Igor Tamm

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Stalin Prize, 1954

Igor Yevgenyevich Tamm (Russian И́горь Евге́ньевич Тамм) (8 July 1895 – 12 April 1971) was a Soviet physicist, mathematician and a Nobel laureate.


Tamm was born in Vladivostok, Russian Empire (now Russia), in a Russian-German family (his grandfather emigrated from Thuringia),[1] studied at the grammar school in Elisavetgrad (now Kirovohrad, Ukraine). In 1913-1914 he studied at the University of Edinburgh together with his gymnasium school friend Boris Hessen. He then moved to the Moscow State University from which graduated in 1918.

On 1 May, 1923, Tamm began to teach physics at the Second Moscow State University. The same year, he finished his first scientific paper, Electrodynamics of the Anisotropic Medium in the Special Theory of Relativity.[2] In 1928, he spent a few months with Paul Ehrenfest at the University of Leiden.

In 1932, Tamm published a paper with his proposal of the concept of surface states. This concept is important for MOSFET physics.

In 1945 he developed an approximation method for many-body physics. As Sidney Dancoff developed it independently in 1950, it is now called the Tamm-Dancoff approximation.

He was the Nobel Laureate in Physics for the year 1958 together with Pavel Cherenkov and Ilya Frank for the discovery and the interpretation of the Cherenkov-Vavilov effect.

In 1951, together with Andrei Sakharov, Tamm proposed a tokamak system of the realization of CTF on the basis of toroidal magnetic thermonuclear reactor and soon after the first such devices were built by the INF, resulting the T-3 Soviet magnetic confinement device from 1968, when the plasma parameters unique for that time were obtained, of showing the temperatures in their machine to be over an order of magnitude higher than what was expected by the rest of the community. The western scientists visited the experiment and verified the high temperatures and confinement, sparking a wave of optimism for the prospects of the tokamak as well as construction of new experiments, which is still the dominant magnetic confinement device today.

Tamm was a student of Leonid Isaakovich Mandelshtam in science and life.

Tamm died in Moscow, Soviet Union, now Russia. The Lunar crater Tamm is named after him.

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