Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov (Russian Павел Алексеевич Черенков) (July 28, 1904 - January 6, 1990) was a Soviet physicist and Nobel Prize winner.

He was born in the town of Nizhniaya Chigla, Voronezh Oblast, Russia. His parents, Aleksei and Mariya Cherenkov, were peasants.

He graduated from the Department of Physics and Mathematics of Voronezh State University in 1928, in 1930 he took a post as a senior researcher in the Lebedev Institute of Physics. Later Cherenkov was promoted to the section leader, and in 1940 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Physico-Mathematical Sciences. In 1953 he was confirmed as Professor of Experimental Physics. Since 1959 he headed the photo-meson processes laboratory. He remained a professor for fourteen years. In 1970 he became an Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

In 1934, while working under S.I. Vavilov, Cherenkov observed the emission of blue light from a bottle of water subjected to radioactive bombardment. This Cerenkov effect, associated with charged atomic particles moving at velocities higher than the speed of light in the local medium, proved to be of great importance in subsequent experimental work in nuclear physics, and for the study of cosmic rays. The Cerenkov detector has become a standard piece of equipment in atomic research for observing the existence and velocity of high-speed particles. The device was installed in Sputnik III.

Pavel Cherenkov has also shared in the development and construction of electron accelerators and in the investigations of photo-nuclear and photo-meson reactions.

Cherenkov was awarded USSR State Prizes in 1946 (with Vavilov, Frank, and Tamm), in 1952, and 1977. In 1958, he got the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the Cherenkov effect. He was also awarded Hero of Socialist Labor title in 1984.

In 1930 he married Marya Putintseva, daughter of A.M. Putintsev, Professor of Russian Literature. They had a son, Aleksei, and a daughter, Elena. Pavel Cherenkov died in Moscow and put to rest at Novodevichy Cemetery.


The "Cherenkov drive" in Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers was probably named for Cherenkov and his work.


Pavel Alekseyevich Cherenkov

Cherenkov Radiation Pictures

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