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Ioffe, Abram Fedorovich


(b. Romma, Poltava gÜbernia, Russia, 29 October 1880; d. Lennigrad, U.S.S.R.,14 October 1960)

physics, technology.

The son of a merchant, Ioffe graduated from the St.Petersburg Technical Institute in 1902 with a degree in technical engineering. Strongly attracted to physics, however, he entered the University of Munich in 1902, studying at Röntgen’s Physical Institute. He acted as Röntgen’s assistant and received the Ph.D. summa cum laudein 1905. Declining Röntgen’s suggestion that he continue to work at Munich, Ioffe returned to Russia the following year and assumed the post of senior laboratory assistant in the physics department of the St.Petersburg Polytechnical Institute. From 1906 to 1913 he lectured there in general physics, and from 1908 to 1914 he offered a course in thermodynamics at the Institute of Mines.

The desire to create a major Russian school of experimental physics guided Ioffe’s activities in the physics section of the Russian Physics and Chemistry Society and in his own research. In 1913, after defending his master’s thesis, he became professor at the Polytechnical Institute and, in 1914, assistant professor at St.Petersburg University as well. In 1915 he received a doctorate in physics for his detailed investigation of the elasticity and electrical characteristics of quartz. The physics seminar that he organized in 1916 at the Polytechnical Institute soon became the center of advanced physical thought in St.Petersburg. In 1918 Ioffe participated in the creation of the State Institute of Röentgenology and Radiology, heading the section of physics and technology. In 1919 he organized the Faculty of Physics and Mechanics at the Ploytechnical Institute and served as chairman until 1948. In order to fürther the rapprochement of physics and industrial technology, Ioffe and his student N.N.Semenov founded an independent laboratory of physics and technology, which merged in 1929 with the State Institute of Physics and Technology to form the Physical and Technological X-ray Institute; Ioffe was director for twenty-five years.

From the outset work at the institute focused on two areas: the most advanced concepts of physics—atomic and nuclear physics and the physics of X rays—and elaborating scientific topics for application to industrial technology. Ioffe initiated or participated directly in studies of Xrays, electronic phenomena, atomic nuclei, and the mechanical, electircal, and magnetic properties of solids, especially dielectric crystals.

At the State Institute of Physics and Technology, loofe continued the research on the conductivity of dielectric crystals that he had begun in Rontgen’s laboratory; it was there that he had discovered the internal photoeffect in halite crystals that had been subject to X-radiation. This research led Ioffe to present his ideas concerning the role of ions in the interstices of a crystalline lattice. His physical representations formed the basis of the modern explanation of the electrical characteristics of dielectrics.

In 1930 Ioffe’s main interest turned to semiconductors. He elaborated an extensive program for studying their conductivity, photoeletric properties, galvannomagnetic and thermoelectric phenomena, rectification effects, the nature of the barrier layer, and the influence of impurities. Two mechanisms of conductivity were subsequently revealed: by electrons and by holes; and methods were developed for manufacturing semiconductors having specified properties.

Ioffe’s writings on the history of physics include a histórical analysis of the development of ideas concerning the mechanical and electrical properties of solids(1938). Interspersed with his other comments on the work of former physicists are colorful reminiscences of Einstein, Planck, and Rontgen. The author of college textbooks, monographs on semiconductors and dielectrics, and works on the philosophical implications of contemporary physics, he also produced two major works on basic concepts in modern physics (1949) and on the physics of semiconductors (1957).

His students included three generations of Soviet physicists, among whom were P.L.Kapitsa, N.N.Semenov, I.V.Kurchatov, A.I.Alikhanov, I.K.Kikoin, V.N.Kondratiev, P.L.Lukirsky, I.V.Obreimov, and D.V.Skobeltsyn.

In 1918 Ioffe was elected an associate member and, in 1920, member of the U.S.S.R.Academy of Sciences. He was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1929), the National Academy of Sciences of India (1958), and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei(1959); and he received honorary doctorates from the University of California (1927), the University of Paris (1946), and the University of Bucharest (1948).


I. Original Works. Ioffe’s earlier writings include Elastische Nachwirkung im kristallinischen Quarz (Leipzig, 1906); Elementary fotoelektrechesky efekt. Magnitnoe pole katodnykh luchey(“The Elementary Photoelectric Effect. The Magnetic Field of Cathode Rays”; St. Petersburg, 1913), his master’s thesis; Uprugie i elektrecheskie svoystva kvartsa (“The Elasticity and Electrical Characteristics of Quartz”; St. Petersburg, 1915), his doctoral diss.; Lektsii po molekulyarnoy fizike(“Lectures on Molecular Physics”; Petrograd, 1919); “Eleklrizitatsdurchgang durch Kristalle,” in Annalen der Physik, 4th ser., 72 (1923), 461–500, written with Röntgen. Kurs fiziki (“Course in Physics”; Moscow-Leningrad, 1927); The Physics of Crystals L. B. Loeb, ed. (New York-London, 1928), also in Russian (Moscow- Leningrad, 1929); Moya zhizn i rabota(“My Life and Work” Moscow-Leningrad, 1933), an autobiography: Sur la distribution spectrale de l’ effet photoé-lectriquc dans l’oxyde cuivreux(Paris. 1934); and Semi-conducteurs électriques(Paris, 1935).

Later publications are Osnovnye predstavlenia sovre-mennoy Jiziki (“Basic Concepts in Modern Physics”; Moscow-Leningrad. 1949); Poluprovodniki v sovre-mennoy fizike (“Semiconductors in Modern Physics”; Moscow-Leningrad. 1954); Poluprovodniki(“Semiconductors”, Moscow-Leningrad, 1955); Poluprovodniki i ikh primenenie (“Semiconductors and Their Application” Moscow-Leningrad, 1956); Poluprovodnikovye termoelementy(“Semiconductor Thermoelements”; Moscow— Leningrad, 1956); Semiconductors, Thermoelements and Thermoelectric Cooling (London, 1957): Halbleiter-Thermoelemente (Berlin, 1957): Fizika poluprovodnikovve termoelementy “Semiconductors, Thermoelements” and Thermoelectric Cooling (London, 1957); Halbleiter-Thermoelemente (Berlin, 1957); Fizika polu-provodnikov(“The Physics of Semiconductors”; Moscow-Leningrad, 1954; 2nd ed., 1957), also in German (Berlin, 1958).

II. Secondary Literature. On Ioffe and his work, see Y. l. Frenkel, “Akademik A. F. Iiffe,” in Vestnik Akademii nauk SSSR(1940), no. 10, 72–77, published on his sixtieth birthday; Sbornik, posvyashchenny70-le-tiyu akadermika A. F. Ioffe(“Collection Dedicated to the Seventieth Birthday of Academician A. F. Ioffe”; Moscow, 1950). with contributions by various authors; I. K. Kikoin and M.S. Sominsky, “Abram Fedorovich Ioffe,” in Uspekhifizicheskikh nauk.72, no. 2 (1960). 307–321; and M. S. Sominsky, A. F. Ioffe(Moscow-Leningrad, 1964).

A. T. Grigorian

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