Igor Tamm

Igor Yevgenyevich Tamm (Russian: И́горь Евге́ньевич Тамм, IPA: [ˈiɡərʲ jɪvˈɡʲenʲjɪvitɕ ˈtam] (listen); 8 July 1895 – 12 April 1971) was a Soviet physicist who received the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physics, jointly with Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov and Ilya Mikhailovich Frank, for their 1934 discovery of Cherenkov radiation.

Igor Tamm
Igor Tamm
Igor Yevgenyevich Tamm

8 July 1895
Died12 April 1971 (aged 75)
Resting placeNovodevichy Cemetery, Moscow
NationalitySoviet Union
Alma materMoscow State University
Edinburgh University
Known forTamm states
Neutron magnetic moment
Cherenkov–Vavilov effect
Frank–Tamm formula
Tamm–Dancoff approximation
Hydrogen bomb
Awards1967 Lomonosov Gold Medal
1958 Nobel Prize in Physics
Scientific career
FieldsParticle physics
Institutions Moscow State University Lebedev Physical Institute
Doctoral studentsVitaly Ginzburg
Andrey Sakharov
Leonid Keldysh
Leonid Brekhovskikh
Anatoly Vlasov


Igor Tamm 1963
Tamm in 1963
Igor Tamm 2000 Russian stamp
Tamm on the 2000 Russian stamp "Idea of phonons, 1929"

According to Russian sources, Tamm had German noble descent on his father's side. His grandfather Theodor Tamm emigrated from Thuringia [1] (other sources erroneously describe him as Jewish[2][3][4][5][6]). He studied at a gymnasium in Elisavetgrad (now Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine). In 1913–1914 he studied at the University of Edinburgh together with his school-friend Boris Hessen.

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914 he joined the army as a volunteer field medic. In 1917 he joined the Revolutionary movement and became an active anti-War campaigner, serving on revolutionary committees after the March Revolution.[7] He returned to the Moscow State University from which he graduated in 1918.

Tamm married Nataliya Shuyskaya (1894–1980) in September 1917. They eventually had two children, Irina (1921–2009, chemist) and Evgeny (1926–2008, experimental physicist and famous mountain climber, leader of the Soviet Everest expedition in 1982[8]).

On 1 May 1923, Tamm began teaching physics at the Second Moscow State University. The same year, he finished his first scientific paper, Electrodynamics of the Anisotropic Medium in the Special Theory of Relativity.[9] In 1928, he spent a few months with Paul Ehrenfest at the University of Leiden. From 1934 until his death in 1971 Tamm was the head of the theoretical department at Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow.

In 1932, Tamm published a paper with his proposal of the concept of surface states. This concept is important for MOSFET physics.

In 1934, Tamm and Semen Altshuller suggested that the neutron has a non-zero magnetic moment,[10][11] the idea was met with scepticism at that time, as the neutron was supposed to be an elementary particle with zero charge, and thus could not have a magnetic moment. The same year, Tamm coined an idea that proton-neutron interactions can be described as an exchange force transmitted by a yet unknown massive particle,[12][13] this idea was later developed by Hideki Yukawa into a theory of meson forces.

In 1945 he developed an approximation method for many-body physics. As Sidney Dancoff developed it independently in 1950, it is now called the Tamm-Dancoff approximation.

He was the Nobel Laureate in Physics for the year 1958 together with Pavel Cherenkov and Ilya Frank for the discovery and the interpretation of the Cherenkov-Vavilov effect.

In late 1940s-early 1950s Tamm was involved in the Soviet thermonuclear bomb project, in 1949–1953 he spent most of his time in the "secret city" of Sarov, working as a head of the theoretical group developing the hydrogen bomb,[14] however he retired from the project and returned to the Moscow Lebedev Physical Institute after the first successful test of a hydrogen bomb in 1953.

In 1951, together with Andrei Sakharov, Tamm proposed a tokamak system for the realization of CTF on the basis of toroidal magnetic thermonuclear reactor and soon after the first such devices were built by the INF. Results from the T-3 Soviet magnetic confinement device in 1968, when the plasma parameters unique for that time were obtained, showed temperatures in their machine to be over an order of magnitude higher than what was expected by the rest of the community. The western scientists visited the experiment and verified the high temperatures and confinement, sparking a wave of optimism for the prospects of the tokamak as well as construction of new experiments, which is still the dominant magnetic confinement device today.

In 1964 he was elected a Member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.[15]

Tamm was a student of Leonid Isaakovich Mandelshtam in science and life.

On Tamm's religious views, he was an atheist.[16][17]

Tamm died in Moscow, Soviet Union, now Russia. The Lunar crater Tamm is named after him.


  1. ^ Chernenko, Gennady (19 October 2004). "Igor Tamm". biographical encyclopedia peoples.ru. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  2. ^ Sklare, Marshall (1982). Understanding American Jewry. Transaction Publishers. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-87855-454-6.
  3. ^ Comay, Joan; Cohn-Sherbok, Lavinia (2002). Who's who in Jewish history: after the period of the Old Testament. Routledge. p. 362. ISBN 978-0-415-26030-5.
  4. ^ Schlessinger, Bernard S.; Schlessinger, June H. (1996). The who's who of Nobel Prize winners, 1901–1995. Oryx Press. p. 201. ISBN 978-0-89774-899-5. Parents: Father, Evgen Tamm; Mother, Olga Davidova Tamm. Nationality: Russian. Religion: Jewish.
  5. ^ James, Ioan Mackenzie (2009). Driven to innovate: a century of Jewish mathematicians and physicists. Peter Lang. p. 262. ISBN 978-1-906165-22-2.
  6. ^ Van Huyssteen, Wentzel (2003). Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, Volume 2. MacMillan Reference USA. p. 493.
  7. ^ Игорь Тамм Archived 8 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Hipersona.ru. Retrieved on 14 July 2014.
  8. ^ Mountaineering, climbing. January – February 2008 news. Russianclimb.com. Retrieved on 14 July 2014.
  9. ^ Feinberg, E. L. (1987) Reminiscences about I. E. Tamm. Nauka
  10. ^ Tamm, I.E. and Alshuler, S.A. "Magnetic moment of a neutron", Reports of the Academy of Science USSR, 1, 8, 455 (1934) (in Russian)
  11. ^ Tamm, I. (1934). "Nuclear Magnetic Moments and the Properties of the Neutron". Nature. 134 (3384): 380. Bibcode:1934Natur.134..380T. doi:10.1038/134380b0.
  12. ^ Tamm, I. G. (1934). "Exchange Forces between Neutrons and Protons, and Fermi's Theory". Nature. 133 (3374): 981. Bibcode:1934Natur.133..981T. doi:10.1038/133981a0.
  13. ^ Tamm, I. (1934). "Interaction of Neutrons and Protons". Nature. 134 (3400): 1010–1011. Bibcode:1934Natur.134R1010T. doi:10.1038/1341010c0.
  14. ^ Sakharov, Andrei (1990) Memoirs. Hutchinson. ISBN 0091746361
  15. ^ "List of Members". www.leopoldina.org. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  16. ^ Ginzburg, V. L. (2005). About Science, Myself and Others. CRC Press. p. 253. ISBN 9780750309929. Nowadays, when we are facing manifestations of religious and. more often, pseudoreligious feelings, it is appropriate to mention that Igor Evgenevich was a convinced and unreserved atheist.
  17. ^ Feinberg, E. L.; Leonidov, A. V. (2011). Physicists: Epoch and Personalities (2 ed.). World Scientific. p. 86. ISBN 9789812834164.

Further reading

Edinburgh University Socialist Society

Edinburgh University Socialist Society is a society at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland which advocates a "more just and equal society, based on democratic control of the economy".The Society has existed in various forms since it was initially founded in 1884, stating in its manifesto: "Utopia now: we can bring it about. The power is ours if we have the will". One of the key founders of the society was Léo Meillet, who had been active in the Paris Commune as a member of the "Committee for Public Safety". It is believed to have been Britain's first university socialist society.The Society played a key role in the early development of the socialist movement in Scotland, including hosting the first "indoor preaching of Modern Socialism" in Edinburgh on 19 March 1884, with William Morris as the main speaker. The talk was titled "Useful Labour versus Useless Toil", The Scotsman reported a "good attendance, a considerable proportion of those present being ladies". Later that year the society also hosted a lecture by the influential positivist, Edward Spencer Beesly.In 1885, following the realisation of the stigma associated with 'socialism', the Society briefly changed its name to Edinburgh University Reform Society.Russian Nobel Prize–winning physicist and revolutionary Igor Tamm was active in the society as a student in 1913.Experimental zoologist and critic of eugenics, Lancelot Hogben played an active role in the Society in the early 1920s.Poet J. K. Annand was the Society's Secretary during his time at the University in the late 1920s.In the 1930s members included David Pitt, who went on to become a civil rights activist and Britain's longest serving black parliamentarian; Robert McIntyre, who went on to be Leader and then President of the Scottish National Party; and Jessie Kocmanová, who went on to become a leading scholar on William Morris.In 1949 the society host a performance by singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson. Later that year Max Born (pioneer of quantum physics and later winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics) used a meeting of the society to express his opinions on atomic weapons and foreign policy.

Efim Fradkin

Efim Samoilovich Fradkin (Russian: Ефим Самойлович Фрадкин) (November 30, 1924 – May 25, 1999) was a Russian physicist.Fradkin was born in Schedrin near Zhlobin (now Belarus), then in the Soviet Union, in 1924.

He was awarded the USSR State Prize in 1953 (Stalin Prize of First Degree), Igor Tamm Prize of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1980, and the Dirac Prize of ICTP in 1989.

Frank Horsfall

Frank Lappin Horsfall, Jr. (Seattle, December 14, 1906 – New York City, February 19, 1971) was an American physician specializing in pathology. The Tamm–Horsfall protein is named after Igor Tamm and him. A collection of his papers are held at the National Library of Medicine.

Frank–Tamm formula

The Frank–Tamm formula yields the amount of Cherenkov radiation emitted on a given frequency as a charged particle moves through a medium at superluminal velocity. It is named for Russian physicists Ilya Frank and Igor Tamm who developed the theory of the Cherenkov effect in 1937, for which they were awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1958.

When a charged particle moves faster than the phase speed of light in a medium, electrons interacting with the particle can emit coherent photons while conserving energy and momentum. This process can be viewed as a decay. See Cherenkov radiation and nonradiation condition for an explanation of this effect.

Lebedev Physical Institute

The Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (LPI RAS) (in Russian: Физи́ческий институ́т имени П.Н.Ле́бедева Российской академии наук (ФИАН)), situated in Moscow, is one of the leading Russian research institutes specializing in physics. It is also one of the oldest research institutions in Russia: its history dates back to a collection of physics equipment established by Peter the Great in the Kunstkamera of Saint Petersburg in 1714. The institute was established in its present shape in 1934 by academician Sergey Vavilov. It moved to Moscow and was named after a prominent Russian physicist Pyotr Lebedev the same year. It is also known as P. N. Lebedev Institute of Physics or just Lebedev Institute. In Russian it is often referred to by the acronym FIAN (ФИАН) standing for "Physical Institute of the Academy of Sciences".

The wide range of the research activities includes: laser technology, dark matter structure, nanostructures, superconductivity, cosmic rays, and gamma-astronomy. The institute developed a technique of crystallizing cubic zirconia (which was called Fianit in Russia, named after FIAN).

List of Moscow State University people

The list of Moscow State University people includes notable alumni, non-graduates, and faculty affiliated with the Lomonosov Moscow State University (also known as "Moscow State University"). A fuller list is available as a category.

MSU Faculty of Physics

The Fizfak (Faculty of Physics) of Moscow State University is the largest faculty of Moscow State University. Established in 1933. The dean of the faculty - Nikolay Sysoev.

Pavel Cherenkov

Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov (Russian: Па́вел Алексе́евич Черенко́в [ˈpavʲɪɫ ɐlʲɪˈksʲeɪvʲɪtɕ tɕɪrʲɪnˈkof], July 28, 1904 – January 6, 1990) was a Soviet physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1958 with Ilya Frank and Igor Tamm for the discovery of Cherenkov radiation, made in 1934.


In physics, a phonon is a collective excitation in a periodic, elastic arrangement of atoms or molecules in condensed matter, specifically in solids and some liquids. Often designated a quasiparticle, it represents an excited state in the quantum mechanical quantization of the modes of vibrations of elastic structures of interacting particles.

Phonons play a major role in many of the physical properties of condensed matter, such as thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity. The study of phonons is an important part of condensed matter physics.

The concept of phonons was introduced in 1932 by Soviet physicist Igor Tamm. The name phonon comes from the Greek word φωνή (phonē), which translates to sound or voice because long-wavelength phonons give rise to sound. The name is analogous to the word photon.

Quantum speed limit

In quantum mechanics, a quantum speed limit (QSL) is a limitation on the minimum time for a quantum system to evolve between two distinguishable states. QSL are closely related to time-energy uncertainty relations. In 1945, Leonid Mandelstam and Igor Tamm derived a time-energy uncertainty relation that bounds the speed of evolution in terms of the energy dispersion. Over half a century later, Norman Margolus and Lev Levitin showed that the speed of evolution cannot exceed the mean energy, a result known as the Margolus–Levitin theorem. Realistic physical systems in contact with an environment are known as open quantum systems and their evolution is also subject to QSL. Quite remarkably it was shown that environmental effects, such as non-Markovian dynamics can speed up quantum processes, which was verified in a cavity QED experiment.In 2017, it was suggested that QSLs are not restricted to the quantum domain and that similar bounds hold in classical systems, which was confirmed a year later. QSL have been used to explore the limits of computation and complexity.

Semen Altshuler

Semen Alexandrovich Altshuler (also Altshuller, Al'tshuler or Al'shuller; Russian: Семён Александрович Альтшулер; September 24, 1911 – January 24, 1983) was a Soviet physicist known for his work in resonance spectroscopy and in particular for theoretical prediction of acoustic paramagnetic resonance in 1952.

Sidney Dancoff

Sidney Michael Dancoff (September 27, 1913 in Philadelphia – August 15, 1951 in Urbana, Illinois) was an American theoretical physicist best known for the Tamm–Dancoff approximation method and for nearly developing a renormalization method for solving quantum electrodynamics (QED).

Dancoff was raised in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He attended Carnegie Tech on a private scholarship and received his B.S. in physics in 1934, followed by a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1936. He then went to the University of California at Berkeley where he earned his PhD in 1939 under Robert Oppenheimer.While Dancoff was at Berkeley, Oppenheimer suggested that he work on the calculation of the scattering of a relativistic electron by an electric field. Such QED calculations typically gave infinite answers. Following earlier perturbation-theory work by Oppenheimer and Felix Bloch, he found that he could deal in various ways with the infinities that arose, sometimes by canceling a positive infinity with a negative one. However, some infinities remained uncanceled and the method (later called renormalization) did not give finite results. He published a general description of this work in 1939.In 1948, Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and his students revisited this paper. Using improved calculational methods, they found that Dancoff had omitted one term or two terms. Once they repaired this omission, Dancoff's method worked, and they built on it to produce a theory of QED, for which Tomonaga shared the Nobel Prize in 1965. (At the same time, American physicists discovered Dancoff's error and solved QED, relying less directly on Dancoff.)During the Second World War, Dancoff worked on the theory of the newly invented nuclear reactors. To take into account how fuel rods could "shadow" other rods by absorbing neutrons headed toward the other rods, he and M. Ginsburg developed the Dancoff factor, still used in reactor calculations.After the war, Dancoff was on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1950 he published an approximation method for many-body theory that has been used in nuclear and solid-state physics. Igor Tamm had found it in 1945, and the method is now named after both.

In the late 1940s, Dancoff began a collaboration with the Viennese-refugee physician and radiologist Henry Quastler in the new field of cybernetics and information theory. Their work led to the publication of what is now commonly called Dancoff's Law. A non-mathematical statement of this law is, "the greatest growth occurs when the greatest number of mistakes are made consistent with survival".Dancoff died of lymphoma in 1951.

Tamm (disambiguation)

Tamm is a municipality in the district of Ludwigsburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

Tamm may also refer to:

Tamms, Illinois, a village in Alexander County, Illinois, United States

Clayton/Tamm, St. Louis, a neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Tamm (crater), a lunar crater

Tavrida National V.I. Vernadsky University

V.I. Vernadsky Taurida National University (TNU) (Ukrainian: Таврійський національний університет імені В.І. Вернадського (ТНУ)) is a name used for 2 State Universities, in Kyiv and in Simferopol, both are public, coeducational universities located in Kyiv / Simferopol. Both Universities are not working together. The university was founded in 1918 with active participation of the geologist Vladimir Vernadsky. The university now bears his name. The university has 16 departments and 20 academic institutes. The university has the status of national and is accredited to the fourth level by the Ministry of Education of Ukraine.


A tokamak (Russian: Токамáк) is a device which uses a powerful magnetic field to confine a hot plasma in the shape of a torus. The tokamak is one of several types of magnetic confinement devices being developed to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion power. As of 2016, it is the leading candidate for a practical fusion reactor.Tokamaks were initially conceptualized in the 1950s by Soviet physicists Igor Tamm and Andrei Sakharov, inspired by a letter by Oleg Lavrentiev. Meanwhile, the first working tokamak was attributed to the work of Natan Yavlinskii on the T-1. It had been demonstrated that a stable plasma equilibrium requires magnetic field lines that wind around the torus in a helix. Devices like the z-pinch and stellarator had attempted this, but demonstrated serious instabilities. It was the development of the concept now known as the safety factor (labelled q in mathematical notation) that guided tokamak development; by arranging the reactor so this critical factor q was always greater than 1, the tokamaks strongly suppressed the instabilities which plagued earlier designs.

The first tokamak, the T-1, began operation in 1958. By the mid-1960s, the tokamak designs began to show greatly improved performance. Initial results were released in 1965, but were ignored; Lyman Spitzer dismissed them out of hand after noting potential problems in their system for measuring temperatures. A second set of results was published in 1968, this time claiming performance far in advance of any other machine, and was likewise considered unreliable. This led to the invitation of a delegation from the United Kingdom to make their own measurements. These confirmed the Soviet results, and their 1969 publication resulted in a stampede of tokamak construction.

By the mid-1970s, dozens of tokamaks were in use around the world. By the late 1970s, these machines had reached all of the conditions needed for practical fusion, although not at the same time nor in a single reactor. With the goal of breakeven now in sight, a new series of machines were designed that would run on a fusion fuel of deuterium and tritium. These machines, notably the Joint European Torus (JET), Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) and JT-60, had the explicit goal of reaching breakeven.

Instead, these machines demonstrated new problems that limited their performance. Solving these would require a much larger and more expensive machine, beyond the abilities of any one country. After an initial agreement between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in November 1985, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) effort emerged and remains the primary international effort to develop practical fusion power. Many smaller designs, and offshoots like the spherical tokamak, continue to be used to investigate performance parameters and other issues.

University of Edinburgh School of Physics and Astronomy

The University of Edinburgh School of Physics and Astronomy is the physics department of the University of Edinburgh. The school was formed in 1993 by a merger of the Department of Physics - called the Department of Natural Philosophy until the late 1960s - and the Department of Astronomy, both at the University of Edinburgh. The school is part of the University's College of Science and Engineering.

Viktor Adamsky

Viktor Borisovich Adamsky [also Adamskii] (Russian:Ви́ктор Бори́сович Ада́мский} (30 April 1923 – 14 December 2005) was a Soviet theoretical physicist and mathematician. He was a chief researcher at Arzamas-16, now the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics in the closed city of Sarov, Nizhny Novgorod region. He was a theorist involved with the RDS-37, the first Soviet two-stage thermonuclear bomb and, with Vyacheslav Feodoritov, was the project leader of the RDS-220, the largest-ever-yield bomb, and also its co-designer.

Adamsky was sent to Arzamas-16 in 1950 after he graduated from Moscow State University. He knew little of what it was but understood he would be working on the hydrogen bomb; he was put up in a hotel, then a flat and was finally invited to share part of a cottage with Igor Tamm and Yuri Romanov. He found a collegial spirit amongst his workmates, who were very aware of the importance and personal limitations of their situation. His theoretical physics was first practised under the direction of Yakov Zel'dovich and Andrei Sakharov. Theoretical development of the RDS-220 began in July 1961 with a design team chosen by Sakharov (who had met with premier Nikita Khrushchev on 10 July). By October a report (authored by Sakharov, Adamsky, Yuri Babayev, Yuri Smirnov and Yuri Trutnev) including the design proposal and calculations had been completed and sent to the design engineers for construction. Under huge political pressure and a strict timetable, the typical mathematical rigour associated with previous nuclear bomb development had been replaced by some omissions and the usage of estimates and approximations. As a result, fellow theoretical physicist Evsei Rabinovich suggested that the design might not work; Sakharov, Adamsky and Feodoritov argued otherwise, but Sakharov did ask the engineers to make some design changes to improve the level of confidence.Sakharov once visited Adamsky in his office to show him a short story in English by Leo Szilard (the nuclear bomb patent-holder who conceived of nuclear chain reactions) called My Trial as a War Criminal. Szilard's tale of the aftermath of the usage of weapons of mass destruction affected them strongly. Later, both Sakharov and Adamsky provided warnings about the dangers to humanity of nuclear proliferation and the governments behind it.Two years after the RDS-220 test, Adamsky made a key proposal in a memorandum which it is believed was used to overcome an impasse a few months later during negotiations leading to the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty between the U.S.A., the U.K. and the U.S.S.R. in 1963. As a result of Khruschev's acceptance of Adamsky's proposal (it is not known if he actually read it) the ban was agreed upon in the atmosphere, underwater and outer space. Adamsky is buried in Sarov cemetery.

Vitaly Ginzburg

Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg, ForMemRS (Russian: Вита́лий Ла́заревич Ги́нзбург; 4 October 1916 – 8 November 2009) was a Soviet and Russian theoretical physicist, astrophysicist, Nobel laureate, a member of the Soviet and Russian Academies of Sciences and one of the fathers of the Soviet hydrogen bomb. He was the successor to Igor Tamm as head of the Department of Theoretical Physics of the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (FIAN), and an outspoken atheist.


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