On the 19th of September, 2001, the International Astronomical Union's
diploma was presented to the Sternberg State Astronomical Institute
(Moscow State University). The IAU diploma certified awarding
the name of Zeldovitch to minor planet (asteroid) 11438.
Yakov Borisovitch was a professor at the Moscow State University, the
founder and the leader of the department of relativistic astrophysics in
the Sternberg Astronomical Institute. Once Stephen Hoking wrote to Yakov
Borisovitch Zel'dovitch: "Before I met you here I had believed you to be
"a collective author" as Burbaki".
Actually, one could hardly find another scientist with such a wide scope
of interests among the 20th century physicists. His interests involved
problems connected with chemical burning processes, nuclear physics and
atomic applications, explosive hydrodynamics, mathematical physics, as
well as the theory of black holes, neutron stars, and the hypothesis
concerning the origin of the Universe.
It seems to me that if he had lived a bit longer, he would certainly have
received a Nobel Prize. He used to be a man with a great wit and
intelligence. Being pragmatically minded, he managed to step over a lot of
settled and rigid scientific viewpoints by the end of his life. I can't
help remembering the two things: how difficult it was to follow him
running up the scales of his house and how complicated it was to follow
his sparkling ideas at lectures. The both were difficult but very
You may get acquainted with Zel'dovitch's scientific contributions, works,
and rewards hereafter. I shall mention only a number of his bright
-the first chain nuclear reaction calculations (together with Fliorov);
-the theory of "Katiusha" rocket fuel burning (the world's first monograph
on the theory of burning);
-the discovery of the lepton charge conservation laws;
-the discovery of the energy source of black holes (accretion);
-certain ideas which later, as a matter of fact, make Stephen Hoking
discover quantum evaporation from black holes;
-the "pan-cake" theory;
-the hypothesis of quantum birth of the Universe from vacuum, etc.
The list may be complemented with such outcomes as many "effects"
predicted by Zel'dovitch and proved afterwards; his work as a lecturer
(which he himself considered as being his hobby); his manuals on
mathematical physics; his scientific guidance (he founded a number of
scientific schools, from chemical physics to relativistic astrophysics);
his leadership in the theoretical aspects of the atomic project; the three
stars of Hero of Socialist Labour...
The planet Zel'dovitch has the radius of some 6 km, its distance from the
Sun being 2.2 astronomical units.
(RAS diploma on the planet's name)
The drawing by the summary author (1979)
Translated by Nataliya Lipunova
By professor V.M.Lipunov