Pyotr Kapitsa

Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa or Peter Kapitza (Russian: Пётр Леони́дович Капи́ца, Romanian: Petre Capiţa (8 July [O.S. 26 June] 1894[2] – 8 April 1984) was a leading Soviet physicist and Nobel laureate,[3][4] best known for his work in low-temperature physics.

Pyotr Kapitsa
Pyotr Kapitsa 1930s
Pyotr Kapitsa in the 1930s
Native name
Пётр Леонидович Капица
Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa

8 July 1894
Died8 April 1984 (aged 89)
Resting placeNovodevichy Cemetery, Moscow
NationalityRussian, Soviet
CitizenshipRussian Empire (1894–1917) → RSFSR (1917–1922) → Soviet Union (1922–1984)
Known forSuperfluidity
Kapitza's pendulum
Scientific career
Doctoral studentsDavid Shoenberg


Kapitsa was born in Kronstadt, Russian Empire, to Bessarabian-Volhynian-born parents Leonid Petrovich Kapitsa (Romanian Leonid Petrovici Capiţa), a military engineer who constructed fortifications, and Olga Ieronimovna Kapitsa from a noble Polish Stebnicki family.[5][6] Besides Russian, the Kapitsa family also spoke Romanian.[7] Kapitsa's studies were interrupted by the First World War, in which he served as an ambulance driver for two years on the Polish front.[8] He graduated from the Petrograd Polytechnical Institute in 1918. His wife and two children died in the flu epidemic of 1918-19. He subsequently studied in Britain, working for over ten years with Ernest Rutherford in the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, and founding the influential Kapitza club. He was the first director (1930–34) of the Mond Laboratory in Cambridge. In the 1920s he originated techniques for creating ultrastrong magnetic fields by injecting high current for brief periods into specially constructed air-core electromagnets. In 1928 he discovered the linear dependence of resistivity on magnetic field strength in various metals for very strong magnetic fields.

In 1934 Kapitsa returned to Russia to visit his parents but the Soviet Union prevented him from travelling back to Great Britain.

As his equipment for high-magnetic field research remained in Cambridge (although later Ernest Rutherford negotiated with the British government the possibility of shipping it to the USSR), he changed the direction of his research to the study of low temperature phenomena, beginning with a critical analysis of the existing methods for achieving low temperatures. In 1934 he developed new and original apparatus (based on the adiabatic principle) for making significant quantities of liquid helium.

Kapitsa formed the Institute for Physical Problems, in part using equipment which the Soviet government bought from the Mond Laboratory in Cambridge (with the assistance of Rutherford, once it was clear that Kapitsa would not be permitted to return).

In Russia, Kapitsa began a series of experiments to study liquid helium, leading to the discovery in 1937 of its superfluidity (not to be confused with superconductivity). He reported the properties of this new state of matter in a series of papers, for which he was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for basic inventions and discoveries in the area of low-temperature physics". In 1939 he developed a new method for liquefaction of air with a low-pressure cycle using a special high-efficiency expansion turbine. Consequently, during World War II he was assigned to head the Department of Oxygen Industry attached to the USSR Council of Ministers, where he developed his low-pressure expansion techniques for industrial purposes. He invented high power microwave generators (1950–1955) and discovered a new kind of continuous high pressure plasma discharge with electron temperatures over 1,000,000 K.

In November 1945, Kapitsa quarreled with Lavrentiy Beria, head of the NKVD and in charge of the Soviet atomic bomb project, writing to Joseph Stalin about Beria's ignorance of physics and his arrogance. Stalin backed Kapitsa, telling Beria he had to cooperate with the scientists. Kapitsa refused to meet Beria: "If you want to speak to me, then come to the Institute." Stalin offered to meet Kapitsa, but this never happened.[9]

Immediately after the war, a group of prominent Soviet scientists (including Kapitsa in particular) lobbied the government to create a new technical university, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Kapitsa taught there for many years. From 1957, he was also a member of the presidium of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and at his death in 1984 was the only presidium member who was not also a member of the Communist Party.[10]

In 1966, Kapitsa was allowed to visit Cambridge to receive the Rutherford Medal and Prize.[11] While dining at his old college, Trinity, he found he did not have the required gown. He asked to borrow one, but a college servant asked him when be last dined at high table, "Thirty-two years" replied Kapitza. Within moments the servant-returned, not with any gown, but Kapitsa's own.[12]

KustodiyevSemenov Kapitsa
Kapitsa (left) and Nikolay Semyonov, the physics and chemistry Nobel laureates (portrait by Boris Kustodiev, 1921).

In 1978, Kapitsa won the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his basic inventions and discoveries in the area of low-temperature physics" and was also cited for his long term role as a leader in the development of this area. He shared the prize with Arno Allan Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson, who won for discovering the cosmic microwave background.[13]

Kapitsa resistance is the thermal resistance (which causes a temperature discontinuity) at the interface between liquid helium and a solid. The Kapitsa–Dirac effect is a quantum mechanical effect consisting of the diffraction of electrons by a standing wave of light. In fluid dynamics, the Kapitza number is a dimensionless number characterizing the flow of thin films of fluid down an incline.

Personal life

Kapitsa was married in 1927 to Anna Alekseevna Krylova (1903-1996), daughter of applied mathematician A.N. Krylov. They had two sons, Sergey and Andrey. Sergey Kapitsa (1928–2012) was a physicist and demographer. He was also the host of the popular and long-running Russian scientific TV show Evident, but Incredible.[14] Andrey Kapitsa (1931–2011) was a geographer. He was credited with the discovery and naming of Lake Vostok, the largest subglacial lake in Antarctica, which lies 4,000 meters below the continent's ice cap.[15]

Honors and awards

A minor planet, 3437 Kapitsa, discovered by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina in 1982, is named after him.[16] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1929.[1] In 1958 he was elected a Member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.[17]


  1. ^ a b Shoenberg, D. (1985). "Piotr Leonidovich Kapitza. 9 July 1894-8 April 1984". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 31: 326–326. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1985.0012. JSTOR 769929.
  2. ^ Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa. Encyclopædia Britannica
  3. ^ Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa: Official Nobel page – Good, fast coverage of highlights of his many innovations.
  4. ^ "Alsos: Browse Results: People: Kapitza, Peter". Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  5. ^ Tadeusz Gajl (2007). Polish Armorial Middle Ages to 20th Century. — Gdańsk: L&L ISBN 978-83-60597-10-1
  6. ^ Stebnytski noble family from Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary at Wikisource, 1890–1907 (in Russian)
  7. ^ "Ilustrul savant rus de origine basarabeană, academicianul Serghei Petrovici Capiţa, împlineşte azi 80 de ani (Interview with Sergey Kapitsa son of the late Pyotr Kapitsa" (in Romanian). MDN News Magazine. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
  8. ^ James, Ioan (2004). Remarkable Physicists: From Galileo to Yukawa. Cambridge University Press. pp. 320–327. ISBN 978-0-521-01706-0.
  9. ^ Montefiore, Simon Sebag (2008) Young Stalin, pp. 446–7. ISBN 1400096138.
  10. ^ Graham, Loren R. 1994. Science in Russia and the Soviet Union: A Short History. Cambridge University Press. p. 212. ISBN 0-521-28789-8.
  11. ^ Tucker, Anthony (4 April 1966). "Dr Peter Kapitza expected in Britain next month". The Guardian. p. 4. Retrieved 16 March 2019. – via (subscription required)
  12. ^ "Carry on Jeeveski". The Guardian. 5 May 1966. p. 10. Retrieved 16 March 2019. – via (subscription required)
  13. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1978 – Press Release". Nobel 17 October 1978.
  14. ^ "Kalinga Prize Laureates". United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  15. ^ "Andrey Kapitsa dies in Moscow". Russian Geographical Society. 3 August 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  16. ^ Schmadel, Lutz D. (2013) Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer. p. 287. ISBN 3662066157.
  17. ^ "List of Members". Retrieved 7 April 2018.

See also

External links

Andrey Kapitsa

Andrey Petrovich Kapitsa (Russian: Андре́й Петро́вич Капи́ца; 9 July 1931 – 2 August 2011) was a Russian geographer and Antarctic explorer, discoverer of Lake Vostok, the largest subglacial lake in Antarctica. He was a member of the Kapitsa family, a scientific dynasty in Russia.

Kapitsa was the first to suggest the existence of Lake Vostok in the region of Vostok Station in Antarctica, based on seismic soundings of the thickness of the Antarctic ice sheet. These measures were obtained during the Soviet Antarctic Expeditions, in four of which Kapitsa participated. The discovery of Lake Vostok was one of the last major geographic discoveries.

Artem Alikhanian

Artem Isahaki (Isaakovich) Alikhanian (Armenian: Արտեմ Ալիխանյան, Russian: Артём Исаакович Алиханьян, 24 June 1908 – 25 February 1978) was a Soviet Armenian physicist, one of the founders and first director of the Yerevan Physics Institute, a correspondent member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1946), academic of the Armenian Academy of Sciences. With Pyotr Kapitsa, Lev Landau, Igor Kurchatov, Abraham Alikhanov and others, he laid the foundations of nuclear physics in the Soviet Union. He is known as the "father of Armenian physics".

Aušra Augustinavičiūtė

Aušra Augustinavičiūtė (April 4, 1927 – August 19, 2005) was a Lithuanian sociologist, and dean of the Vilnius Pedagogical University's department of family science, author of numerous scientific theories and discoveries, and the founder of socionics. According to the International Institute of Socionics, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences recognized Socionics as a discovery and awarded Dr. Augustinavičiūtė a diploma and the Pyotr Kapitsa Medal in 1995.Augustinavičiūtė was born not far from the city of Kaunas, in Lithuania. In 1956 she graduated from the economic faculty of Vilnius University as a financier. She worked at the Ministry of Finance of Lithuania and later as a teacher of political economics and sociology in different educational institutions in Vilnius.

Her scientific works, with the exception of few, were not published during the period of Soviet power, but became more and more popular during the 1990s. The current structure of her theory was standardized by Dr.Alexander Bukalov, Dr.Victor Gulenko, and Dr.Gregory Reinin after the founding of the International Institute of Socionics in Kiev, Ukraine. Augustinavičiūtė was an Intuitive Logical Extrovert according to socionics classification.

Eduard Shpolsky

Eduard Vladimirovich Shpolsky, also Shpolsk'ii, Shpolskii (Russian: Эдуард Владимирович Шпольский, born September 23, 1892 in Voronezh – died August 21, 1975 in Moscow) was a Russian and Soviet physicist and educator, co-founder and lifelong editor of Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk journal (Soviet Physics Uspekhi and Physics-Uspekhi in English translation).

Shpolsky primary scientific contribution belongs to the field of molecular spectroscopy, particularly luminescence and absorption spectra of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In 1952 Shpolsky and his junior researchers A. A. Ilyina and L. A. Klimov discovered Shpolsky effect (Shpolskii matrixes, an optical analogy to Mössbauer effect) in organic compounds, a property that allows highly selective spectroscopic identification of substances that normally do not possess clearly defined spectral lines or bands. The discovery evolved into a discipline of its own, Shpolsky spectroscopy. Shpolsky authored the definitive Russian language university textbook on Atomic Physics, first printed in 1944 and reissued until 1974.

Huntingdon Road

Huntingdon Road is a major arterial road linking central Cambridge, England with Junction 14 of the M11 motorway and the A14 northwest from the city centre. The road is designated the A1307, and follows the route of the Roman Via Devana.

At the southeastern end, the road links with Histon Road (B1049), Victoria Road (A1134) and Mount Pleasant. It continues as Castle Street, then Magdalene Street over the River Cam and Bridge Street, into the centre of the city.

The University of Cambridge colleges Fitzwilliam College (front entrance on Storey's Way, south off Huntingdon Road), Girton College, and Murray Edwards College (formerly New Hall), are located off the road. Girton College is some distance from central Cambridge as a former women's college, just south of the village of Girton.

Also on the road are:

Ascension Parish Burial Ground, where many Cambridge academics are buried

Cambridge Seed Testing Station

Cambridge Genetics Station

Trinity Hall Sports Ground

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB)

Number 173 Huntingdon Road is 'the Kaptiza House', build by Pyotr Kapitsa, the Soviet physicist and Nobel laureate

The northern access to Eddington, a new settlement under construction by the University

Institute for Physical Problems

P. L. Kapitza Institute for Physical Problems (Russian: Институт физических проблем имени П. Л. Капицы РАН) of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Institute was founded in 1934. The founder of the Institute, Nobel laurate Pyotr Kapitsa served as its head for many years. The head of the theoretical division of the Institute was Lev Landau. The primary direction of research at the Institute is low temperature physics, such as superconductivity and superfluidity. The theoretical division later became Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics.


Kapitsa may refer to:

Pyotr Kapitsa - Soviet physicist, Nobel prize winner

Andrey Kapitsa - Soviet geographer and Antarctic explorer, discoverer of Lake Vostok

Sergei Kapitsa - Soviet physicist

3437 Kapitsa (1982 UZ5) - main-belt asteroid discovered in 1982 by L. G. Karachkina, named after Pyotr Kapitsa

Kapitsa–Dirac effect

The Kapitza–Dirac effect is a quantum mechanical effect consisting of the diffraction of matter by a standing wave of light.

The effect was first predicted as the diffraction of electrons from a standing wave of light by Paul Dirac and Pyotr Kapitsa (or Peter Kapitza) in 1933. The effect relies on the wave–particle duality of matter as stated by the de Broglie hypothesis in 1924.

Kapitza instability

In fluid dynamics, the Kapitza instability is an instability that occurs in fluid films flowing down walls. The instability is characterised by the formation of capillary waves on the free surface of the film. The instability is named after Pyotr Kapitsa, who described and analysed the instability in 1948. The free surface waves are known as roll waves.

Kapitza number

The Kapitza number (Ka) is a dimensionless number named after the prominent Russian physicist Pyotr Kapitsa (Peter Kapitza). He provided the first extensive study of the ways in which a thin film of liquid flows down inclined surfaces. Expressed as the ratio of surface tension forces to inertial forces, the Kapitza number acts as an indicator of the hydrodynamic wave regime in falling liquid films. Liquid film behavior represents a subset of the more general class of free boundary problems. and is important in a wide range of engineering and technological applications such as evaporators, heat exchangers, absorbers, microreactors, small-scale electronics/microprocessor cooling schemes, air conditioning and gas turbine blade cooling.

After World War II Kapitza was removed from all his positions, including director of his Institute for Physical Problems, for refusing to work on nuclear weapons. He was at his country house and devised experiments to work on there, including his experiments on falling films of liquid.

Unlike most dimensionless numbers used in the study of fluid mechanics, the Kapitza number represents a material property, as it is formed by combining powers of the surface tension, density, gravitational acceleration and kinematic viscosity.

where σ is the surface tension (SI units: N/m), g is gravitational acceleration (m/s2), ρ is density (kg/m3), β is inclination angle (rad), and ν is kinematic viscosity (m2/s).

Liquefaction of gases

Liquefaction of gases is physical conversion of a gas into a liquid state (condensation).

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.

List of cultural icons of Russia

This is a list of cultural icons of Russia. It contains the most important symbols of Russia, including its national symbols and symbols associated with various aspects of the Russian culture.

Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University

Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, abbreviated as SPbPU; also, formerly "Saint Petersburg State Technical University", abbreviated as SPbSTU) is a major Russian technical university situated in Saint Petersburg. Other former names included Peter the Great Polytechnic Institute (Политехнический институт императора Петра Великого) and Kalinin Polytechnic Institute (Ленинградский политехнический институт имени Калинина). The university is considered to be one of the top research facilities in Russian Federation and CIS member states and is a leading educational facility in the field of applied physics and mathematics, industrial engineering, chemical engineering, aerospace engineering and many other academic disciplines. In 2012, SPbPU was ranked among the top 400 in the World. It houses one of the country's most advanced research labs in hydro–aerodynamics. University's alumni include famous Nobel Prize winners, such as Pyotr Kapitsa, prominent nuclear physicists and atomic weapon designers such as Yulii Khariton and Nikolay Dukhov world-class aircraft designers and aerospace engineers, such as Yulii Khariton, Oleg Antonov, Nikolai Polikarpov and Georgy Beriev. The university offers academic programs to Bachelor, Master's and Doctorate degree levels. SPbSPU consists of structural units called Institutes divided into three categories:

Engineering Institutes

Physical Institutes

Economics and Humanities Institutes

Quantum hydrodynamics

In condensed matter physics, quantum hydrodynamics is most generally the study of hydrodynamic-like systems which demonstrate quantum mechanical behavior. They arise in semiclassical mechanics in the study of metal and semiconductor devices, in which case being derived from the Boltzmann transport equation combined with Wigner quasiprobability distribution. In quantum chemistry they arise as solutions to chemical kinetic systems, in which case they are derived from the Schrödinger equation by way of Madelung equations.

An important system of study in quantum hydrodynamics is that of superfluidity. Some other topics of interest in quantum hydrodynamics are quantum turbulence, quantized vortices, second and third sound, and quantum solvents. The quantum hydrodynamic equation is an equation in Bohmian mechanics, which, it turns out, has a mathematical relationship to classical fluid dynamics (see Madelung equations).

Some common experimental applications of these studies are in liquid helium (3He and 4He), and of the interior of neutron stars and the quark–gluon plasma. Many famous scientists have worked in quantum hydrodynamics, including Richard Feynman, Lev Landau, and Pyotr Kapitsa.

Sergey Kapitsa

Sergey Petrovich Kapitsa (Russian: Серге́й Петро́вич Капи́ца; 14 February 1928 – 14 August 2012) was a Russian physicist and demographer. He was best known as host of the popular and long-running Russian scientific TV show, Evident, but Incredible. His father was the Nobel laureate Soviet-era physicist Pyotr Kapitsa, and his brother was the geographer and Antarctic explorer Andrey Kapitsa.


A turboexpander, also referred to as a turbo-expander or an expansion turbine, is a centrifugal or axial-flow turbine, through which a high-pressure gas is expanded to produce work that is often used to drive a compressor or generator.Because work is extracted from the expanding high-pressure gas, the expansion is approximated by an isentropic process (i.e., a constant-entropy process), and the low-pressure exhaust gas from the turbine is at a very low temperature, −150 °C or less, depending upon the operating pressure and gas properties. Partial liquefaction of the expanded gas is not uncommon.

Turboexpanders are widely used as sources of refrigeration in industrial processes such as the extraction of ethane and natural-gas liquids (NGLs) from natural gas, the liquefaction of gases (such as oxygen, nitrogen, helium, argon and krypton) and other low-temperature processes.

Turboexpanders currently in operation range in size from about 750 W to about 7.5 MW (1 hp to about 10,000 hp).


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