Konstantin Petrzhak

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Konstantin Petrzhak
File:Konstantin Petrzhak.jpg
Native name Константин Антонович Петржак
Born (1907-09-04)September 4, 1907
Łuków, Congress Poland, Russian Empire
(now Łuków, Poland, or in Dombrovo, now Kaliningrad oblast, Russia)
Died October 10, 1998(1998-10-10) (aged 91)
Nationality Pole
Fields Physics (Nuclear)
Alma mater Saint Petersburg State University
Doctoral advisor Igor Kurchatov
Other academic advisors Vitaly Khlopin
Known for
Discovery of spontaneous fission

Soviet nuclear program
Notable awards Order of the Badge of Honour

Konstantin Petrzhak (alternatively Pietrzak;[1] Russian: Константи́н Анто́нович Петржак; IPA: [kənstɐnʲˈtʲin ɐnˈtonəvʲɪtɕ pʲɛdʐak]; 1907–1998) was a SovietRussian nuclear physicist and university professor of Polish origin. He discovered spontaneous fission of uranium jointly with Georgy Flyorov in 1940; in addition, he also aided in Soviet Union's atomic bomb project .[2]


Konstantin Petrzhak was born on 4 September 1907[3] in Łuków (Congress Poland, Russian Empire, now in Poland; another source also states he was born in Dombrovo, now Kaliningrad oblast). Antoni Petrzhak was his father. When Konstantin was 12 years old, he started working as a painter at a glass-making factory in Malaya Vishera (Russia). In 1928 he went to Saint-Petersburg to study at rabfak of Saint Petersburg State University (which was then called Leningrad State University). In 1931 he started studying in radiology group there.[4] In November 1936 Konstantin Petrzhak completed his diploma work under supervision of Igor Kurchatov[5] and graduated from Saint Petersburg State University.

In 1934 he started working at Khlopin Radium Institute in Saint Petersburg (which was named First Radium Institute at that time).[5] He worked there till the last days of his life.[6] Igor Kurchatov was the head of laboratory where he started working. There Konstantin Petrzhak wrote thesis "study of thorium and samarium radioactivity" to get the Candidate of Sciences degree (equivalent to Ph.D.).[7][8] Vitaly Khlopin and Igor Kurchatov were his scientific supervisors. Konstantin Petrzhak participated in seminar on nuclear physics in Ioffe Institute.[9] In 1939 Igor Kurchatov asked him and Georgy Flyorov to study uranium fission induced by neutrons of different energies. Earlier Georgy Flyorov and Tatiana Nikitinskaya made a highly sensitive ionization chamber to detect heavy particles. They decided to use it in this new experiment. Kurchatov asked Georgy Flyorov, Nikitinskaya and Petrzhak to make the sensitivity of the chamber even higher.[10] In 1939 the experiments were carried out in Saint Petersburg.[11] The team created a highly sensitive multilayer ionization chamber to detect decay products which originate from fission of uranium.[12][13] The ionization chamber had electrodes in it with the total area of about 1000 cm2.[14] The plates of the chamber were covered with uranium oxide with approximate surface density of 10–20 mg/cm2.[12] The chamber consisted of 15 plates.[15] The detector was checked while measuring background.[16] When the source of neutrons was taken away, the detector still detected particles. They made three ionization chambers to prove that the effect was not connected to the first one. More than that they made even more sensitive chamber with the surface of 6000 cm2. Cosmic rays were one of possible sources of background counts. In 1940 to reduce the effect of cosmic rays measurements were made in an underground lab in Dinamo station of Moscow Metro (about 50 m below the earth surface).[17] In May 1940 they assumed that spontaneous fission was discovered.[18] The certificate of discovery stated "the new type of radioactivity with mother nucleus decays into two nuclei, that have kinetic energy of about 160 MeV".[19][20] Their discovery was derived from the theory of fission by Yakov Frenkel.[21] Later the discovery of spontaneous fission was confirmed by Otto Robert Frisch.[22]

In 1940 Konstantin Petrzhak was suggested to enter the leading team of soviet atomic bomb project.[23] He is rumoured to participate in soviet atomic project.

When Soviet Union entered the World War II, Petrzhak was eligible for serving in Red Army. If he was awarded the Stalin Prize, he could avoid entering the regular army. The Academy of Sciences of USSR nominated him to receive this prize in the early 1940s. But he didn't receive the prize.[24] So during World War II Petrzhak volunteered[9] (other sources state he was commandeered[25]). He served in military intelligence of a CIWS regiment first as a junior lieutenant[26] and later as a senior lieutenant.[27][28] Since 28 June 1941 he participated in battle on Karelian Isthmus. Later he fought in Volkhov Front.[25] In March 1942 he was ordered to leave the army[6] and work on atomic problems in Kazan where Radium Institute was evacuated. In 1943 he studied neutron induced fission of uranium under supervision of professor Piotr Lukirsky. In 1944 Konstantin Petrzhak proposed a method to determine the number of neutron, that are radiated by neutron sources based on the number of protons from nuclear reaction in chamber, filled with heavy hydrogen. He also made necessary calculations. He participated in development of technology of extraction of plutonium from irradiated uranium blocks. Jointly with M. Yakunin he developed methods of radiochemical determination of plutonium and found the mean free path of Pu-239 alpha particles.

Konstantin Petrzhak founded a laboratory of neutron physics and nuclear fission in Khlopin Radium Institute in 1947 and was the head of this laboratory until 1986,[3] since 1986 he was a part-time contractor. As of 1949 Konstantin Petrzhak was a member of Uranium commission of USSR Academy of Sciences.[29] He continued to study spontaneous fission.[30] He was one of the founders of Engineering faculty of Saint Petersburg State Institute of Technology.[31] Konstantin Petrzhak founded there a department of nuclear physics in 1949[3] and was the head of it for 22 years.[32] In 1958 he was a scientific supervisor of Vladimir Georgievich Korsakov's diploma work.[33] In 1961 he founded a laboratory of nuclear energy there. Konstantin Petrzhak created an express method of detection of plutonium and associated radioisotopes in samples of irradiated uranium.[3] Since at least 1963 to 1976 he published a series of articles on measurements of photofission.[34][35] In 1973-1984 he also took part in setting up the measurements of induced fission cross-sections of U-238, U-235 and Pu-239 when irradiated by monoenergy neutrons which were performed in Khlopin Radium institute.[36][37] In 1978 Konstantin Petrzhak was listed as one of the co-authors (with Yuri Oganessian and others) of a paper about synthesis of hassium performed in JINR.[38] Right till the year of his death Konstantin Petrzhak published articles on study of fission products from Nuclear reactors.[39] Konstantin Petrzhak was doktor nauk (since 1948) and a professor. He was never elected an academician of corresponding member of any academy, however Konstantin Petrzhak was a member of Nuclear Physics Department of Russian Academy of Sciences.[40] According to SCOPUS, Konstantin Petrzhak has 59 publications with Hirsch index 6.[41] He died on October 10, 1998 and was buried in Saint Petersburg.

Personal life

Konstantin Petrzhak studied painting. He created paintings throughout his life. He used his skills in painting when he covered the plates of ionization chamber with uranium which later led to discovery of spontaneous fission. He was also an amateur violin and guitar player.[42] Konstantin Petrzhak married Galina Ivanovna Mitrofanova (b. 1918), also a radiochemist.


Selected works

  • Flerov GN, Petrzhak KA (1 July 1940). "Spontaneous fission of uranium". Phys. Rev. 58 (1): 89. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.58.89.2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Adamov VM, Drapchinsky LV, Kovalenko SS, Petrzhak KA, Pleskachevsky LA, Tyutyugin II (1974). "Polar light particle emission in spontaneous fission of 252Cf". Physics Letters B. 48 (4): 311–314. doi:10.1016/0370-2693(74)90597-8.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Dushin, V.N.; Fomichev, A.V.; Kovalenko, S.S.; Petrzhak, K.A.; Shpakov, V.I.; Arlt, R.; Josch, M.; Muziol, G.; Ortlepp, H.G.; Wagner W. (1982). "Statistical analysis of the experimental data of fission cross section measurements on 233, 235, 238U, 237Np, 239, 242Pu at neutron energies of 2.5, 8.4 and 14.5 MeV". Proc. оf XIIth International symp. оn nuclear physics. Gaussig, 1982, ZfK-491. Dresden. p. 138.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Петржак, К. А.; Флеров, Г. Н. (1940). Спонтанное деление урана [Spontaneous fission of uranium]. ЖЭТФ (in Russian). 10: 10–13.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Петржак, К. А.; Флеров, Г. Н. (1941). Спонтанное деление урана [Spontaneous fission of uranium]. УФН (in Russian). 25 (2): 241.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. Константин Антонович Петржак (Konstantin Pietrzak). Ядерная физика в Интернете (in русский). Retrieved November 10, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Petrzhak KA, Flerov GN (1940). "Spontaneous fission of uranium". Proc USSR Acad Sci. 28 (6): 500.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Konstantin Petrzhak" Константин Петржак. Russian Engineers (in русский). 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Драпчинский, Л.В. К 100-летию со дня рождения К.А. Петржака [To 100-year anniversary of K. A. Petrzhak]. Семейные истории. Retrieved October 31, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Асташенков 1968, p. 92.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Konstantin Petrzhak obituary
  7. Гринберг, А.П.; Френкель, В.Я. (1984). Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov in Ioffe Institute (1925-1943) Игорь Васильевич Курчатов в Физико-техническом институте (1925-1943 гг.). Ленинград: Наука. p. 181. Retrieved November 12, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Иоффе, А. Ф. (1985). "Открытие молодых советских ученых". О физике и физиках (PDF). Наука. Мировоззрение. Жизнь (2 ed.). Ленинград.: Наука. Ленинградское отделение. Retrieved October 31, 2014. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 Гапонов Ю. В. (2003). Игорь Васильевич Курчатов (1903-1960). Жизненный путь (К столетию со дня рождения) [Igor Vasilievich Kurchatov (1903-1960). Life way (to 100th anniversary)]. Физика элементарных частиц и атомного ядра. 34 (3): 530.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Асташенков 1968, p. 93.
  11. Уран. III. Как было открыто спонтанное деление [Uranium. III. How spontaneous fission was discovered]. Популярная библиотека химических элементов (in Russian). 27 September 2003.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 Мухин 1974, p. 477.
  13. Oganessian, Yuri (2003). Г. Н. Флёров. Молодые годы [G. Flyorov. Early years] (DOC) (in русский).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Кузнецова, Р.В. Многослойная ионизационная камера [Multilayer ionization chamber]. Приборы и инструменты России (in русский). p. 15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Мухин 1974, p. 478.
  16. Flerov GN, Petrzhak KA (1961). Спонтанное деление ядер [Spontaneous fission of nuclei] (PDF). Physics-Uspekhi (in Russian). LXXIII (4): 657.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Асташенков 1968, p. 96.
  18. Paul Kuroda (2012). "The Origin of the Chemical Elements and the Oklo Phenomenon". Springer Science & Business Media. p. 32. ISBN 3642686672.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Открытие спонтанного деления урана [Discovery of spontaneous fission in uranium] (in русский).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Флеров, Петржак – Научное открытие №33 Спонтанное деление ядер урана [Flerov, Petrzhak - Scientific discovery №33. Spontaneous fission of uranium]. Научные открытия России (in русский). Archived from the original on 25 January 2012. Retrieved October 24, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Отто Ган [Otto Hahn] (in Russian).CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Гончаров Г. А.; Рябев Л. Д. (2001). О создании первой отечественной атомной бомбы [About the creation of the first national atomic bomb] (PDF). УФН (in Russian). 171 (1): 83.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Создание первой атомной бомбы в СССР [Works on creation of the first atomic bomb in USSR]. "BioFile.ru" (in русский).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Губарев, B.C. (2000). XX век. Исповеди: судьба науки и ученых в России. [20th century. Confessions: the destiny of science and scientists of Russia.] (in Russian). М.: МАИК "Наука/Интерпериодика". ISBN 5-7846-0034-6. Retrieved October 31, 2014.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. 25.0 25.1 Рояль эмоций, Творцы - ч. 170 [Grand piano of emotions. Creators, part 170] (in Russian). Archived from the original on October 31, 2014. Retrieved October 31, 2014.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. РФЯЦ-ВНИИЭФ 2000, p. 426.
  27. Зенькович, Николай (2004). Тайны ушедшего века. Власть. Распри. Подоплека [Mysteries of the passing century. Power. Arguments. Causes.] (in русский). Moscow: ОЛМА Медиа Групп. ISBN 5224046769. Retrieved October 22, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Крюков, С.Г. Достоин ли А. Сахаров почестей? [Whether A. Sakharov is worth ceremonial?]. Своими именами (in Russian). Retrieved October 31, 2014.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. А.С. Дудырев, А.А. Копырин, Б.А. Лавров, А.А. Малыгин,В.Н. Нараев, А.А. Персинен, В.И. Штанько (2008). Наукоемкие технологии в начале XXI века [High technologies at the beginning of 21th century] (PDF). Известия Санкт-Петербургского государственного технологического института (in русский) (4(30)): 80.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "Множетсвенность нейтронов при спонтанном делении 252Cf" [Multiple neutrons in spontaneous fission of 252Cf]. Нейтронная физика. Материалы 6-й Всесоюзной конференции по нейтронной физике, Киев, 2-6 октября 1963 г. [Neutron physics. Materials of 6th Soviet Union conference on nuclear physics, Kiev, 2–6 October 1963] (PDF) (in Russian). 1. pp. 324–328. Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Выпускники и преподаватели [Alumni and Faculty]. Saint Petersburg State Institute of Technology (in русский).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. История кафедры [History of department]. Saint Petersburg State Institute of Technology (in русский).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Сырков, А.Г.; Малыгин, А.А.; Сычев, М.М. (2014). К 80-летию со дня рождения профессора В.Г. Корсакова [On 80 years of V. G. Korsakov]. Известия Санкт-Петербургского государственного технологического института (in Russian) (24(50)): 104.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Kondrat'ko, M. Ya.; Korinets, V. N.; Petrzhak, K. A. (1976). "Dependence of asymmetry in the photofission of 233U and 239Pu on the maximum bremsstrahlung". Soviet Atomic Energy. 40 (1): 83–84. doi:10.1007/BF01119404.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Петржак, К.А.; Кондратько, М.Я.; Никотин, О.П.; Теплых, В.Ф. (1963). Запаздывающие нейтроны при фотоделении [Delayed neutrons during photofission] (in Russian). 15: 157–158. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. Алхазов, И.Д.; Касаткин, В.П; Косточкин, О.И.; Малкин, Л.З.; Сорокина, A.B.; Петржак, К.А.; Фомичёв, A.B.; Шпаков, В.И.; Румянцев, Б.В.; Соколов A.M. (1974). "Измерение сечения деления 238U нейтронами с энергией 14,6 МэВ" [Measurements of cross-sections of U-238 fission when irradiated with neutrons of energy 14.5 MeV]. Нейтронная физика, Материалы II Всесоюзной конференции по нейтронной физике, Киев, 1973 [Neutron physics, proceedings of II USSR conference on neutron physics, Kiev, 1973] (in Russian). 4. Обнинск. pp. 13–17.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. Dushin, V. N.; Fomichev, A. V.; Kovalenko, S. S.; Petrzhak, K. A.; Shpakov, V. I.; Arl't, R.; Iosh, M.; Muziol', G.; Ortlepp, Kh.-G.; Vagner, V. (1983). "Statistical analysis of experimental data on the cross sections of 233, 235, 238U, 237Np, 239,242Pu fission by neutrons of energy 2.6, 8.5, and 14.5 MeV". Soviet Atomic Energy. 55 (4): 656–660. doi:10.1007/BF01124127.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. Оганесян, Ю.Ц.; Тер-Акопьян, Г.М.; Плеве, А.А.; Чепигин, В.И.; Орлова, О.А.; Зайдель, В.; Селицкий, Ю.А.; Фунштейн, В.Б.; Брухертзайфер, Х.; Константинеску, О.; Шварценберг, М.; Гаврилов, К.А.; Коваленко, С.С.; Петржак, К.А. Опыты по синтезу 108 элемента в реакции 226Ra + 48Ca [Experiments on synthesis of 108th element in reaction 226Ra + 48Ca] (PDF) (in Russian).CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. Teplykh, V. F.; Platygina, E. V.; Petrzhak, K. A. (1998). "Range of products with A=131–136 in the reactor neutron fission of 237Np, 243Am by and thermal neutron fission of 233U, 235U, and 239Pu". Atomic Energy. 84 (4): 292–294. doi:10.1007/BF02415238.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. "Members of Nuclear Physics Division of Physical Sciences Department of Russian Academy of Sciences". High Energy and Nuclear Physics in Russia.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. K. A. Petrzhak SCOPUS
  42. Холодная, Варвара (5 June 2009). Не пропусти! [Do not miss]. Вечерний Петербург (in Russian) (102 (23946)). Retrieved December 22, 2014.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. "Russian discovery of atomic sercrets". The Canberra Times. 20 (5869). January 29, 1946. p. 1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Асташенков, Петр Тимофеевич (1968). Курчатов. М.: Молодая гвардия. p. 24. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Мухин, К.Н. (1974). Экспериментальная ядерная физика [Experimental nuclear physics] (in Russian). 1. М.: Атомиздат. p. 477.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Горбачев, В. М.; Замятнин, Ю. С.; Лбов, А. А. (1976). Взаимодействие излучений с ядрами тяжелых элементов и деление ядер. Справочник. [Interaction of radiation with nuclei of heavy elements and nuclear fission. Reference] (in Russian). М.: Атомиздат.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Рябев, Л. Д., ed. (2000). Атомный проект СССР. Том II. 1945-1954 Книга 2 (in Russian). II. Москва-Саров: РФЯЦ-ВНИИЭФ. ISBN 5-85165-402-3. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help); Invalid |script-title=: missing prefix (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>