Artsimovich, Lev Andreevich

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(b. Moscow, Russia, 25 Februvary 1909; d. Moscow, U.S.S.R., 1 March 1973)


The son of a professor of statistics, Artsimovich graduated in 1928 from the Belorussian State University at Minsk and became laboratory assistant, then scientific associate, at the Leningrad Physical Techical Institute, directed by A. F. Joffe. In his first scientific research, which he did with A. I. Alikhanov, he investigated the complete internal reflection of X rays from thin layers (1933). In 1934-1935 he studied the properties of the recently discovered neutron, work carried out by a group of physicists headed by I. V. Kurchatov. The research that Artsimovich did with Kurchatov, G. D. Latyshev, and V. A. Khramov (1935) was the first to show clearly that the cross section of the capture of slow neutrons by protons is comparatively very large. In his subsequent work (1936) with Alikhanov and A. I. Alikhanyan, R. S. Shakland’s conclusions regarding the possibility of the violation of the laws of conservation of energy and mimentum in the Compton effect were experimenrally tested. The work, which was done in record time, showed the strength if this evidence, Shankland’s* conclusions were refuled.

Artsimovich’s further experimental research was devoted to the processes of interacation of fast electrons with matter, a problem that in the mid-19307’s had been very little studied. The experimental data on the bremsstrahlung and angular distribution of electrons were divided into two categories by means of data derived from theoretical calculation. Through Artsimovich’s research, extensive factual material was obtained regarding the dependence of the intensity of the bremsstrahling and the complete loss of energy on the energy of the primary electrons. Having carefully analyzed this material. Artsimovich showed (in works published with Khramov [1938] and in an article published with I. I. Perrimond [1946]) that the data of contemporary quantum mechanical theory on the passage of fast electrons through a substance agree, within the limits of accuracy of the experiments, with the results of experimental research.

During World War II,Artsimovich studied electronic optics, partiularly the theory of chromatic aberration of electron-optical systems (1944); and his experimental and theoretical research on electron-optical transformers had important practical restults. In 1945 Artsimovich and I. Y. Pomeranchuk made a theoretical study of rediation loss in the betartron. This work made it possible to compute the maximum energy that could be imparted to electrons by acceleration in a given betatron (1946).

After the war Artsimovich solved several important problems of scientific technology. Under his direction a way was found to construct a safe plant for the electromagnetic separation of isotopes. While working in this area Artsimovich produced a detailed analysis of the conditions of nonaberrational focusing of wide-angled ion beams (for currents of the order of amperes) in axial-symmetric magnetic field. His proposed construcation of anion optics source (1957) has been applied in contemporary systems, thus ensuring the possibility of obtaining pure, stable isotopes.

From the 1950’s Artsimovich was increasingly attracted to the difficult problem of creating a conreolled thermounclear reactor, a project that required the organization of multifaceted experimental and theoranization research. Under Artsimovich’s direction, a group of physicists began with the study of powerful pulsed discharges in rarefied deuterium. They succeeded in obtaining, although only for very short intervals, highly ionized plasma heated to several million degrees. In 1952 this research led to the discovery that a powerful pulsed discharge in deuterium at low pressure is the source of neutrons and “hard” X rays. They also discovered paramaganetic properties of gas-discharge plasma under pressure from the longitudinal magnetic filed. These investigations showed that neutrons discovered in these experiments are released not by thermouclear processed but by a specific acceleration process (1958). At the Second International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy at Geneva (1958), Attsimovich gave a detailed report on Soviet studies of methods of obtaining controlled on thermonuclear reactions.

Under Artsimovich’s directorship of the scientific section of the I. V. Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy, large and complex plants for continuation of this research were built. At plants of the “Tokamak” (an acronym of “toroid camera with magnetic field”) type, Artsimovich and his students achieved important results; in particular the lifetime of high-temperature plasma was sharply increased. This research culminated in a thermonuclear reaction, which strengthened the Soviet position in this field of physics.

In 1930 Artsimovich began teaching at the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute, and later he lectured at Leningrad University. After the war, he taught atomic and nuclear physics at the Moscow Physical-Engineering Institute and at Moscow State University. In 1946 Artsimovich became corresponding member, and in 1953 active member, of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R.; from 1957 he was academician-secretary of the section of general physics and astronomy. He was also a member of its Presidium and chairman of the National Committee of Soviet Physicists. Artsimovich was awarded the State Prize in 1953 and the Lenin Prize in 1958; was awarded the title Hero of Socialist Labor; and received six orders. He was honorary member of many foreign academies, and as a member of the Standing International Committee of the Pugwash Movement he made a great contribution to the fight of scientists for peace and disarmament.


I. Original Works. Artsimovich’ writings include Upravlyaemye termoyadernve reaktsii (R “Controlled Thermonuclear Reactions”; Moscow, 1961); Shturm termoyadernogo sinteza (“Assault on the Thermomuclear Synthesis”; Moscow, 1962); Eksperimentalnye issledovsnia na ustanovakakh Tokamak (“Experimental Research at ’Tokamak’ Plants”; Moscow, 1968), written with G.A. Bobrovsky, E.P. Gorbunov, et al,; Elementanaya fizika plazmy (“Elementary Plasma Physics”), 3rd ed. (Moscow, 1969), also in English trans. (New York, 1965); Zamknutye chastits v elektricheskom i magnitom polyakh (“Closed Plasma Configurations”; Moscow, 1969); and Dvizhenie zaryazhennykh chastits v elektricheskom i magnitom polyakh (“Motion of Charged Particles in Electric and Magnetic Fields”; Moscow, 1972), written with S.Y. Lukyanov.

II. Secondary Literature. There is a biography in Great Soviet Encyclopedia, II (1976), 384. See also A. I. Alikhanov, “Lev Andreevich Artsimovich (k 50-letiyu so dnya rozhdenia)” (“…Artsimovich [for His FIftieth Birthday]”), in Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk, 67 , no. 2 (1959), 367-369, with portrait and selected bibliography.

J. G. Dorfman