in Moscow, which he graduated with a physics diploma in 1918.

He then taught at universities in the Crimea and Lomonosov University, at polytechnics and physics engineering institutes and at the Sverdlov Communist University . Tamm acquired the Russian doctorate (corresponds to the habilitation ) under Leonid Mandelstam , with whom he worked closely until his death in 1944. In 1928 he spent a short time abroad with Paul Ehrenfest in Leiden . From 1934 he was head of the theory department of the Lebedev Institute for Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union , the FIAN.

In the 1930s, like Mandelstam, he temporarily lost his chair due to campaigns against modern physics. His talented student Semjon Schubin fell victim to the Stalinist terror in 1938 .

Tamm was an eminent theoretical physicist and the founder of an influential Soviet school of theoretical physics. He occupied himself z. B. with crystal optics or solid-state optics, quantum mechanics (in 1945 he developed the Tamm-Dancoff approximation ), quantum field theory and the physics of elementary particles , which were then investigated using cosmic rays and, for their proof, the Cherenkov effect, which he theoretically investigated should become of fundamental importance. Together with Andrei Sakharov , Tamm went down in the history of science for the discovery of the tokamak principle, which describes the magnetic confinement of plasma in a fusion reactor and is the basis for most of the work on energy generation from nuclear fusion . They had the idea for this as early as 1950. That year, Tamm moved to a secret research facility in Sarov as head of a working group that was supposed to investigate theoretical concepts for the first Soviet hydrogen bomb . Sakharov was a member of his team, and the first Soviet hydrogen bomb was developed according to his concept, which was then tested in 1953. After the test in 1953, Tamm went back to FIAN.

In 1944 his application to the chair of theoretical physics at Lomonosov University (MGU) was rejected (despite ten years of successful teaching activity and his high reputation as an academician), and from the late 1940s he was unable to teach at Lomonosov University for a time. This was in connection with a power struggle between the university physicists and the academy physicists, which also included the Mandelstam School. The academy physicists got the upper hand again after Stalin's death in 1953, after many of them had excelled in the Soviet atomic bomb project. Tamm was also able to teach again (like Landau ) at Lomonossow University.

The numerous prizes and awards that accompanied his scientific work were crowned by the Nobel Prize for Physics , which Tamm received in 1958 together with Pawel Alexejewitsch Tscherenkow and Ilja Michailowitsch Frank "for the discovery and interpretation of the Cherenkov effect ". Already in 1946 he had received the Stalin Prize (State Prize of the USSR) with Frank, Cherenkov and Sergei Ivanovich Wawilow . In 1954 he had received the State Prize of the USSR again with Sakharov and Kurchatov . In 1933 he became a corresponding and in 1953 a full member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR . He was a hero of socialist work , a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences , the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1961), the Swedish Physical Society and the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina . In 1967 he received the Lomonosov gold medal.

The Tamm Prize in Theoretical Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which has been awarded since 1980, is named in his honor .

His son Yevgeny (1926-2008) was a well-known physicist and mountaineer.


  • Relativistic interaction of elementary particles , 1935 (Russian)
  • About the Magnetic Moment of the Neutron , 1938 (Russian)
  • Ginzburg (editor): Collected works . 2 volumes, Nauka, 1975 (Russian)

Web links

Commons : Igor Tamm  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Krugoswet, Igor Evgenjewitsch Tamm (Russian)
  2. ^ American Institute of Physics website on Sakharov's work on the hydrogen bomb
  3. Gennady Gorelik: "My anti-Soviet activity ..." - Russian physicist under Stalin , Vieweg 1995. On Tamm, for example, in the printed letter from Sergei Tichonowitsch Konobejewski (1890–1970), who was soon to be replaced by the dean of the physics faculty at Lomonossow University. , to Stalin from 1947 (Gorelik, p. 233)
  4. Biography at the Nobel Foundation
  5. ^ Member entry by Igor E. Tamm at the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina , accessed on October 12, 2012.