Boris Podolsky

Boris Podolsky

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Boris Yakovlevich Podolsky (1896, Russia - 1966, USA), was an American physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 of Russian
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 Jewish descent.

Education


In 1896, Boris Podolsky was born into a poor Jewish family in Taganrog
Taganrog
Taganrog is a seaport city in Rostov Oblast, Russia, located on the north shore of Taganrog Bay , several kilometers west of the mouth of the Don River. Population: -History of Taganrog:...

, in what was then the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, and he moved to the United States in 1913. After receiving a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...

 in 1918, he served in the US Army and then worked at the Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light. In 1926, he obtained an MS in Mathematics from the University of Southern California
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...

. In 1928 he received a PhD in Theoretical Physics (under Paul Sophus Epstein
Paul Sophus Epstein
Paul Sophus Epstein was a Russian-American mathematical physicist...

) from Caltech.

Career


Under a National Research Council Fellowship, Podolsky spent a year at the University of California Berkeley, followed by a year at Leipzig University. In 1930, he returned to Caltech, working with Richard C. Tolman
Richard C. Tolman
Richard Chace Tolman was an American mathematical physicist and physical chemist who was an authority on statistical mechanics. He also made important contributions to theoretical cosmology in the years soon after Einstein's discovery of general relativity...

 for one year. He then went to the Kharkiv Polytechnical Institute
Kharkiv Polytechnical Institute
The Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute National Technical University , in the city of Kharkiv, is the largest and oldest technical university in eastern Ukraine...

, collaborating with Vladimir Fock
Vladimir Fock
Vladimir Aleksandrovich Fock was a Soviet physicist, who did foundational work on quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics....

, Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac, OM, FRS was an English theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics...

 (who was there on a visit), and Lev Landau
Lev Landau
Lev Davidovich Landau was a prominent Soviet physicist who made fundamental contributions to many areas of theoretical physics...

. In 1933, he returned to the USA with a fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States, is an independent postgraduate center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner...

, Princeton
Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton is a community located in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States. It is best known as the location of Princeton University, which has been sited in the community since 1756...

. In 1935, he took a post as professor of mathematical physics at the University of Cincinnati
University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati is a comprehensive public research university in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a part of the University System of Ohio....

. In 1961, he moved to the Xavier University, Cincinnati
Xavier University (Cincinnati)
Xavier University is a co-educational Jesuit university in the United States located in Cincinnati, Ohio. The University is the sixth-oldest Catholic university in the nation and has an undergraduate enrollment of about 4,000 students and graduate enrollment of 2,600 students. Xavier is primarily...

, where he worked until his death in 1966.

Work


Working with Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 and Nathan Rosen
Nathan Rosen
Nathan Rosen was an American-Israeli physicist noted for his study on the structure of the hydrogen molecule and his work with Albert Einstein and Boris Podolsky on entangled wave functions and the EPR paradox.-Background:Nathan Rosen was born into a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York...

, Podolsky conceived the EPR Paradox
EPR paradox
The EPR paradox is a topic in quantum physics and the philosophy of science concerning the measurement and description of microscopic systems by the methods of quantum physics...

. This famous paper stimulated debate as to the interpretation of quantum mechanics
Interpretation of quantum mechanics
An interpretation of quantum mechanics is a set of statements which attempt to explain how quantum mechanics informs our understanding of nature. Although quantum mechanics has held up to rigorous and thorough experimental testing, many of these experiments are open to different interpretations...

, culminating with Bell's theorem
Bell's theorem
In theoretical physics, Bell's theorem is a no-go theorem, loosely stating that:The theorem has great importance for physics and the philosophy of science, as it implies that quantum physics must necessarily violate either the principle of locality or counterfactual definiteness...

 and the advent of quantum information theory
Quantum information
In quantum mechanics, quantum information is physical information that is held in the "state" of a quantum system. The most popular unit of quantum information is the qubit, a two-level quantum system...

.

In 1933, Podolsky and Lev Landau
Lev Landau
Lev Davidovich Landau was a prominent Soviet physicist who made fundamental contributions to many areas of theoretical physics...

 had the idea to write a textbook on electromagnetism beginning with special relativity and emphasizing theoretical postulates rather than experimental laws. This project did not come to fruition due to Podolsky's return to the United States, where he had immigrated in 1913. However, in the hands of Lev Davidovich Landau and E. Lifshitz, the outline they produced became The Classical Theory of Fields (1951). On the same basis, Podolsky and K. Kunz produced Fundamentals of Electrodynamics, Marcel Dekker Press (1969), to which Podolsky's son, Robert, contributed most of the questions at the end of each chapter.

Espionage


A 2009 book by John Earl Haynes
John Earl Haynes
John Earl Haynes is an American historian who is a specialist in 20th century political history in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress...

, Harvey Klehr
Harvey Klehr
Harvey E. Klehr is a professor of politics and history at Emory University; he is known for his books on the subject of the American Communist movement, and on Soviet espionage in America ....

 and Alexander Vassiliev
Alexander Vassiliev
Alexander Vassiliev is a Russian journalist, writer, and espionage historian living in London. A former officer in the Soviet Committee for State Security , Vassiliev is known for his two books based upon KGB archival documents: Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, co-authored with John...

, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, outs Podolsky as a spy. During the war, Podolsky sought out Soviet intelligence and recommended the USSR work on processing Uranium 235. As suggested by KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 files and decrypted Venona cables, Podolsky, code named QUANTUM, passed to the Soviets information he had probably gleaned from his contacts in the scientific community: complex chemical equations on the process of gaseous diffusion in order to separate bomb grade U-235
Uranium-235
- References :* .* DOE Fundamentals handbook: Nuclear Physics and Reactor theory , .* A piece of U-235 the size of a grain of rice can produce energy equal to that contained in three tons of coal or fourteen barrels of oil. -External links:* * * one of the earliest articles on U-235 for the...

 from unwanted U-238
Uranium-238
Uranium-238 is the most common isotope of uranium found in nature. It is not fissile, but is a fertile material: it can capture a slow neutron and after two beta decays become fissile plutonium-239...

. Unlike most other Soviet spies operating in the US who passed information only for ideological reasons, Podolsky apparently passed this information for a price ($300), according to Soviet sources recently analyzed by historians.

It should be noted that Podolsky's son, Robert, adamantly denies these charges of espionage - citing the fact that Podolsky fled Russia before the Soviet revolution, was avidly pro-America, joined the US army during WWI, and turned down at least one invitation to defect to the USSR in later years.

Popular culture


Podolsky is played by the actor Gene Saks
Gene Saks
Gene Saks is an American stage and film director.-Life and career:Saks was born in New York City, the son of Beatrix and Morris J. Saks...

 in the Hollywood film I.Q.
I.Q. (film)
I.Q. is a 1994 American romantic comedy film directed by Fred Schepisi and starring Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan, and Walter Matthau. The original music score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith...

.

External links