Sergei Ivanovich Vawilow

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Sergei Ivanovich Vawilov on a Soviet postage stamp

Sergey Ivanovich Vavilov ( Russian Сергей Иванович Вавилов , scientific. Transliteration Sergei Ivanovich Vavilov , March 12 * . Jul / 24. March  1891 greg. In Moscow ; †  25. January 1951 ) was a Soviet physicist, professor, academician and 1945 until 1951 President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences . He is the co-discoverer of Cherenkov radiation .


Nikolai Iwanowitsch Wawilow and Sergei Iwanowitsch Wawilow, with their mother Alexandra Michailowna in between (1916)
Sergei Ivanovich Vawilow (1945)

Sergei Ivanovich Wawilow was born in Moscow as the son of a wealthy shoe manufacturer and a member of the Moscow City Council. The famous Soviet geneticist Nikolai Vawilov was his brother. He first attended the business school at Ostoshenka, later the University of Moscow (graduated in 1914), where he worked in Pyotr Lebedev's laboratory from 1910 . During the First World War he served in the Russian army.

Sergei Wawilow taught physics at Moscow University from 1918 to 1932 . At the same time, he held the post of chairman of the department for physical optics at the Institute for Physics and Biophysics of the Ministry of Health (Narkomzdraw). In 1929 he received the professorship. At that time he became known through research in the field of luminescence . In 1932 he became scientific director of the Leningrad Optics Institute (GOI) founded by DS Roschdestvensky . At the same time he headed the physics department of the small Leningrad Physics and Mathematics Institute. This department merged in 1934 in the newly founded Lebedev Institute for Physics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences , of which he became director and which was named after Lebedev at his suggestion. There he and his doctoral student Pavel Cherenkov discovered Cherenkov radiation in 1934 , the theoretical explanation of which was provided by Ilya Frank and Igor Tamm in 1937 . All four received the Stalin Prize in 1946 , and the three surviving physicists (Wawilow had already died by then) the Nobel Prize in 1958 . The effect is called Cherenkov-Vavilov radiation in Russia. Cherenkov was already planning to move his doctoral thesis (on the luminescence of uranium salts in sulfuric acid) to a different topic when he discovered a blue glow from the environment that interfered with the originally intended observations of the luminescence of the uranium salts. Only at the insistence of his doctoral supervisor Wawilow did he continue the investigations and found the glow in other liquids as well. Wawilow attributed it to fast electrons in the liquid, which was confirmed in experiments on deflection in magnetic fields.

Wawilow also set up the Department of Nuclear Physics at the Lebedev Institute. In the 1930s he provided political protection for the scientists who worked for him, especially the head of the theory group Igor Tamm, who would later play an important role in the Soviet nuclear weapons program. However, he could not prevent his own brother Nikolai Wawilow from falling victim to Lyssenko's activities in 1940 and starving to death in the camp in 1943. Wawilow ensured the expansion of the cyclotron development at the Lebedev Institute from 1940. A few years later, Vladimir Iossifowitsch Weksler succeeded in developing the synchrotron concept.

He was elected to the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR in 1938, 1946 and 1950 . During the Second World War he was commissioner of the State Committee for National Defense; Among other things, he led the development of weapons technology. In 1945 he was elected President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, which he remained until his death. Vavilov received many awards over the course of his life, including two orders of Lenin , a Red Banner Order of Labor , and the Stalin Prize in 1943, 1946 and 1951 (the last posthumous). He was a co-founder and first chairman of the Scientific Society Snanije . He was one of the editors of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.

Wawilow is the author of a biography of Isaac Newton and of Lomonossow , Galileo Galilei , Lebedew, Lucretius and Faraday . The Kasha-Vavilov rule was named after him.

His son Viktor Sergeyevich Wawilow (1921-1999) was also a well-known physicist.


After Sergei Wawilow were named:

  • the Institute for Physical Problems of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow,
  • the State Institute of Optics (GOI) in Saint Petersburg ,
  • the All-Russian Research Institute for Lighting Technology in Moscow,
  • the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences and Technology,
  • a gold medal, which was donated by the Presidium of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1951 and has been awarded at irregular intervals since then for special merits in the field of physics,
  • various laws and methods in the theory of physical optics (such as the Wawilow law in fluorescence 1927)
  • a research vessel that has been decommissioned in the 21st century but is used for tourist cruises to the Arctic
  • The asteroid (2862) Vavilov , which was discovered in 1977 by Nikolai Stepanowitsch Tschernych , is named after him and his brother Nikolai Ivanovich Wawilow .
  • The lunar crater Vavilov is named after him and his brother Nikolai Ivanovich Wawilow.


Individual evidence

  1. Государственный Оптический Институт им. С.И. Вавилова (accessed January 3, 2016).
  2. PNLebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences: Origins ( Memento from March 12, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  3. ^ SI Wawilow gold medal. Russian Золотая медаль имени С.И. Вавилова . Russian Academy of Sciences, accessed May 1, 2018 (Russian, with list of award winners since 1952).
  4. Dr. Peer Schmidt-Walter: Between cruise and research . On Nordland special; Retrieved September 25, 2010
  5. ^ Lutz D. Schmadel: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names . 5th edition. Springer Verlag , New York 2003, ISBN 3-540-00238-3 .

Web links

Commons : Sergei Wawilow  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files