The physicist known as the "Grand old man of Soviet science", Pyotr Kapitsa was awarded half of the Nobel prize for physics on Tuesday (17 October).
The physicist known as the "Grand old man of Soviet science", Pyotr Kapitsa was awarded half of the Nobel prize for physics on Tuesday (17 October). Eighty-four years old Professor Kapitsa shares the award with two Unites States physicists, Dr. Arno Penzias and Dr. Robert Wilson. Professor Kapitsa won the prize for his inventions and discoveries in the area of low-temperature physics during a career which spans more than sixty years, dating from before the Russian Revolution in 1917 up to the present day.
SYNOPSIS: Professor Kapitsa and his wife Anna received news of the award while on holiday near Moscow. Although renowned for his scientific research, Professor Kapitsa is well known outside the Soviet Union for his political activities. During the 1930's he fought for the release of fellow physicists imprisoned during the purges carried out by Josef Stalin, and more recently he has campaigned against the treatment of Soviet dissidents in mental hospitals. The early part of his carer was spent in Britain, working in laboratories in Cambridge University. There he developed theories concerning liquid hydrogen, a substance which only exists at low temperatures.
Commenting upon his prize, Professor Kapitsa said he was happy because his work had been appreciated. He said that Soviet scientific achievement is foremost in the world. As proof, he cited the fact that the Soviet Union was the first country to send a man into space, the first to use automation in space exploration and the first to send a probe to Venus.
Professor Kapitsa said scientists always believe their most important work is that in which they are is that in which they are engaged at the present. He is now studying very high temperature plasma at the Institute of Physical Problems, which the Soviet Academy of Sciences built for him when he returned from Britain in 1934.
The major result of his work is greater under standing of the behaviour of materials at extremely low temperatures, many substances acquire radically different properties, including greatly increased conductivity of electricity. This research has wide implications for alternative methods of power generation, and the construction of computers.