Lev Dawidowitsch Landau

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Lew Landau

Lev Landau ( Russian Лев Давидович Ландау ; born January 9 . Jul / 22. January  1908 greg. In Baku ; † 1. April 1968 in Moscow ) was a Soviet physicist and Nobel laureate .

life and work

Youth and education

House of the Landau family in Baku , where Lew Landau lived until 1924

Landau was the son of the engineer of the Caspian-Black Sea Joint-Stock Company Dawid Lwowitsch Landau (1866-1943), who worked in the oil fields near Baku . His mother was the pharmacologist Lyubow Harkavy-Landau . He came from the Jewish- Azeri Landau family, from which many well-known rabbis and scholars emerged. Landau finished school in 1921 and studied from 1922 at the physical, mathematical and chemical faculties of Baku University .

In 1924 he switched to the physics department of the University of Leningrad , where he became Abram Ioffe's assistant . Close study friends were George Gamow and Dmitri Ivanenko . Its first publication appeared in 1926. 1929 was Landau a research scholarship that made him Max Born (Göttingen), Paul Ehrenfest (Leiden), Werner Heisenberg (Leipzig) and Wolfgang Pauli (Zurich) led. He also visited Niels Bohr (in Copenhagen, where he was after 1929 also in 1933 and 1934) and Ernest Rutherford (Cambridge). During this time the collaboration with Rudolf Ernst Peierls also developed .

Kharkov years

After his return to Leningrad (1931), Landau took over the management of the department for theoretical physics at the Physics-Technical Institute at the University of Kharkov , where he also took over a professorship for theoretical physics at the Institute for Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering in 1933. Basis of merit, he was in 1934, without proof of the dissertation , the doctoral degrees awarded. In 1935 he received a professorship in general physics at Kharkov University.

Landau lived with Konkordija (Kora) Terentjewna Drobanzewa, a chemistry graduate and engineer in a confectionery factory, which he met in Kharkov in the mid-1930s. In 1946, the son Igor was born, and the couple officially married.

In Moscow

In 1937 he followed Pyotr Kapiza's call to the Physics Institute in Moscow, where he took over the management of the theoretical physics department. In April 1938, Landau was arrested by the secret service together with his friends Moisei Korez and Juri Rumer . According to Gennady Gorelik, the reason was an anti-Stalinist (but with socialist pathos ) leaflet that he wanted to distribute with his friends on May 1st. After his dismissal, which came about after courageous interference by Kapiza in 1939 with the head of the secret service Lavrenti Beria , he returned to the Moscow Institute, where he founded a scientific school, which produced several internationally known physicists.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he worked on the Soviet hydrogen bomb project . He organized the numerical calculations that were used to successfully predict the energy release of the first Soviet hydrogen bomb (which was built according to the ideas of Andrei Sakharov in the slojka (puff pastry) design). Landau was awarded two Stalin prizes (1949, 1953) and as a hero of socialist work (1954). In the 1950s he was at the Institute for Physical Problems of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (later the Kapiza Institute ). He was still mistrusted by the authorities, for example, despite his high reputation, he was not allowed to travel abroad to the West, and the management of the institute remained with Kapiza. One reason for this was that he didn't mince his words and was often sarcastic.

Last years

A serious accident occurred on January 7, 1962: On the way from Moscow to Dubna , Landau's car collided with an oncoming truck on an icy road. Eleven bones and the skull were broken. He struggled with death in the weeks that followed and had to be resuscitated at least four or six times. After three months, Landau woke up from the coma. However, he could never fully recover from the consequences of the accident, and he did not even come close to regaining his creativity, despite the support of his many students and the Soviet physicist community in his recovery. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in the same year , he could not accept it in person; Lew Landau ultimately died of the consequences of the car accident six years later on April 1, 1968.

Landau's research group became the nucleus of the world-famous Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Chernogolowka near Moscow, founded in 1965 . One of its first members is Alexei Alexejewitsch Abrikossow , who later won the Nobel Prize and who did research there until 1988.


Landau provided work on almost all areas of modern physics. After early research on quantum mechanics and magnetism , he investigated the diamagnetic properties of metals (including Landau quantization ) in 1930 , and in 1935 with Lifschitz he formulated a mathematical representation of the magnetization mechanisms in ferromagnetics and predicted ferromagnetic resonance (see also Landau-Lifschitz-Gilbert- Equation ). In one of his first publications he introduced the density matrix in 1927 (independently of John von Neumann around the same time). While working on cosmic radiation in 1938 he founded the cascade theory of the electron shower. Landau also began research in the field of low-temperature physics in the 1930s . In 1936/37 he developed the theory of type 2 phase transitions (for which superfluids are an example). From 1938 onwards he theoretically explained many of the properties of the superfluidity experimentally discovered by Kapiza in liquid helium-4 , at which a substance loses its viscous properties above a certain, substance-characteristic transition temperature . For example, he predicted the second sound and used phonons and rotons as elementary quasiparticle excitations of superfluids as an explanation. In 1940/41 he formulated the theory of superfluidity on a quantum mechanical basis. In 1950, Landau, together with Witali Ginsburg, set up the phenomenological theory of superconductivity, which summarized the electromagnetic properties of these conductors at extremely low temperatures ( Ginsburg-Landau theory ). In 1956 he developed the theory of Fermi fluids ( Landau-Fermi fluids ) named after him .

Towards the end of the 1950s, Landau was also working with his school on elementary particle theories and quantum field theories, an area that he had previously avoided despite the successes of Richard Feynman and others in the West. Here he and some other Soviet physicists such as B. Isaak Pomeranschuk the discovery of an inherent problem of quantum electrodynamics , the divergence of the coupling constants with increasing energy (or in other words, the "disappearance of the bare charge"). As a result, quantum field theory in general in the Russian school, which was strongly dominated by Landau, was viewed with great skepticism for a long time. After discovering the parity violation of the weak interaction, he proposed the CP symmetry as a new symmetry in 1957 , but in 1964 it was shown that this was also violated.

He also dealt with astrophysics, in 1932 he calculated the Chandrasekhar limit and predicted neutron stars (as Robert Oppenheimer a little later ), before the discovery of the neutron. Landau was also a critic of early star models, for example by Arthur Eddington . In plasma physics, the Landau damping (1946) and the Landau length are named after him. A later obsolete theory of turbulence (Landau-Hopf theory) comes from him (1944) and (independently) Eberhard Hopf and postulated a gradual increase in each new incommensurable frequency in the Fourier spectrum. The theory has long been popular as an explanation of how turbulence (chaos) occurs. In the end, the chaos theory from the 1970s onwards showed that completely different scenarios occur during the transition to chaos (such as strange attractors according to David Ruelle , Floris Takens with, in a certain sense, a finite number of degrees of freedom, but an infinite number of frequencies, period doubling and the fig tree scenario).

Together with Yevgeny M. Lifschitz and later a few other authors, he wrote a ten-volume, trend-setting textbook on theoretical physics (in the USSR from 1938, the first volume was Statistical Physics ), which, as a timeless work of high quality, has a great international influence . The textbook deals with a very broad spectrum of theoretical physics, corresponding to the wide-ranging interests of the Landau School. With its carefully worked out exercises, it also reflects the spirit of physics teaching at the Landau School. Anyone wishing to gain access there had to pass a series of written exams privately at Landau and his employees, the level of which was far above the state examinations (called "Theoretical Minimum" by Landau and his employees). Anyone could be examined by prior arrangement, even without university requirements. The exams consisted of around three, sometimes very difficult, tasks, for which the students each had an hour, with Landau or Lifschitz dropping in every 15 to 20 minutes: Schwieg Landau, that was a good sign, a hmmm denoted dissatisfaction, which after repeated repetition for could lead to premature termination. In total, only 43 students passed the exam. Among his students, among others, Lew Pitajewski , Alexei Abrikosov , Isaac Chalatnikow , Lew Gorkow , Isaac Pomerantschuk , Boris Joffe , László Tisza , Alexander Kompanejez , Benjamin Levich , Evgeny Lifshitz , Roald Sagdejew , Igor Dsjaloschinski , Alexander Pataschinski , Alexander Achijeser , Yakov Abramovich Smorodinski and Semyon Gerschtein . The Landau seminars were also well-known, in which Landau could interrupt with probing questions at any time if anything was unclear, which was formally permitted to others. According to an anecdote, when Landau visited Germany in the 1920s, Albert Einstein also interrupted a lecture when he made a mistake. Einstein thought for a moment, admitted the mistake, and asked the audience to forget what had been said before. Incidentally, Landau held Einstein in high esteem. He classified physicists on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 5 (0 was the highest level), classified Einstein at 0.5, the fathers of quantum mechanics (Schrödinger, Bohr, Heisenberg, Bose, Dirac, Wigner) at 1, himself initially at 2.5, and relatively late in his career at 2.

Awards, memberships and honors

Postage stamp (Russia 2008)

Landau was a member of many scientific committees and societies and received great awards: in 1962 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his pioneering work on the theory of condensed matter (especially on liquid helium ) . In 1949 and 1953 he received the Stalin Prize and in 1954 he was honored as a Hero of Socialist Labor . In 1960 he received the Fritz London Prize and the Max Planck Medal . In 1962 he received the Lenin Prize with Lifschitz for his textbook series.

Landau was a member of numerous scientific academies: from 1946 he was a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences . He was also a member of the Royal Danish (1951) and Dutch Academy of Sciences (1956), the Royal Society (1960), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1960) and the National Academy of Sciences (1960). From 1959 he was an honorary member of the British Institute of Physics . In 1964 he was elected a member of the Leopoldina .

A moon crater and the minor planet (2142) Landau are named after him.

The Russian Post issued a special stamp in 2008 on the occasion of his 100th birthday .


Lev Landau's life in the Soviet Union provides the thread for the Dau film project by Russian film director Ilya Khrzhanovsky , a work in progress that was due to premiere in Berlin in 2018, but was not approved. The premiere was finally celebrated in Paris on January 24, 2019.


  • with Lifschitz: Textbook of theoretical physics , German at Verlag Harri Deutsch, Frankfurt am Main:
    • Vol. 1 Mechanics
    • Vol. 2 Classical Field Theory
    • Vol. 3 Quantum Mechanics
    • Vol. 4 Quantum Electrodynamics (with Lev P. Pitajewski, Wladimir B. Berestezki , formerly also called Relativistic Quantum Theory in two parts)
    • Vol. 5 Statistical Physics, Part 1 (only in one volume until the 1970s)
    • Vol. 6 hydrodynamics
    • Vol. 7 Theory of Elasticity
    • Vol. 8 Electrodynamics of the Continua
    • Vol. 9 Statistical Physics, Part 2, Theory of the Condensed State, with L. Pitajewski
    • Vol. 10 Physical Kinetics, with L. Pitajewski (non-equilibrium processes are dealt with)

The first German edition was published by Akademie Verlag, Berlin, from 1957 (edited by Gerhard Heber , later Paul Ziesche ). An English edition was published by Pergamon Verlag from 1958. These first editions only went up to today's vol. 8. There is also a two-volume edition Theoretical Physics in Brief , Hanser 1975 (vol. 1 Mechanik, Elektrodynamik, vol. 2 Quantentheorie).

More books by Landau:

  • Collected Papers , Moscow, Nauka 1969 (Russian)
  • Dirk ter Haar (Ed.): Collected Papers of LD Landau , Pergamon Press 1965
  • with Rumer: What is relativity theory? , Teubner, 11th edition 1985
  • with Alexander Kitaigorodski : Physik für alle , 4 volumes, Aulis Verlag 1981–1983 (volume 1 physical bodies, volume 2 molecules, volume 3 electrons, volume 4 photons and nuclei)
  • with Alexander Iljitsch Achijeser , Lifschitz: Mechanics and Molecular Physics , Akademie Verlag 1970
  • with Jakow Abramowitsch Smorodinski Lectures on Nuclear Theory , New York 1958, Dover 1993


  • Anna Liwanowa: Lew Landau, MIR 1982 (German)
  • Alexander Dorozynski: The man who was not allowed to die: the life of the Russian Nobel Prize winner Lev Landau, Econ 1966
  • Gennady Gorelik My anti-Soviet activity .. , Vieweg 1995 (Birkhäuser 1993)
  • Gorelik The top secret life of Lev Landau , Scientific American August 1997
  • Gorelik, Rotter Freedom against Guarantee: The opening of the KGB archives allows for the first time insight into the background of the imprisonment of the Russian Nobel Prize laureate Lev Landau in 1938/39 , Physikalische Blätter, Volume 49, 1993, pp. 115–119, doi: 10.1002 / phbl. 19930490209
  • A biography, written by Lifschitz, can also be found in the appendix to the first volume of the textbook series on theoretical physics (mechanics), taken from the collected treatises of 1969
  • A Russian biography of Maia Besserab (the niece of Landau's wife)
  • Frantisek Janouch Lev D. Landau: His life and Work , CERN 1979
  • Isaak Chalatnikow Landau. The physicist and the man. Recollections of LD Landau , Pergamon Press 1989
  • Alexei B. Kojevnikov Stalin's Great Science: The Times and Adventures of Soviet Physicists , Imperial College Press 2004, ISBN 1-86094-420-5 .
  • Kora Landau-Drobantseva Professor Landau: How we lived , 1999, Russian text
  • Ammar Sakaji, Ignazio Licata (Eds.): Lev Davidovich Landau and his Impact on Contemporary Theoretical Physics , Nova Science Publishers, New York, 2009
  • Alan Luther (Ed.) Advances in theoretical physics. Proc. of the Landau Birthday Symposium , Copenhagen, 13-17 June 1988, Pergamon Press 1990, therein V. Ginzburg About LD Landau (Several remarks characterizing his attitude towards physics and physicists) , Khalatnikov Reminiscences of Landau
  • Dirk ter Haar : Men of physics: LD Landau , Vol. 1 Low temperature and solid state physics , Pergamon Press 1965
  • M. Shifman (Ed.): Under the Spell of Landau: When Theoretical Physics was Shaping Destinies , World Scientific, 2013, ISBN 978-981-4436-56-4 .

Web links

Commons : Lev Landau  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Anna Liwanowa, Landau, p. 33
  2. Gorelik Lew Landau - pro socialist prisoner of the soviet state , Physics Today 1995 . He considers the document from the KGB archives printed there to be genuine.
  3. One of the employees of his group was Isaak Markowitsch Chalatnikow
  4. Gennady Gorelik, loc. Cit.
  5. ^ Lifschitz, biography of Landau in Landau, Lifschitz Mechanics
  6. Eyermann, Karl-Heinz: Torn from death 6 times: Prof. Lew Landau. In: Urania (1/1966) Berlin (East) 1966, p. 72ff.
  7. The title of a book by Alexander Dorozynski The Man Who Was Not Allowed to Die describes the efforts, as does Lifschitz in his Landau biography in Landau, Lifschitz Mechanics . 87 physicists spontaneously came together to organize everything necessary to rescue him, for example ventilators.
  8. Landau, Diamagnetismus der Metalle, Zeitschrift für Physik, Volume 64, 1930, pp. 629-637
  9. Landau, Lifschitz, Theory of the dispersion of magnetic permeability in ferromagnetic bodies, Phys. Z. Soviet Union, Volume 8, 1935, p. 153
  10. Landau, On the theory of superfluid helium II, JETP, Volume 11, 1941, p. 592
  11. While both were working on the Soviet nuclear weapons project
  12. ^ VL Ginzburg, LD Landau, On the theory of superconductivity, Zh. Eksp. Teor. Fiz. (JETP), Volume 20, 1950, p. 1064
  13. Landau, The theory of a Fermi liquid, J. Exptl. Theoretically. Phys. (JETP), Volume 30, 1956, p. 1058, Oscillations of a Fermi liquid, JETP, Volume 32, 1957, p. 59, On the theory of the Fermi liquid, JETP, Volume 35, 1958, p. 97
  14. Landau put his thoughts on it and a. in On the quantum theory of fields , Wolfgang Pauli (ed.), Niels Bohr and the development of physics , Pergamon 1955, pp. 52-69, dar and in Fundamental problems , Pauli Memorial Volume, Interscience 1960
  15. Landau, On the conservation laws of weak interactions, Nuclear Physics, Volume 3, 1957, 127--131
  16. Dmitry Yakovlev, Pavel Haensel, Gordon Baym , Christopher Pethick: Lew Landau and the conception of neutron stars, Physics Uspekhi 56 (3), 2013, pp. 289–295, Arxiv, 2012 Landau's work was published in the Physikalische Zeitschrift of the Soviet Union, Volume 1, 1932, p. 285 (On the theory of stars). It is dated February 1931 in Zurich, arising from discussions with Niels Bohr and Léon Rosenfeld in Copenhagen. In an article in Nature, Volume 141, 1938, p. 333 (On the origin of stellar energy), he then introduced "real" neutron stars with neutron nuclei instead of an unknown nuclear state of electrons and protons and suggested this as an energy source for stars, which was still unknown at the time. The essay was used by Kapitsa as an argument in defense of Landau from the threat of execution by the Soviet state apparatus.
  17. Landau, On the vibration of the electronic plasma, JETP 16, 1946, p. 574
  18. Landau, On the problem of turbulence, Docl. Akad. Nauka SSSR, Volume 44, 1944, p. 339
  19. Boris Joffe, Landau's Theoretical Minimum, Landau's Seminar, ITEP in the Beginning of the 1950's , Arxiv 2002
  20. ^ Interview with Lev Pitayevsky
  21. ^ Interview with Lev Pitayevsky. Lifschitz in Landau, Lifschitz Mechanics . A 5 were already pathological cases .