Boris Kustodiyev. Portrait of Prof. Pyotr Kapitsa and Prof. Nikolai Semyonov. 1921. Oil on canvas. Kapitsa collection, Moscow. More.
Pyotr Kapitza (1894 - 1984), academician, physicist, Nobel Prize Winner (1978).
Kapitza was born on July 1894 into the family of a military engineer, a general of the Russian army. Pyotr graduated from the Petrograd (St. Petersburg) Polytechnical Institute in 1919. In 1921, he managed to flee the country. In Great Britain, he became acquainted with Ernest Rutherford who invited Kapitza to his laboratory in Cambridge. Kapitza worked in Cambridge for 13 years. In 1926 he headed his own laboratory, and in 1929 he was chosen a member of the London Royal society. After 1926 he regularly visited the Soviet Union, where he delivered lectures and consulted scientists in Leningrad and in the Kharkov Physico-Technical Institute. His outstanding discoveries made the Kremlin leaders plot to prevent Kapitza from returning to England. When he came to Leningrad in 1934 to participate in a scientific conference, he was not allowed to leave the USSR. By Stalinís decision, the new Institute of Physical problems was created specially for Kapitza, who was actually forced to head it. He used his position of director not only for scientific research, but also to bravely defend many scientists from the GPU (Glavnoe Politicheskoe Upravlenie, or Stalinís secret police). Kapitza headed the institute practically until his death in 1984.
In 1978, Kapitza became a Nobel Prize winner for his inventions and discoveries in the area of low-temperature physics.