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Pomeranchuk, Isaak Iakovlevich

(1913–1966), theoretical physicist, member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, and professor. Born in Warsaw to an educated family (his father was a chemical engineer and his mother a doctor), Isaak Pomeranchuk moved with them first to Rostov-on-Don, and then to the Donbass. He began his studies at the Ivanovo Institute of Chemical Technology, transferring to the Department of Physics and Mechanics of the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute; he completed his degree in 1936.

Pomeranchuk began his scientific work in 1935 at the Physics and Technical Institute in Kharkov, under Lev Davidovich Landau. From 1940 to 1943 he worked at the Physics Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1943, he transferred to the Academy’s famous “Laboratory No. 2,” headed by Academician Igor’ Kurchatov. Their work was aimed at producing an atomic bomb. In 1945, Abram Alikhanov organized “Laboratory No. 3,” later renamed the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEF). Pomeranchuk began working there in 1946, becoming head of the Theoretical Department. From 1946 he also taught theoretical physics at the Moscow Mechanical Institute (later called the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute [MIFI]). Pomeranchuk made invaluable contributions to the development of Soviet physics. He made numerous theoretical predictions for phenomena whose existence was later demonstrated experimentally. Many of these phenomena are known as “Pomeranchuk effects.” They appear in solid-state physics, low-temperature physics, the electrodynamics of electrons and positrons, and in other fields. In 1950 Pomeranchuk proposed a new method of cooling, based on the unique properties of helium at low temperatures. The applications of Pomeranchuk’s work were fundamental to the development of the theory of neutron reactors in the USSR. When the field of particle physics emerged, Pomeranchuk immersed himself in it. His work on the theory of strong interactions, especially his proof of what came to be known as “the Pomeranchuk theorem,” established the basis for a new direction in ultra-high energy physics.

Pomeranchuk’s scientific contributions were recognized repeatedly by the Soviet state. He was awarded two State Prizes (1950, 1952), an Order of Lenin, and other high government decorations.

Suggested Reading

Vladimir Borisovich Berestetskii, “Isaak Iakovlevich Pomeranchuk,” Soviet Physics, Uspekhi 10.3 (1967): 409–418; Isaak Ia. Pomeranchuk, Sobranie nauchnykh trudov, 3 vols. (Moscow, 1972).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson