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Shalnikov, Aleksandr Iosifovich

(1905–1986), physicist, member of the USSR Academy of Sciences from 1979. Born in Saint Petersburg, Shal’nikov grew up in a family associated with the Russian intelligentsia. One of his childhood friends was the composer Dmitri Shostakovich. In his youth Shal’nikov was drawn to literature, and in the 1920s he attended lectures given in the literary circle of Nikolai Gumilev.

In 1928 Shal’nikov graduated from the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute. From 1923 to 1935 he worked at the Leningrad Physical-Technical Institute and from 1928 also taught at the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute; from 1935 he took an active part in the organization of the USSR Academy of Sciences Institute of Physical Problems in Moscow. After his move to Moscow, he began teaching at Moscow State University, where he organized the laboratory of low temperature physics, becoming a professor in 1944.

Shal’nikov’s main work was in physical chemistry, low temperature physics, and the design of scientific instruments. He developed or improved many instruments used in the study of physics, such as the quanta light meter, the iconoscope, the electron diffraction counter, and instruments for creating deep vacuums. At the Leningrad Physics and Technical Institute, Shal’nikov studied the processes of evaporation and condensation of substances in deep vacuum. From the beginning of his work at the Institute of Physical Problems his main fields of study were the physics of superconductors and of liquid and solid helium. At the beginning of the 1960s Shal’nikov devoted himself to the development of instruments for carrying out surgical procedures by means of freezing tissues. He also developed methods for obtaining ultrathin uniform metal films, and discovered the sharp increase of critical fields for thin superconducting films in comparison with those for large superconductors.

Using ingenious and thorough methods of experimentation, Shal’nikov was able to obtain reliable experimental evidence for the two-phase nature of the intermediate state of superconductors, and to estimate the dimensions of the domains in this two-phase system. He studied and wrote a great deal about the thermal and electromagnetic properties of superconductors.

Shal’nikov also undertook a series of studies devoted to the properties of liquid and solid helium. He investigated the mechanism of electrical charges in liquid helium and developed a new procedure for growing helium crystals. He was the first to observe the movement of electrical charges in helium crystals and to study the mechanism of this process. Shal’nikov was also the first to pay attention to the singularity of the kinetics of the growth of helium crystals. This contributed to the discovery of a qualitatively new mechanism, called quantum crystallization, for the growth of crystals, especially helium crystals.

Shal’nikov was the founder (in 1956) and long-time editor of the scientific journal Pribory i tekhnika eksperimenta (Instruments and Experimental Techniques). He was awarded the USSR State Prize four times (1948, 1949, 1953, and 1985), and the P. N. Lebedev Gold Medal in 1972, for his investigations into crystalline helium.

Suggested Reading

Viktor-Andrei Stanislavovich Borovik-Romanov, ed., Aleksandr Iosifovich Shal’nikov: Ocherki, vospominaniia, materialy (St. Petersburg, 1992).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson