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Yakov Il'ich Frenkel (Russian: Яков Ильич Френкель) (10 February 1894 – 23 January 1952) was a Soviet physicist renowned for his works in the field of condensed matter physics. He is also known as Jacov Frenkel.

Life and career

He was born in a Jewish family in Rostov on Don on 10 February 1894. He entered St. Petersburg University in 1910. Frenkel graduated from the university in 3 years and remained there to prepare for a professorship. In 1912 he finished his first work in physics on the earth's magnetic field and atmospheric electricity. This work attracted Abram Ioffe's attention and later turned into collaboration.

From 1921 till the end of his life, Frenkel worked at the Physico-Technical Institute. Beginning in 1922, Frenkel published a book virtually every year. He was the author of the first theoretical course in the Soviet Union. Many students learned physics from these books, in the Soviet Union and abroad. For his distinguished scientific service, he was elected a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1929.[1]

He married Sara Isakovna Gordin in 1920. They had two sons, Sergei and Viktor (Victor). He served as a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota in the United States for a short period of time in around 1930.[2]

When conducting research on the molecular theory of condensed state, he introduced the notion of the hole. The Frenkel defect became firmly fixed in the physics of solids and liquids. In the 1930s, his research was supplemented with works on the theory of plastic deformation. His theory, now known as the Frenkel–Kontorova–Tomlinson model, is important in the study of dislocations.[3]

Yakov Frenkel

The results of his more than twenty years of study of the theory of liquid state were generalized in the classic monograph "Kinetic theory of liquids". In 1930 to 1931, Frenkel showed that neutral excitation of a crystal by light is possible, with an electron remaining bound to a hole created at a lattice site identified as a quasiparticle, the exciton. Mention should be made of Frenkel's works on the theory of metals, nuclear physics (the liquid drop model of the nucleus), and semiconductors.

He contributed to semiconductor and insulator physics by proposing a theory, which is now commonly known as the Poole–Frenkel effect, in 1938. "Poole" refers to H. H. Poole (Horace Hewitt Poole, 1886–1962), Ireland. Poole reported experimental results on the conduction in insulators and found an empirical relationship between conductivity and electrical field. Frenkel later developed a microscopic model, similar to the Schottky effect, to explain Poole's results more accurately.[4]

Frenkel died in Leningrad in 1952. His son, Victor Frenkel, wrote a biography of his father, Yakov Ilich Frenkel: His work, life and letters. This book, originally written in Russian, has also been translated and published in English.

Frenkel Defect | Classteacher Learning Systems

English translations of books by Frenkel

Wave Mechanics. Elementary Theory. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1932.[5]
Wave Mechanics. Advanced General Theory. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1934.[6]
Kinetic Theory of Liquids. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1946.


Victor Yakovobich Frenkel: Yakov Illich Frenkel. His work, life and letters. (original: (ru) Яков Ильич Френкель, translated by Alexander S. Silbergleit), Birkhäuser, Basel / Boston / Berlin 2001, ISBN 978-3-7643-2741-5 (English).


Yakov I. Frenkel pn the website of Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute
Rudolf Peierls, "Yakov Ilich Frenkel", Physics Today, June 1994.
O.M. Braun, "The Frenkel–Kontorova model: concepts, methods and applications", Springer, 2004.(Note: T. Kontorova was then a PhD candidate working with Frenkel.)
J. Frenkel, "On pre-breakdown phenomena in insulators and electronic semi-conductors", Phys. Rev., vol. 54, pp. 647–648, 1938. In this paper published in USA, Frenkel only very briefly mentioned an empirical relationship as Poole's law. Frenkel cited Poole's paper when he wrote a longer article in a Soviet journal. (Note: Yakov Frenkel quite frequently put down his name as J. Frenkel when he published his papers in journals using the English language, for example, Physical Review.)
Page, Leigh (1933). "Review: Wave Mechanics. Elementary Theory, by J. Frenkel" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 39 (7): 494. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1933-05667-7.
Murnaghan, F. D. (1935). "Review: Wave Mechanics. Advanced General Theory, by J. Frenkel" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 41 (11): 776. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1935-06189-0.

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