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January 22, 2019
Lev Landau’s 111th Birthday
Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, on this day in 1908, Lev Davidovich Landau was a Soviet theoretical physicist who won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physics for his research into liquid helium’s behavior at extremely low temperatures.
Described by classmates as a “quiet, shy boy,” young Landau was brilliant at math and science, but struggled in relating to his classmates. Having completed his studies by age 13, Landau was ready to start college long before his peers. Enrolling in the Physics Department of Leningrad University, his first publication, On the Theory of the Spectra of Diatomic Molecules was already in print when he was just 18 years old.
Completing his Ph.D. at age 21, Landau earned a Rockefeller fellowship and a Soviet stipend which allowed him to visit research facilities in Zurich, Cambridge, and Copenhagen, where he had the opportunity to study with Nobel Laureate Niels Bohr. Renowned for his work in quantum theory, Bohr had a profound impact on the young physicist.
Elected to the U.S.S.R.’s Academy of Sciences in 1946, Ladau also received the Lenin Science Prize for his monumental Course of Theoretical Physics—a ten-volume study co-written with his student Evgeny Lifshitz. His wide-ranging research has linked his name to many concepts that he was first to describe including: Landau Levels, which are the focus of today’s Doodle, Landau diamagnetism, Landau damping, and the Landau energy spectrum. His legacy is also kept alive by the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics in Moscow—and there is even a crater on the moon named after him!
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