Prokhorov, Aleksandr Mikhaylovich


Prokhorov, Aleksandr Mikhaylovich
▪ 2003

      Russian physicist (b. July 11, 1916, Atherton, Queensland, Australia—d. Jan. 8, 2002, Moscow, Russia), was corecipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1964 with Nikolay G. Basov, his colleague at the P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow, and American Charles H. Townes. The award was given for fundamental research in quantum electronics that led to the development of the maser and the laser, which produce parallel monochromatic coherent beams of microwaves and light, respectively. In 1923 Prokhorov's antitsarist family returned from exile in Australia to the Soviet Union, where he studied physics at Leningrad State University (B.S., 1939) and the Lebedev Institute (Ph.D., 1951). He worked closely with Basov from 1950 on the concept for a device that would emit microwave radiation of a single wavelength. By the time they published their findings in 1954, Townes's team at Columbia University, New York City, had independently built such a device, which they called a maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). Prokhorov later proposed the modification of a maser to emit visible-light or infrared wavelengths, an idea that led to the laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). Prokhorov was head (from 1954) of the Lebedev's Oscillation Laboratory, professor (from 1959) at Moscow State University, and founding director (1983–98) of the Soviet Academy of Science's General Physics Institute. He also was editor in chief (1969–78) of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. In 1982 Prokhorov joined Basov and 95 other Nobel laureates in calling for an international freeze on nuclear weapons.

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▪ Soviet physicist
born July 11, 1916, Atherton, Queensland, Australia
died January 8, 2002, Moscow, Russia

      Soviet physicist who, with Nikolay G. Basov (Basov, Nikolay Gennadiyevich) and Charles H. Townes (Townes, Charles Hard), won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1964 for fundamental research in quantum electronics that led to the development of the maser and laser.

      Prokhorov's father was involved in revolutionary activities that eventually forced the family to leave Russia. In 1911 they settled in Australia, where Prokhorov was born. Following the overthrow of the tsar (1917), the family returned to Russia in 1923. In 1951 Prokhorov received a doctorate from Leningrad State University and later joined the P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute, Moscow, as a senior associate. In 1952 he and Basov jointly suggested the maser principle of amplifying and emitting parallel electromagnetic waves that are all in phase and all of the same wavelength. By the time they published their suggestion in 1954, Townes had built the first working maser.

      In 1954 Prokhorov became head of the institute's Oscillation Laboratory and later professor at Moscow M.V. Lomonosov State University. He wrote a number of fundamental works on the construction of infrared and visible-light lasers and on nonlinear optics. From 1969 to 1978 he served as editor in chief of the Bolshaya Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya (Great Soviet Encyclopedia). Prokhorov received the Lenin Prize (1959) and two Orders of Lenin as well as various medals.

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Universalium. 2010.