Sergey Kapitsa

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Sergey Kapitsa
Sergey Kapitsa.jpg
Born(1928-02-14)14 February 1928
Died14 August 2012(2012-08-14) (aged 84)
Citizenship Soviet, Russian, British [ citation needed ]
Alma mater Moscow Aviation Institute
Known forTV science magazine host since 1973
Awards UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science, 1979 and USSR State Prize, 1980
Scientific career
Fields Physics, demography
Institutions Kapitza Institute for Physical Problems, RAS and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

Sergey Petrovich Kapitsa (Russian : Серге́й Петро́вич Капи́ца; 14 February 1928 14 August 2012) was a Russian physicist and demographer. He was best known as host of the popular and long-running Russian scientific TV show, Evident, but Incredible. His father was the Nobel laureate Soviet-era physicist Pyotr Kapitsa, and his brother was the geographer and Antarctic explorer Andrey Kapitsa.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although, nowadays, nearly three decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia, the rise of state-specific varieties of this language tends to be strongly denied in Russia, in line with the Russian World ideology.

Pyotr Kapitsa Soviet physicist

Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa or Peter Kapitza (Russian: Пётр Леони́дович Капи́ца, Romanian: Petre Capiţa was a leading Soviet physicist and Nobel laureate, best known for his work in low-temperature physics.

Antarctic region around the Earths South Pole

The Antarctic is a polar region around the Earth's South Pole, opposite the Arctic region around the North Pole. The Antarctic comprises the continent of Antarctica, the Kerguelen Plateau and other island territories located on the Antarctic Plate or south of the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic region includes the ice shelves, waters, and all the island territories in the Southern Ocean situated south of the Antarctic Convergence, a zone approximately 32 to 48 km wide varying in latitude seasonally. The region covers some 20 percent of the Southern Hemisphere, of which 5.5 percent is the surface area of the Antarctic continent itself. All of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude are administered under the Antarctic Treaty System. Biogeographically, the Antarctic ecozone is one of eight ecozones of the Earth's land surface.


Life and career

Kapitsa was born in Cambridge, England, [1] the son of Anna Alekseevna (Krylova) and Pyotr Kapitsa. His maternal grandfather was Aleksey Nikolaevich Krylov, naval engineer, applied mathematician and memoirist, and the developer of the insubmersibility technique. He was baptized while back in Britain, with Ivan Pavlov serving as his godparent. [2] During his late life Kapitsa described himself as a "Russian Orthodox atheist". [2]

Cambridge City and non-metropolitan district in England

Cambridge is a university city and the county town of Cambridgeshire, England, on the River Cam approximately 50 miles (80 km) north of London. At the United Kingdom Census 2011, its population was 123,867 including 24,506 students. Cambridge became an important trading centre during the Roman and Viking ages, and there is archaeological evidence of settlement in the area as early as the Bronze Age. The first town charters were granted in the 12th century, although modern city status was not officially conferred until 1951.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Aleksey Krylov Russian mathematician

Aleksey Nikolaevich Krylov was a Russian naval engineer, applied mathematician and memoirist.

In 1935 his family returned to the USSR. Kapitsa graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute in 1949. He was Senior Research Fellow at the Lebedev Physical Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences and Professor at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

The Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, situated in Moscow, is one of the leading Russian research institutes specializing in physics. It is also one of the oldest research institutions in Russia: its history dates back to a collection of physics equipment established by Peter the Great in the Kunstkamera of Saint Petersburg in 1714. The institute was established in its present shape in 1934 by academician Sergey Vavilov. It moved to Moscow and was named after a prominent Russian physicist Pyotr Lebedev the same year. It is also known as P. N. Lebedev Institute of Physics or just Lebedev Institute. In Russian it is often referred to by the acronym FIAN (ФИАН) standing for "Physical Institute of the Academy of Sciences".

Russian Academy of Sciences academy of sciences

The Russian Academy of Sciences consists of the national academy of Russia; a network of scientific research institutes from across the Russian Federation; and additional scientific and social units such as libraries, publishing units, and hospitals.

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology university in Russia

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, known informally as PhysTech (Физтех), is a Russian university, originally established in Soviet Union. It prepares specialists in theoretical and applied physics, applied mathematics and related disciplines.

Kapitsa's contributions to physics were in the areas of applied electrodynamics and accelerator physics; he is known, in particular, for his work on the microtron, a device for producing electron beams. [3] In later years, his research focus was on historical demography, where he developed a number of mathematical models of the World System population hyperbolic growth and the global demographic transition.


A microtron is a type of particle accelerator concept originating from the cyclotron in which the accelerating field is not applied through large D-shaped electrodes, but through a linear accelerator structure. The classic microtron was invented by Vladimir Veksler. The kinetic energy of the particles is increased by a constant amount per field change. Microtrons are designed to operate at constant field frequency and magnetic field in the ultrarelativistic limit. Thus they are especially suited for very light elementary particles, namely electrons.

Hyperbolic growth

When a quantity grows towards a singularity under a finite variation it is said to undergo hyperbolic growth. More precisely, the reciprocal function has a hyperbola as a graph, and has a singularity at 0, meaning that the limit as is infinite: any similar graph is said to exhibit hyperbolic growth.

Demographic transition

Demographic transition (DT) is the transition from high birth and death rates to lower birth and death rates as a country or region develops from a pre-industrial to an industrialized economic system. The theory was proposed in 1929 by the American demographer Warren Thompson, who observed changes, or transitions, in birth and death rates in industrialized societies over the previous 200 years. Most developed countries have completed the demographic transition and have low birth rates; most developing countries are in the process of this transition. The major (relative) exceptions are some poor countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and some Middle Eastern countries, which are poor or affected by government policy or civil strife, notably, Pakistan, Palestinian territories, Yemen, and Afghanistan.

His activities in science popularization included hosting the Russian Television program, Evident, but Incredible, starting in 1973, for which he was awarded UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science in 1979 [4] and the USSR State Prize in 1980, and editing the Russian edition of Scientific American from 1982 onwards. He was also active in issues of science and society through his participation in the Pugwash conferences and the Club of Rome. In the 1980s he, along with Carl Sagan, was outspoken about the possibility that international nuclear war would bring about a nuclear winter, making presentations in the US Senate in 1983 [5] [6] and the United Nations in 1985. [7] He was an advocate of planetary exploration and served on the advisory council of the Planetary Society. [8] In 2012, Kapitsa was awarded the first gold medal of the Russian Academy of Sciences for outstanding achievements in the dissemination of scientific knowledge. [9]

UNESCO Specialised agency of the United Nations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

Kalinga Prize award

The Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science is an award given by UNESCO for exceptional skill in presenting scientific ideas to lay people. It was created in 1952, following a donation from Biju Patnaik, Founder President of the Kalinga Foundation Trust in India.

<i>Scientific American</i> American popular science magazine

Scientific American is an American popular science magazine. Many famous scientists, including Albert Einstein, have contributed articles to it. It is the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States.

Kapitsa was a pioneer of scuba diving in the Soviet Union, he shot the first underwater film about the Sea of Japan, which was shown at international film festivals, in particular in Cannes, where it was second only to the film by Jacques Cousteau. [9]

Sea of Japan Marginal sea between Japan, Russia and Korea

The Sea of Japan is the marginal sea between the Japanese archipelago, Sakhalin, the Korean Peninsula and Russia. The Japanese archipelago separates the sea from the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered by Japan, Korea and Russia. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific Ocean. This isolation also reflects in the fauna species and in the water salinity, which is lower than in the ocean. The sea has no large islands, bays or capes. Its water balance is mostly determined by the inflow and outflow through the straits connecting it to the neighboring seas and Pacific Ocean. Few rivers discharge into the sea and their total contribution to the water exchange is within 1%.

Cannes Film Festival annual film festival held in Cannes, France

The Cannes Festival, until 2002 called the International Film Festival and known in English as the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual film festival held in Cannes, France, which previews new films of all genres, including documentaries from all around the world. Founded in 1946, the invitation-only festival is held annually at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. It is one of the "Big Three" alongside the Venice Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival.

Jacques Cousteau French inventor of open circuit scuba, pioneer diver, author, film-maker and marine researcher

Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a French naval officer, explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water. He co-developed the Aqua-lung, pioneered marine conservation and was a member of the Académie française.

Kapitsa was the vice president of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and president of the Eurasian Physical Society, and was a strong proponent of restoring support for science in Russia. [10]

In 1992 the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSICOP) presented Kapitsa with the Public Education in Science Award. [11]

On 14 August 2012, Kapitsa died at the age of 84 in Moscow. He is remembered for his role in the popularisation of science and, after forty years of hosting Evident, but Incredible, holding the record for being the longest serving host of a TV programme. [9]


In 2008 Kapitsa signed an open letter in defense of Svetlana Bakhmina. [12]

During the late years Kapitsa was very critical of the state of the popular science and Russian television in general. In one of the last interviews he told about the closing of his TV program: "Channel One ordered me, first, to trash Soviet science, and, second, not to object against pseudoscience. I refused categorically. Then I was thrown out... They were cynical... The results of their political setups could be felt today: intellectual defeat of Russia, I can't find another word for their activity... TEFI would've never turned into a one-class dictatorship before. I didn't receive a single TEFI. Only in the past 2008, when Vladimir Posner had left, I was awarded one for "personal contribution to the development of Russian television"." [13] [ verification needed ]


Sergei Kapitsa on a postage stamp of 2015. Sergei Kapitsa na pochtovoi marke.jpg
Sergei Kapitsa on a postage stamp of 2015.

5094 Seryozha main-belt asteroid, discovered on 20 October 1982, was named in honor of Sergei Kapitsa. [14]

On 5 March 2014 the President of the Russian Federation signed a decree "On memorialization of S. P. Kapitsa".

On February 12, 2015 the Publishing and Trading Centre Marka issued a commemorative postage stamp and a postmark with image of Sergei Kapitsa. [15] [16]


Further reading


  1. "Russian Archives Online – Interview transcript – Sergei Kaptisa". The Russian–American Center. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  2. 1 2 Andrei Vandenko. The witness interview from the Itogy magazine №7 / 609, 12 February 2008 (in Russian)
  3. Kapitza, S. P.; Melekhin, V. N. (1978), The microtron (translated from the Russian by I. N. Sviatoslavsky; English edition by Ednor M. Rowe), Harwood Academic Publishers
  4. "Kalinga Prize Laureates". United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  5. "U.S., Soviet scientists say nuclear war likely to doom life on earth", Miami Herald, December 9, 1983
  6. Strout, Richard L. (December 14, 1983), "Limited nuclear war would have profound effects, experts say", Christian Science Monitor
  7. Hendrix, Kathleen (September 15, 1985), "Beyond War: Movement takes disarming approach to world tensions", Los Angeles Times
  8. "Advisory Council – Who we are". The Planetary Society. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  9. 1 2 3 Prominent Russian scientist Sergey Kapitsa dies at 84
  10. "TEDx Perm". TED Conferences LLC. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  11. "CSICOP's 1992 Awards". Skeptical Inquirer. 17 (3): 236. 1993.
  12. In defense of Svetlana Bakhmina open letter at Novaya Gazeta № 81, 30 October 2008 (in Russian)
  13. National Broadcast. Creators and Stars of National Television About Themselves and Their Work. Volume 1 // compiled by Vitaly Tretiakov. — Moscow; Algorythm, pp. 113—121 ISBN   978-5-9265-0741-3
  14. 5094 Seryozha at IAU Minor Planet Center
  15. Sergei Kapitsa stamp at Publishing and Trading Centre Marka
  16. Sergey Kapitsa postmark at Publishing and Trading Centre Marka
  17. "Andrey Kapitsa dies in Moscow". Russian Geographical Society . 2011-08-03. Retrieved 2011-08-04.
  18. Scientific American, October 2012, p. 19.
  19. Dmitry Gordon. Interview at Gordon's Boulevard № 19 (263), 11 May 2010 (in Russian)

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