BORIS IEREMIEVICH VERKIN (1919 - 1990)


Academician B.I. Verkin was the founder of the Institute for Low Temperature Physics and Engineering and its director for 28 years (1960 - 1988). He was an outstanding person in many respects but his talent for organization and leadership surpassed all other gifts of him.

B.I. Verkin was born on August 8, 1919 in Kharkov. His father lectured at higher educational establishments, his mother was a school teacher. The family lived in the creative and artistic atmosphere: the people there valued highly poetry, painting, literature, languages, music, science. Along with general education, B.I. Verkin was brought up as professional pianist. Before finishing a secondary school, at the age of 15 he entered Kharkov State University by a special permission after the ninth grade . That happened in 1935 when L.D. Landau was among the lectures at the department of physics and mathematics. After graduating from the university B.I. Verkin worked for a short period in a laboratory at one of the Kharkov plants. Later on he took up a post-graduate course in the Laboratory for low temperature physics at Kharkov Physico-Technical Institute.

Then WW broke out, and B.I. Verkin went to the front. Only in 1946 he came back to scientific studies at the same institute. That was the period of intensive and profound research. A series of studies on low temperature oscillations of the magnetic susceptibility in metals as a function of the magnetic field strength was his most important and widely known scientific result of this period. The studies were especially significant for physics of metals and to a great extent stimulated the development by I.M. Lifshits and his school of the modern theory of the electronic properties of metals with an arbitrary energy spectrum.

At the end of the 50-ies B.I. Verkin put forward an idea of a specialized institute for low temperature physics. P.L. Kapitsa was among the scientists who backed up the idea. The institute was finally established in Kharkov in 1960. B.I. Verkin was appointed its director.

The initial staff included prominent researches and young graduates from Kharkov educational institutions; as a result, for the first decade average age of the Institute personnel was about 26 years. The enthusiasm, energy, confidence of the director were powerful stimuli for the young researchers. Against all the odds of the formation period the people worked ardously and selflessly.

In the organization process one of B.I. Verkin's nontrivial steps was the formation of the Mathematics Division within the new Institute. In Kharkov known for the traditionally potent mathematical school there was the Institute of Mathematics, which was unexpectedly closed down. The Mathematics Division could thus absorb the highest mathematical power of the city and compensate the loss of the closed institute. It has turned out that the life of mathematicians and physicists under the same roof is interesting and mutually enriching. So far nobody has attempted upon separating this community.

Scientific intuition prompted B.I. Verkin the correct choice of scientific trends in the Institute activities. These included the area of superconductivity, where the Josephson effect was soon detected experimentally. B.I. Verkin well understood that it was very important for the new institute to pursue applied aspects of research. This purpose was well served due to personal contacts of B.I. Verkin with Academician S.P. Korolev, the chief designer of space projects in the Soviet Union. It has turned out that the knowledge and experimental findings in the field of low temperature physics can answer many questions related to space flights. B.I. Verkin pioneered and provided accomplishment through his personal involvement of development and construction ground-based complexes to simulating space environment, studies of materials under nearly zero gravity condition and their low temperature characteristic, construction of special long lifetime systems for on-board cooling, development of unique vaucum thermal insulations and other achievements.

The range of B.I. Verkin's interests was very wide, his imagination was immense, his energy push was irresistible. The R & D work in superconductive machine building, molecular biophysics, tunnel spectroscopy and heat and mass transfer, superconducting bolometers and systems for preserving biological tissues make only a part of what B.I. Verkin started in the Institute.

He exerted every effort to launch a new physical journal "Fizika Nizkich Temperatur" which published in Russian and Englich since 1975.

In addition to his holding the position of the director of the Institute, B.I. Verkin was among outstanding figures in the cultural life of Kharkov. The musical concerts practised in the Institute attracted first-grade and top performers. The Assembly Hall of the Institute showed a warm welcome to scientists from various countries, to poets and actors. B.I. Verkin was active in keeping intact and increasing the library stocks in the city, rendered altruistic aid to medical institutions. For thirty years B.I. Verkin lectured on general and special physical courses at Kharkov State University and Politechnical University.

The Government of the Ukraine has done justice to his scientific and organizational service and the Institute for Low Temperature Physics and Engineering has been named after B.I. Verkin. Now, following the example of some Western scientists, many people abroad refer to the Institute as "B.Verkin Institute" - BVI.