Lev Landau

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Landau, Lev Davydovich


Born Jan. 9 (22), 1908, in Baku; died Apr. 1, 1968, in Moscow. Soviet physicist. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1946); Hero of Socialist Labor (1954).

The son of a petroleum engineer, Landau graduated from Leningrad University in 1927, whereupon he became a graduate student (aspirant) at the Leningrad Physicotechnical Institute. In 1927 he was sent to Denmark to work with N. Bohr and then to England and Switzerland. In 1932 he became director of the theoretical division of the Ukrainian Physicotechnical Institute in Kharkov. Beginning in 1937 he worked at the Institute of Physical Problems of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. He became a professor at Moscow State University in 1947.

In 1926, Landau published his first work, which dealt with the intensity of the spectra of diatomic molecules. In 1927 he was the first to introduce the concept of the density matrix. In 1930 he devised the theory of the electron diamagnetism of metals (Landau diamagnetism), in which he calculated the discrete levels of electrons in a magnetic field (Landau levels) and predicted periodic changes in susceptibility as a function of the field in strong fields (the De Haas-Van Alphen effect). In 1933 he was the first to propose a theory of antiferromagnetism. In 1935, together with E. M. Lifshits, he worked out the theory of the domain structure of ferromagnets and the theory of ferromagnetic resonance. Landau’s work on the kinetic equation for an electron plasma was published in 1936. In 1937 he constructed a general theory of second-order phase transitions. That same year he published a theory of the intermediate state of superconductors and a statistical theory of nuclei. In 1938, together with lu. B. Rumer, he worked out the cascade theory of electron showers in cosmic rays. In 1941 he devised a theory of the superfluidity of liquid helium, and in 1945, a theory of shock waves at a great distance from the source. In 1946 he proposed the theory of oscillations of an electron plasma and, in particular, determined their damping (Landau damping). In 1950, together with V. L. Ginzburg, he constructed a semiphenomenological theory of superconductivity. In 1953 he published a theory of multiple particle production in collisions of high-energy particles. In 1954–55, together with A. A. Abrikosov, I. M. Khalat-nikov, and I. Ia. Pomeranchuk, he conducted studies of the principles of quantum electrodynamics, which led to a proof of its internal inconsistency when the concept of point charges was consistently pursued. In 1956 he introduced the concept of combined parity. He constructed a theory of the two-component neutrino (1957) and the theory of the Fermi fluid (1956–58). Between 1940 and 1960, together with E. M. Lifshits, he published a fundamental course of theoretical physics (Lenin Prize, 1962).

Landau created a large school of theoretical physicists. His followers have included I. Ia. Pomeranchuk, A. B. Migdal, I. M. Lifshits, A. A. Abrikosov, ?. M. Lifshits, and I. M. Kha-latnikov. The Institute of Theoretical Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR has been named in his honor. A recipient of the State Prize of the USSR (1946, 1949, 1953), he won a Nobel prize in 1962. Landau was a member of numerous foreign academies of sciences (United States, Denmark, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands). He was awarded three orders of Lenin, two other orders, and various medals.


Sobr. trudov, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1969.


Abrikosov. A. A. Akademik L. D. Landau. Moscow, 1965.
Ginzburg, V. L. “Lev Davidovich Landau (K 60-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia).” Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk, 1968, vol. 94, issue 1.
Lifshits, E. M. “Istoriia otkrytiia i ob”iasneniia sverkhtekuchesti zhidkogo geliia (K 60-letiiu akademika L. D. Landau).” Priroda, 1968, no. 1.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.