Igor Y. Tamm (1895-1971)
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1958
Igor Yevgenyevich Tamm was born in Vladivostok on July 8, 1895, the son of Evgenij Tamm, an engineer, and Olga Davydova. He graduated from Moscow State University in 1918, specializing in physics, and immediately commenced an academic career in institutes of higher learning. He was progressively assistant, instructor, lecturer, and professor in charge of chairs, and taught at the Crimean and Moscow State Universities, Polytechnical and Engineering-Physical Institutes, and at the J.M. Sverdlov Communist University. Tamm was awarded the degree of Doctor of Physico-Mathematical Sciences, and he attained the academic rank of Professor. In 1934, he was put in charge of the theoretical division of the P.N. Lebedev Institute of Physics of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
After 1920, when they met for the first time, Prof. L. Mandelstam exercised a decisive influence on his scientific activity and Tamm worked under his guidance until Professor Mandelstam’s death in 1944.
Tamm was an outstanding theoretical physicist, and his early researches were devoted to crystallo-optics and the quantum theory of diffused light in solid bodies. Turning his attention to the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, he evolved a method for interpreting the interaction of nuclear particles. Together with I.M. Frank, he developed the theoretical interpretation of the radiation of electrons moving through matter faster than the speed of light (the Cerenkov effect), and the theory of showers in cosmic rays. He also made contributions towards methods for the control of thermonuclear reactions. Resulting from his original researches, Tamm wrote two important books, Relativistic Interaction of Elementary Particles (1935) and On the Magnetic Moment of the Neutron (1938).
Igor Tamm was elected Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1933, and in 1953 he became an Academician. He shared the 1946 State Prize with Vavilov, Cerenkov, and Frank, and is a Hero of Socialist Labour. He is also a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Swedish Physical Society.
Igor Y. Tamm died on April 12, 1971.