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Lev Petrovich Gor'kov

Lev Petrovich Gor'kov

June 14, 1929 to December 28, 2016
Lev P. Gor’kov, on his 80th birthday, © Uspekhy Fiz. Nauk (2009).

Lev P. Gor'kov, 1929 - 2016

January 20, 2017 (PO51). Lev Petrovich Gor'kov, professor of physics and world-renowned theorist in the field of condensed matter physics, and especially superconductivity, died on December 28, 2016. He was a student of the famous Nobel laureate Lev Landau, and belonged to the group of prominent Russian physicists known as the “Landau school”.

Gor’kov was born in Moscow, then the Soviet Union, on June 14, 1929.  In 1947 he started his studies in technical physics, initially at the Moscow State University (MGU) and obtained his diploma (M.Sc.) in 1953 at the Institute of Physical Problems (IFP). Subsequently, he started his doctoral studies while working in the theory department of IFP headed by Landau. In 1956 Gor’kov defended there his PhD1 dissertation and stayed until 1963 when he transferred for a couple of years to Chernogolovka2 as the head of the theory department at the Institute of Chemical Physics. In 1961 he earned the degree of D.Sc., the Soviet/Russian equivalent of European habilitation. In 1965, he moved to the new Institute of Theoretical Physics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences3, of which he was one of the organizers, and headed the Chair “Problems of Theoretical Physics”.  He was active there until 1991, the last three years as the Deputy Director when he left Russia and moved to the United States. After a short stay as a visiting professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, he moved to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL or “MagLab”) at Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, of which he was one of the founding scientists and the leading theorist (Program Director in Condensed Matter). He remained there until his demise.

Gor’kov’s interest in superconductivity was stimulated by the publication of the BCS theory in 1958. A few months later he developed and published the Gorkov’s equations, a strong theoretical tool, which became the base contemporary theory of superconductivity. He then proceeded in 1959 to develop microscopic foundations of the phenomenological Ginzburg-Landau theory, today known under the acronym GLAG (Ginzburg-Landau-Abrikosov-Gor’kov), which eventually became the most universal approach to study electromagnetic properties of superconductors. In 1958-1960, Gor’kov together with A. Abrikosov developed the theory of superconducting alloys and predicted the possibility of gapless superconductivity. In the early 1970s, Gor’kov, together with G. Eliashberg, established the foundations of the theory of non-stationary and nonequilibrium effects in superconductors, describing their behavior in alternating fields, nonlinearity, and the vortex dynamics. In the late 1970s and 1980s he then consecutively worked on theories of A15 alloys, organic 1D superconductors, and heavy fermions. We don’t mention here his more general and towering contributions to condensed matter physics.

In the US, Gor’kov continued his creative activity in a variety of areas of condensed matter physics and superconductivity. Alone in the period of 1998 to 2016, he authored or co-authored well over 50 papers and four book chapters. His most recent interests in superconductivity included a variety of subjects such as superconductivity at interfaces, superconductivity in sulfur hydrides under high pressures, cuprates, pnictides and others.

Gor'kov had been the recipient of many prestigious awards and honors throughout his illustrious career including the Lenin Prize, Soviet's highest award for scientific achievement in 1966, the Landau Award in 1989, the Bardeen Award in 1991, the Humbolt Research Award in 1998, the Eugene Feenberg Medal for advancing the field of many-body physics in 2004 and in 2015 the Ugo Fano Prize awarded by the Rome International Center for Materials Science.  He became a corresponding member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1966, a full member in 1987 and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2005.  He achieved Fellow of the American Physical Society (1997) and held honorary doctorates at the City University of New York (1989) and the University of Illinois (1992).

The MagLab Director, Greg Boebinger, wrote in early January 2017: "Lev was a man whose scientific accomplishments are known and admired by the physics community and whose gentle personality and keen sense of humor are equally appreciated by those fortunate enough to have known him personally".

This obituary is based to a large extent on the material published by A. Abrikosov et al. on the occasion of Gor’kov’s 80th birthday, Uspekhy Fiz. Nauk 179, No. 6, 695-696 (2009), and also on Gor’kov’s short obituary now posted at the MagLab website.  We thank A. Golubov, Univ. of Twente. M. Feigelman of Landau Institute, Moscow, and V. Mineev of CEA, France, for their help in accessing, especially Russian, sources of information.  A comprehensive remembrance of Lev P. Gorkov is in preparation by Russian and other colleagues for possible publication in Physics Today. This obituary replaces the previously posted PO51 temporary text.

1Soviet/Russian degree “Kandidat Nauk“, i.e., Science Candidate.
2Now a Russian “Science City“, less than 45 km northeast
from Moscow.
3Now the Landau Institute of Theoretical Physics.