Social Scientist. v 15, no. 165 (Feb 1987) p. 66.


Graphics file for this page
Bonk Review

Kapitza

F.B. KEDROV, Kapitza : Life and Discoveries, Mir Publishers, Moscow ; Laurence Badash, Kapitza, Rutherford and the Kremlin^ Yale University Press, London.

SCIENCE has come to play a central role in the economic, social and cultural development of mankind. The transition from the 'little science' of yesteryears to the 'big science5 of today has been accompanied by the increasing role of the State in the organisation of science. The contours of the relationship between organised science and government possibly would never be precisely defined. In the unfolding of this complex relationship individual scientists have to go through difficulties, conflicts and tribulations. These problems, though strictly speaking fall outside their vocation, form an indivisible part of their social being and contribute to what constitutes a "modern scientist".

The life of Peter Kapitza, the eminent Soviet physicist exemplifies the problems faced by an individual scientist during the initial phase of forging a productive relationship between science and government in a socialist society. His involvement with Soviet science spanned half a century, from 1935 to 1984, the period in which Soviet science has been modernised, reorganised and come to acquire a leading position in the world. What has evinced keen interst in Kapitza's life and his subsequent work is the dramatic event of Kapitza's retention in the Soviet Union in 1934 when he visited Soviet Union from Cambridge, where he had been working with Rutherford for over a decade.

Kapitza graduated from the Polytechnical Institute in Petrograd in 1918 and went to Cambridge in 1921, which at that time under Rutherford was the world centre for experimental radioactivity, atomic physics and nuclear physics. On the basis of his work in radioctivity, Kapitza, who was enrolled as a student in Trinity College, working towards his doctoral degree, was awarded the dark Maxwell studentship in 1923. His work on the magnetic fields earned him the fellowship of the Trinity College in 1925 and in 1926 he was appointed Assistant Director of Cavendish Hagneti^ Hesear^h Laboratory of \ybich Rutherford \yas the titular he^4*



Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page