Zhores Ivanovich Alferov. March 15, 1930 – March 01, 2019. Soviet and Russian physicist, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, academic of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Winner of the Lenin Prize, of the USSR State Prize and the Russian Federation State Prize, Full Cavalier of the Order of the Merit for the Fatherland.


Life and Work:

1. The Main USSR Directory features the following information about Mr. Alferov:

“His main research areas include heterojunction in semiconductors and designing devices on this basis. He discovered the phenomenon of over-injection in heterostructures, he suggested the principles of using them in semiconductor electronics.” However, the Great Soviet Encyclopedia was last published in 1978, so there is no mention of the fact that Alferov’s research in the field of semiconductor heterostructures, in particular, the creation of the semiconductor laser, led to the breakthrough in IT.


2. Neither can you learn from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia that in 2000 Alferov together with US scientists Herbert Kroemer and Jack Kilby were awarded the Nobel Prize “for the investigation of heterostructures used in high-speed and optoelectronics.” The transistors made on the basis of Alferov’s discoveries are used in mobile phones, CD players, laser sets, decoders and a multitude of other devices.


3. Alferov authored over 500 research publications, four books and 50 inventions. He was elected a State Duma Deputy in 1995 and till his last days he was actively engaged in research: he was a co-chair of the Skolkovo Foundation Consulting Research Board and a Founding Rector of Saint Petersburg Academic University.


4. Alferov’s father took part in World War I and was decorated with the Cross of Saint George. After the February Revolution, Ivan Alferov, back then the chair of the regiment committee, joined the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party and was elected delegate to the 2nd Soviet Conference. In the 1920s he was appointed an authorized person to the frontier post by the All-Russian Special Commission for Combating Counterrevolution, Sabotage and Speculation. There he was deployed in the nearby town of Kraisk where he met his future wife, Anna Rosenblum.


5. The young family were ardent communists, so they named their first son Marx. He was not destined to live a long life – he died at the age of 20 during the final days of the Korsun-Shevchenkovsky Offensive in WWII.


6. Zhores Alferov was born in Vitebsk in 1930, and in his childhood, he traveled half the country. By that time his father had graduated the Industrial Academy and thus he was sent to supervise different construction projects: he worked in Stalingrad, Novosibirsk, Barnaul and Syasstroy. When World War II broke out, the Alferovs were in Turinsk where the father of the family headed the pulp and paper mill.


7. Zhores Alferov graduated from high school in war-torn Minsk. This school, now Lyceum 42, is named after its most famous graduate. Zhores loved reading and dreamed of becoming a writer himself, but his teacher of physics talked so enthusiastically about the cathode-ray oscillograph and other devices that the future Nobel-Prize winner changed his mind and entered the Faculty of Power Engineering of Belarusian Polytechnic Academy.


8. Alferov spent his final university years in Leningrad. He was admitted to Leningrad Electrotechnical Institute without exams.


9. Alferov began designing first Soviet transistors at Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute. Many years later he would become the head of this institution.


10. In 1970, Alferov defended the doctoral thesis and became doctor of physics and mathematics. In 1971 the Franklin Institute awarded him the Stuart Ballantine Medal. This was the first foreign awards of the extensive list to come.


11. In 1972, Alferov received the Lenin Prize for the fundamental research of heterojunctions in semiconductors and designing new devices on its basis.


12. “My main hobby is my work; I have little time left for anything else.” This is what Alferov told journalists. He wrote over 500 research publications, including four books. Zhores Alferov established his own school of research, his students presented of 40 candidates’ and 10 doctoral papers, and two became corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


13. Alferov used the funds of the Nobel Prize to establish the Foundation for Supporting Education and Science, now more famous as the Alferov Foundation. The home page of the fund’s site features the portrait and the motto of the great scientist: “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield!”


14. “Russia’s future lies in science and technology rather than in selling raw materials. Its future will not be determined by business tycoons, but by some of my students,” Zhores Alferov said.


15. When asked about his party affiliation, he would answer “My party is called the Academy of Sciences.” To a certain extent, this is true as during the Perestroika years he was elected people’s deputy from the Academy of Sciences. In 1995 he was elected to the State Dume from the “Our Home Russia” movement, yet his purpose remained the same: he was eager to protect the interests of Russian science and education.


16. Today Saint Petersburg Academic University of the RAS is named after Alferov. There is a monument to Alferov in the university hall. The university website informs that “the Academic University is the only one in Russia founded by the Nobel-Prize winner Zhores Alferov, who established a new model of educating a new generation of scientists, from high school to post-graduate courses.”