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Vitaly Ginzburg

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Collection: 1916 Births, 2009 Deaths, Atheism Activists, Burials at Novodevichy Cemetery, Cardiovascular Disease Deaths in Russia, Foreign Fellows of the Indian National Science Academy, Foreign Members of the Royal Society, Full Members of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Full Members of the Ussr Academy of Sciences, Jewish Atheists, Jewish Physicists, Jewish Scientists, Lenin Prize Winners, Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology Faculty, Moscow State University Alumni, Nobel Laureates in Physics, Nuclear Weapons Program of the Soviet Union, Recipients of the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, Recipients of the Lomonosov Gold Medal, Recipients of the Order "for Merit to the Fatherland", 1St Class, Recipients of the Order of Lenin, Recipients of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 1St Class, Recipients of the Order of the Badge of Honour, Twice, Recipients of the Order of the Red Banner of Labour, Twice, Russian Astronomers, Russian Atheists, Russian Inventors, Russian Jews, Russian Nobel Laureates, Russian Physicists, Russian Skeptics, Russian-German People, Soviet Physicists, Stalin Prize Winners, Superconductivity, Theoretical Physicists, Unesco Niels Bohr Medal Recipients, Wolf Prize in Physics Laureates
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Vitaly Ginzburg

Vitaly Ginzburg
Born Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg
(1916-10-04)October 4, 1916
Moscow, Russian Empire
Died November 8, 2009(2009-11-08) (aged 93)
Moscow, Russia
Nationality Russia
Fields Theoretical Physics
Institutions P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences
Alma mater Moscow State University
Doctoral advisor Igor Tamm
Doctoral students Viatcheslav Mukhanov
Known for
Notable awards
Spouse Olga Zamsha Ginzburg (1937-1946; divorced; 1 child)
Nina Yermakova Ginzburg (m. 1946)

Vitaly Lazarevich Ginzburg, ForMemRS[1] (Russian: Вита́лий Ла́заревич Ги́нзбург; October 4, 1916 – November 8, 2009) was a Soviet and Russian theoretical physicist, astrophysicist, Nobel laureate, a member of the Soviet and Russian Academies of Sciences and one of the fathers of Soviet hydrogen bomb.[2][3] He was the successor to Igor Tamm as head of the Department of Theoretical Physics of the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (FIAN), and an outspoken atheist.[4]


  • Biography 1
  • Stance on religion 2
  • Death 3
  • Honors and awards 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


He was born to a Jewish family in Moscow in 1916, the son of an engineer Lazar Yefimovich Ginzburg and a doctor Augusta Felgenauer, and graduated from the Physics Faculty of Moscow State University in 1938. He defended his candidate's (Ph.D.) dissertation in 1940, and his doctor's dissertation in 1942. In 1944, he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Among his achievements are a partially phenomenological theory of superconductivity, the Ginzburg-Landau theory, developed with Lev Landau in 1950; the theory of electromagnetic wave propagation in plasmas (for example, in the ionosphere); and a theory of the origin of cosmic radiation. He is also known to biologists as being part of the group of scientists that helped bring down the reign of the politically connected anti-Mendelian agronomist Trofim Lysenko, thus allowing modern genetic science to return to the USSR.[5]

In 1937, Ginzburg married Olga Zamsha.

In 1946 he married his second wife, Nina Ginzburg (nee Yermakova), who had spent more than a year in custody on fabricated charges of plotting to assassinate Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.[6]

Ginzburg was the editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk.[3] He also headed the Academic Department of Physics and Astrophysics Problems, which Ginzburg founded at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in 1968.[7]

Ginzburg identified himself as a secular Jew, and following the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union, he was very active in Jewish life, especially in Russia, where he served on the board of directors of the Russian Jewish Congress. He is also well known for fighting anti-Semitism and supporting the state of Israel.[8]

In the 2000s (decade) Ginzburg was politically active, supporting the Russian liberal opposition and human rights movement.[9] He defended Igor Sutyagin and Valentin Danilov against charges of espionage put forth by the authorities. On April 2, 2009, in an interview to the Radio Liberty Ginzburg denounced the FSB as an institution harmful to Russia and the ongoing expansion of its authority as a return to Stalinism.[10]

Ginzburg worked at the P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute of Soviet and Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow since 1940. Russian Academy of Sciences is a major institution where mostly all Nobel Prize laureates of physics from Russia have done their studies and/or research works.[11]

Stance on religion

Ginzburg was an avowed atheist, both under the militantly atheist Soviet government and in post-Communist Russia when religion made a strong revival.[12] He criticized clericalism in the press and wrote several books devoted to the questions of religion and atheism.[13][14] Because of this, some Orthodox Christian groups denounced him and said no science award could excuse his verbal attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church.[15] He was one of the signers of the Open letter to the President Vladimir V. Putin from the Members of the Russian Academy of Sciences against clericalisation of Russia.


Irina Presnyakova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Academy of Sciences, announced that Ginzburg died in Moscow on November 8, 2009, from cardiac arrest.[2][16] He had been suffering from ill health for several years,[16] and three years before his death said "In general, I envy believers. I am 90, and [am] being overcome by illnesses. For believers, it is easier to deal with them and with life's other hardships. But what can be done? I cannot believe in resurrection after death."[16]

Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to Ginzburg's family, saying "We bid farewell to an extraordinary personality whose outstanding talent, exceptional strength of character and firmness of convictions evoked true respect from his colleagues".[16] President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, in his letter of condolences, described Ginzburg as a "top physicist of our time whose discoveries had a huge impact on the development of national and world science."[17]

Ginzburg was buried on 11 November in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, the resting place of many famous politicians, writers and scientists of Russia.[2]

Honors and awards

Ginzburg reads a Nobel lecture in Moscow State University.


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  11. ^ "Nobel Prize laureates affiliated with the Russian Academy of Sciences".
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  16. ^ a b c d
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External links

  • Vitaly L. Ginzburg, Autobiography in English at
  • Ginzburg's homepage
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Open letter to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir V. Putin
  • Obituary The Daily Telegraph 11 Nov 2009.
  • Obituary The Independent November 14, 2009 (by Martin Childs).
  • (Russian) Biography
  • (Russian) Obituary
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