The people who create science are unique in nature, and Pyotr Kapitsa was also not an ordinary man at all.
Of course, Pyotr Kapitsa is known as an outstanding scientist and a Nobel laureate in physics, a founder of the Institute for Physical Problems (Russia) and a co-founder of the famous Moscow Physical-Technical Institute (Russia). But what kind of person was he?
“No one is arguing here, this is a scientific discussion going on.”
A Brilliant “D Student”
Peter was expelled from school for having low grades – he was very bad in Latin. And he had to enroll in an ordinary technical school, which did not give the right to apply to the university. That is why Pyotr had to apply to the Polytechnic Institute in St. Petersburg.
But here Pyotr got lucky – physics at the Institute was taught by Abram Ioffe, who trained a great number of outstanding Russian physicists whose works were later awarded with multiple Nobel Prizes. Ioffe pretty quickly drew attention to Kapitsa and invited him to work together.
Deadly “Spanish Flu”
During the completion of World War I, the world was attacked by a flu epidemic, “Spanish flu”, which killed tens of millions of people. Pyotr Kapitsa lost his wife and children, and his fatherduring the epidemic. And only science and the help of his mother brought him back to life.
In 1921 Kapitsa moved to England and began working at the Cavendish Laboratory. Pyotr pretty quickly demonstrated his brilliant talents of an experimentalist and theoretician. Kapitsa managed to achieve record magnetic fields required for research. The magnetic fields in their power exceeded those created before by about 10,000 times.
“It’s not about the size. The atomic nucleus is even smaller, but there’s even more excitement about it.”
In 1934, Pyotr came to visit his parents in Russia, but he was not allowed to leave the country again. Nevertheless, Kapitsa became the first director of the Institute for Physical Problems, and organized a move of his scientific equipment from the Cavendish Laboratoryto Moscow and continued his research.
Despite the hard times, Kapitsa boldly defended his views. Over the years, he has written more than 300 letters to Stalin, Khrushchev and other functionaries. And his letters delivered some benefits: many scientists have been saved.
Research projects of Pyotr Kapitsa were rich with outstanding results. Among them – a discovery of superfluidity of helium at low temperatures (Nobel Prize).
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Photo by Piotr Barącz