A glimse back into the history of the Faculty of Physics
Moscow State University (MSU) is the most ranked and oldest University in Russia.
It was founded as the Emperor's Moscow University under the decree of the empress
Yelizaveta Petrovna on January 25, 1755. In 1940 the Moscow State University
was named after the famous Russian scientist Mikhailo Vasil'evich Lomonosov,
the spiritual father of the University.
At its birth, the University had three faculties — Law, Medicine, and Philosophy. The latter faculty
included a Chair of «Experimental and Pure Physics», which also gives the birth of Physics at Moscow
University. In 1770 it was reorganized into the Chair of Mathematics and Physics, from which later on, in
1791, a Chair of Experimental Physics was split. It was headed by Prof. Petr Strakhov (1757-1813)
who played a crucial role for developing education and research in Physics at Moscow University. He
became the first chair of the department of Physics and Mathematics, a correspondent member of St.
Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and authored the first textbook on Physics in Russian, «The outline of
Physics». In 1805, Prof. Strakhov was elected the rector of Moscow State University.
Next to Prof. Strakhov, the Chair of Physics was headed by Prof. Ivan A. Dvigubsky
(1771-1839) who had broad scientific interests in the field of Chemistry, Physics,
Medicine, and Biology. He wrote a textbook on Physics, which had several editions,
and started publication of a scientific Journal at Moscow University, being
its editor. Prof. Dvigubsky was also chaired the department of Physics and Mathematics
for 9 years and was then elected for 7 years the rector of Moscow University.
Prof. D. M. Perevoschikov (19881880), academician of St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences,
chaired the department for 14 years and had been the rector of Moscow University for 2 years. His name is
associated with establishing the University Observatory.
In 1850, the Department of Physics and Mathematics was reorganized into the respected
Division headed by a botanist, Prof. Alexander Fisher von Waldheim, for nearly five years. Among other
heads of the Division it is worth to mention such prominent figures as astronomer Fyodor Bredihin
and anthropologist Dmitry Anuchin. All of them were bright, intelligent, and extraordinary people who contributed a lot into the development of Moscow State
University. The heads of the Division — mathematician Leonid Lahtin and biologist Mikael Novikov had
also been Rectors of the University.
The research and teaching activities of Prof. A.G.Stoletov, the chair of the Division, are the visible
milestones in the life of Moscow State University and developing Physics. He had done a pioneering work in
the field of ferromagnetism and discovered the principles of extrinsic photoeffect, which brought him the
world popularity and appreciation. He was also the first to establish his scientific School, which had the
worldwide importance. By the end of the XX century, his disciples had headed the chairs of Physics at five
out of seven major Universities in Russia.
The glory of Moscow State University in the late XIX century was created by the works of theoretical
physicist Prof. N.A.Umov, who developed the theory of localization and energy transfer in continuous
media and introduced the concept of the energy flux (the UmovPointing vector).In 1900, Petr Lebedev became the Professor at Moscow State University.
He was the first to measure the light pressure on solid state and in gases and had experimentally confirmed
the Maxwell electromagnetic theory of light. In recognition of these his pioneering works he was nominated for the Nobel Prize, but, unfortunately, he passed
away before the prize was awarded. Prof. Lebedev established a worldfamous School of physicists at
Moscow State University, which included more than 30 scientists. Among his disciples were Professors P.
P. Lazarev, S. I. Vavilov, N. N. Andreev, V. K. Arkadyev, T. P. Kravets, A. S. Predvoditelev, and many others.In
1919, Prof. V. K. Arkadyev established the Moscow Magnetic Laboratory, which became shortly a world-known lab in which many leading magnitologists had
began their career.In 1926, Profs. S. I. Vavilov and V. L. Levshin developed the theory of luminescence and
discovered the first nonlinear optical effect.In 1928, Profs. L. I. Mandelshtam and G. S. Landsberg discovered and correctly interpreted the phenomenon of
combinational light scattering in quartz crystal. For the same, simultaneously obtained results on benzol a
physicist from India, Dr. Raman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.
1933 the Faculty of Physics was established at Moscow State University.
In 1938, Prof. A. A. Vlasov developed the kinetic theory and derived the fundamental equations
(called in his name), which are widely used now in plasma theory.
In 1950–70th, Profs. R. V. Khokhlov and S. A. Akhmanov developed theory of nonlinear phenomena in the radio and optical ranges. In 1965, the
optical parametric oscillator was launched to work at one of the Faculty's labs. Prof. R. V. Khokhlov was elected rector of Moscow State in 1973 and was in
the office until his death in 1977.
In 1958, Prof. S. N. Vernov discovered the radioactive high intensity belts around the Earth,
resulted from caption of high energy cosmic particles by the geomagnetic field. The outstanding discoveries had been made by Profs. A. A. Logunov and
V. P. Maslov. Prof. A. A. Loguniv served also as rector of Moscow State in 1977–1992.
In the period of 1958–1980, the faculty members won 24 diplomas for their publicly registered in the USSR scientific discoveries. It should be
mentioned also that the overall number of discoveries in natural sciences that time resulted in 250.
out of ten Russian Nobel Prize winners in Physics have been working at the Faculty
of Physics: Profs. I. E. Tamm and I. M. Frank, who won the Nobel Prize in 1958
«for discovery and interpretation of Cherenkov effect»; Prof. L. D. Landau,
who won the Nobel Prize in 1962 «for the pioneering research in the theory of
condensed matter and liquid Helium, in particular», Professor A. M. Prokhorov,
who won the Nobel Prize in 1964 «for fundamental works in the field of quantum
electronics that led to the laser invention»; Prof. P. L. Kapitsa, who won the
Nobel Prize in 1978 «for fundamental inventions and discoveries in the field
of low temperature physics». In October 7, 2003, the former Faculty's Prof.
A. A. Abrikosov and the former faculty's graduate, Prof. V. L. Ginzburg were
awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their outstanding works in the field
of theory of superconductivity and superfluidity.
Prof. A. D. Sakharov, our graduate, also becomes a Nobel Prize winner for Peace. His outstanding achievements in physics, specifically his
participation in the thermonuclear bomb project, are acknowledged worldwide.
In the overall history of the Faculty of Physics, 82 academicians, 58 correspondent members of Petersburg Academy of Sciences, USSR
Academy of Sciences, and then Russian Academy of Sciences, and 8 Nobel Prize winners used to work
with in the Faculty. More than 600 staff members have been awarded with 1700 State Prizes of the tsarist Russia, Soviet Union, and Russian Federation.
Many chairs at the Faculty of Physics have been established by outstanding scientists, namely,
Prof. S. I. Vavilov (President of the USSR Academy of Sciences), Prof. L. I. Mandel'shtam, Prof. A. N. Tikhonov,
Prof. I. E. Tamm (Nobel Prize winner), Prof. P. L. Kapitsa (Nobel Prize winner), and many others.
In the last decade, five new chairs were established at the Faculty, namely, the chairs of com
puter methods in physics, physics of condensed matter, experimental astronomy, neutronography, and