Some Facts about History of MIPT

Students of the Department of Innovation and High Technology taught by Tatiana B. Alen’kina compiled  in Russian and translated into English the text of the museum excursion on founding fathers of MIPT.

Students of the Department of Innovation and High Technology during the Museum Rehearsal

An idea of establishing a new institute with Phystech study system first appeared before the War, in the late 1930s. This idea came from Soviet mathematicians. Here you can see an article in the famous “Pravda” newspaper with an appeal to the government to establish a new institute.

Unfortunately, the Second World War broke these plans, and after the war this idea came anew from physicists led by Pyotr Kapitsa. At that point the idea was accepted by the government. But due to Kapitsa having worked abroad a lot, Stalin could not trust him. Accordingly, it was decided to establish a new department at the Moscow State University – the Department of Physics and Technology.
This new department had an unusual system and a lot of talented students. Nevertheless, it did not prove to be successful to become a part of MSU family. As a result, this department closed a year later. (Yury Yarovikov – 499)

Pyotr Kapitsa

Of all the famous founding fathers of Phystech, one of the most talented ones was Pyotr Kapitsa. P. Kapitsa was born on 8 July 1894. He graduated from the Petrograd Polytechnical Institute in 1918. The talented student had been noticed by the famous scientist Abram Ioffe who advised Kapitsa to continue his education in highly authoritative school abroad. But because of the situation in the country it was really difficult to do. With the help of Alexey Krylov and Maxim Gorky, Kapitsa with a special commission was sent to Great Britain in 1921.Thanks to great recommendations of such famous scientists as Abram Ioffe, Kapitsa started working at Ernest Rutherford’s laboratory. At first his relationship with Rutherford was complicated but with time they became good friends. In 1925 Kapitsa became Vice Director of the laboratory. In 1929 he was elected to the Royal Society of London and in 1930 it was decided to build his own laboratory for Kapitsa .
Thus, during a long period of time Kapitsa with his family lived in England, but he often visited his relatives in Russia. Within several years the political situation had become more tense in the Soviet Union. The country really wanted scientists for industrial and military needs. Moreover, the government didn’t like that Kapitsa was working for European needs. So, when Kapitsa visited his relatives in Russia again, he wasn’t permitted to go back to England. At first he couldn’t and didn’t want to work. In the USSR there wasn’t such good equipment as there was in Cambridge. He insisted on the delivery of his equipment to the USSR. But working conditions in England and USSR were very different. In England his work was well-funded and there was not so much bureaucracy.The government gave Kapitsa everything he wanted. Because of preferential treatment to Kapitsa by the government the relationships between him and other scientists were tense. His candidacy was not even considered for election to the full members of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. There was even an incident with Sergey Khristianovich when he accused Kapitsa of disrespect to the leader Stalin, because Kapitsa hadn’t participated in lectures dedicated to Stalin’s anniversary. On charges Kapitsa answered that he wasn’t feeling well.Luckily, there were his true friends who supported Kapitsa in his ideas, for example Nikolay Semenov. (Anna Kuzmina- 499)

Here you can see young Pyotr Kapitsa and Nikolay Semenov .

Nikolay Semenov (1896-1986) is another great Russian scientist. In the autumn 1921 Kapitsa came to workshop of well-known artist Boris Kustodiev and asked him to paint him and his friend N. Semenov. Kustodiev asked: ‘Who are you to paint you?’. ‘We will be famous physicists’, answered Kapitsa. Boris Kustodiev agreed to paint them. It was hunger then, so Kapitsa and Semenov paid with a millet bag and a cock for the picture. Curiously enough, Kustodiev liked their images and used them later in his other paintings.

Pyotr Leonidovich had friendly relationships with many talented physicists. One of them was Lev Landau, another very important person in the history of MIPT. Lev Davidovich was born in 1908 in Baku in the family of oil engineer and a doctor. Landau was very gifted in the math field. He learned to differentiate at the age of 12 and to integrate at the age of 13. In 1920 at the age of 13 Landau graduated from gymnasium and a year later entered Baku State University, studying at two departments simultaneously: the Department of Physics and Mathematics and the Department of Chemistry.

Lev Landau and Pyotr Kapitsa

Subsequently, he ceased studying chemistry, but remained interested in this field throughout his whole life. In 1924 he moved to the Physics Department of Leningrad State University, where he did his first research. From 1929 to 1931 Landau studied abroad. During that time he met many great physicists – Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg. He worked with Niels Bohr, after which Landau always considered himself to be a pupil of Bohr.

In 1938 Landau was imprisoned because he compared Stalin’s dictatorship with that of Hitler. He was saved by Kapitsa who wrote a letter to Stalin, personally vouching for Landau’s behavior and threatened to quit the Institute for Physical Problems if Landau were not released.

Landau was a great theoretical physicist, he made a contribution almost in each part of physics. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1962. With his students he created probably the greatest textbook of theoretical physics. ‘The Course on Theoretical Physics’ is a ten-volume series of books which has been translated into more than 20 languages.

Also Landau was well-known for his wit and sharp humor.

On 7 January 1962, Landau’s car collided with an oncoming truck. He was severely injured and spent two months in a coma. Although Landau recovered in many ways, his scientific creativity was destroyed, and he never returned fully to scientific work. His injuries prevented him from accepting the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physics in person.(Andrei Zharkov- 497)

These were the founding fathers of the Department of Physics and Technology. After the abolition of the department, the idea of the institute appeared again. The scientists needed a respected person to make an official request to Stalin. The appropriate person was soon found. It was I.F.Petrov (1897-1994). Raised in a simple family, he became a hero of the War as a pilot. Petrov had a brilliant technical education as well. It was him who became the first Director (and in 1961 the Rector) of the new institute. You can see a photo of Ivan Petrov. (Yury Yarovikov – 499)

When MIPT became an independent university, it had only four departments: Radiotechnical, which concentrated on electrical engineering, signal handling and computational systems, Radio Physical, which focused on pure and applied physics, Aeromechanical, where students were prepared for work in space industry, and the Department of Physics and Chemistry. Each department had its own base departments, where students were able to apply their knowledge in their practical activities. When departments started to work for the first time, the curriculum was extremely hard. There were lectures from morning till lunchtime, and seminars after lunchtime till evening. After all class activities, students did their home task, so their education took a lot of time. That was the reason why even students from Moscow were provided with dormitories.(Ksenia Leontieva- 497)


Alexander Serebrov

Throughout its history, MIPT had a lot of outstanding students. Among them the cosmonauts hold a special place. Our museum has a lot of windows devoted to cosmonauts.
Alexander Serebrov (1944-2013) studied at the Department of Aerophysics and Space Research. In the window there is an examination list and record book of the future cosmonaut. After graduation he conducted scientific work on problems of space, participated in the development and testing of spacecraft. In 1976 Serebrov was included in the Cosmonaut Detachment. He flew into space four times and went out to open space ten times, and there is a corresponding entry about that in the Guinness Book of Records. Take a look at the photo in the window. During one of flights Alexander tested a one-person vehicle, popularly called a space motorcycle. Outwardly, it resembles a large backpack. It has its own engines, which allows it to “fly” in outer space in the right direction and even reach the speed of 32 meters per second. Alexander has a huge number of awards, both domestic and foreign.
And now let us turn our attention to another MIPT cosmonaut.(Aleksei Volostnov- 499)

His name is Yuri Baturin (1949-). Initially, he was a student at the department of Radio Engineering and Cybernetics, but in his third year he transferred to the Department of Aerospace Research and graduated from MIPT in 1973, but didn’t stop studying. In 1980, almost simultaneously, he graduated from the School of Journalism, and from the Moscow Law Academy and in 1992 became a Doctor of Law with thesis on the problems of the computer law.
In the 1990s he worked for President B.N.Yeltsin in a number of positions, ranging from the Presidential Aide to the Secretary of the Russian Defense Council. In 1997 Baturin left the Yeltsin administration in order to take part in a spaceflight.
From 1996 to 1998 he had been taking special courses under the cosmonaut training program. He flew his first space mission in 1998, as a cosmonaut-researcher onboard Soyuz-28 and Mir space station. He was rewarded with Order of Courage.
In 2000 he graduated from the Higher Military Academy and was appointed a Deputy Commander of the Cosmonaut corps. Baturin made his second space mission in 2001 as a Flight Engineer of Soyuz-32 and ISS together with D.Tito, whose acceptance in the crew created controversy between NASA and the Russians, since he was the first space tourist to fly to ISS. He had originally paid to fly to the Mir station but funds ran out to keep that station in orbit. After the flight he became the Hero of Russia and soon retired.
Afterwards, in 2005 Yu.Baturin also graduated from the Diplomatic Academy. Nowadays he is a socially and politically active person. Baturin holds professorships at MSU and MIPT and is a corresponding member of Russian Academy of Sciences. He is also a head of a Computer Law Department at Moscow Engineering and Physical Institute – MEPhI. (Pavel Strokan  – 495)