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Migdal, Arkadii Benediktovich

(1911–1991), theoretical and nuclear physicist. A member of the USSR Academy of Sciences from 1966, Migdal was born in Lida, Belarussia. He began his studies at the Leningrad State University Department of Physics in 1929, only to be expelled in 1931 because of nonproletarian origins. He completed his university studies in the evening division. From 1931 to 1936, while working as an engineer at a factory, Migdal was able to carry out some scientific work. In 1936 he became a graduate student at the Leningrad Physics and Technical Institute, where he wrote and defended his dissertation for the degree of candidate of sciences.

In one of his first significant works in nuclear physics, Migdal examined the ionization of atoms under the impact of a neutron on the nucleus. He wrote his doctoral dissertation under the direction of Lev Landau, then in charge of the Theoretical Department of the Institute of Physical Problems. Migdal’s doctoral dissertation was based on the theoretical prediction of the as-yet unobserved phenomenon of gigantic dipolar nuclear resonance.

Together with Landau, Migdal created a new direction in theoretical physics, the application of quantum theory methods to the N-body problem (quantum N-body theory). In 1945 Migdal began work at the Institute of Atomic Energy. From 1951 to 1953 he investigated the problem of controlled thermonuclear synthesis. His name is associated with many discoveries in fundamental science, including the “Migdal-Watson effect,” the “Migdal jump,” and “Migdal-Kohn singularities.”

Migdal was an unusually creative scientist, as well as a talented teacher who inspired hundreds of young physicists. In 1944 he was one of the founders of the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MIFI), where he held the post of professor. During his years at this institution, a “Migdal school” brought together dozens of accomplished physicists, among them many full and corresponding members of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

Migdal’s scientific legacy was enormous. He wrote four monographs and dozens of scientific articles. His frequent and popular appearances on television brought him wide public recognition. He believed that the meaning of life is “not to reach the goal by the shortest path, but rather to see and experience as much as possible along the way.”

Suggested Reading

N. O. Agasian, ed., Vospominaniia o A. B. Migdale (Moscow, 2003); Arkadii B. Migdal, Kak rozhdaiutsia fizicheskie teorii (Moscow, 1984).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson