Leonidovich Kapitsa was born in Kronstadt, near Leningrad, on the 9th
July 1894, son of Leonid Petrovich Kapitsa, military engineer, and Olga
Ieronimovna née Stebnitskaia, working in high education and folklore research.
Kapitsa began his scientific career in A.F. Ioffe's section
of the Electromechanics Department of the Petrograd Polytechnical Institute,
completing his studies in 1918. Here, jointly with N.N. Semenov, he proposed
a method for determining the magnetic moment of an atom interacting with
an inhomogeneous magnetic field. This method was later used in the celebrated
At the suggestion of A.F. Ioffe in 1921 Kapitsa came to the Cavendish
Laboratory to work with Rutherford. In 1923 he made the first experiment
in which a cloud chamber was placed in a strong magnetic field, and observed
the bending of alfa-particle paths. In 1924 he developed methods for obtaining
very strong magnetic fields and produced fields up to 320 kilogauss in
a volume of 2 cm3. In 1928 he discovered the linear dependence of resistivity
on magnetic field for various metals placed in very strong magnetic fields.
In his last years in Cambridge Kapitsa turned to low temperature research.
He began with a critical analysis of the methods that existed at the time
for obtaining low temperatures and developed a new and original apparatus
for the liquefaction of helium based on the adiabatic principle (1934).
Kapitsa was a
Clerk Maxwell Student of Cambridge University (1923-1926),
Assistant Director of Magnetic Research at Cavendish Laboratory (1924-1932), Messel Research Professor of the Royal Society (1930-1934), Director of
the Royal Society Mond Laboratory (1930-1934). With R.H. Fowler he was
the founder editor of the International Series of Monographs on Physics
(Oxford, Clarendon Press).
In 1934 he returned to Moscow where he organized the Institute for Physical
Problems at which he continued his research on strong magnetic fields,
low temperature physics and cryogenics.
In 1939 he developed a new method for liquefaction of air with a lowpressure
cycle using a special high-efficiency expansion turbine. In low temperature
physics, Kapitsa began a series of experiments to study the properties
of liquid helium that led to discovery of the superfluidity of helium
in 1937 and in a series of papers investigated this new state of matter.
During the World War II Kapitsa was engaged in applied research on the
production and use of oxygen that was produced using his low pressure
expansion turbines, and organized and headed the Department of Oxygen
Industry attached to the USSR Council of Ministers.
Late in the
1940's Kapitsa turned his attention to a totally new range of physical
problems. He invented high power microwave generators - planotron and
nigotron (1950- 1955) and discovered a new kind of continuous high pressure
plasma discharge with electron temperatures over a million K.
Kapitsa is director of the Institute for Physical Problems. Since 1957
he is a member of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He was
one of the founders of the Moscow Physico-Technical Institute (MFTI),
and is now head of the department of low temperature physics and cryogenics
of MFTI and chairman of the Coordination Council of this teaching Institute.
He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical
Physics and member of the Soviet National Committee of the Pugwash movement
of scientists for peace and disarmament.
He was married
in 1927 to Anna Alekseevna Krylova, daughter of Academician A.N. Krylov.
They have two sons, Sergei and Andrei.
Professor Kapitsa died in 1984.