Ilya Frank was born on October 23, 1908, in Leningrad, Russia. Frank graduated from the Moscow State University in 1930. In 1931, Frank became a senior scientist in the State Optical Institute’s laboratory in Leningrad.
In 1934, Frank became a scientific officer at the P.N. Lebedev Institute of Physics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. That same year, Pavel Cherenkov discovered that light is emitted by charged particles traveling at very high speeds through water. Frank and Igor Tamm provided the theoretical explanation of this effect, which occurs when the particles travel through an optically transparent medium at speeds greater than the speed of light in that medium. This discovery resulted in the development of new methods for detecting and measuring the velocity of high-speed particles and became of great importance for research in nuclear physics.
Frank’s work also included collaboration with Cherenkov and Tamm in research on electron radiation. Frank also specialized in the study of gamma rays and neutron beams.
In 1944, he became head of the department of physics at the Moscow State University. Since 1957, he has headed the Neutron Laboratory of the Joint Institute of Nuclear Investigations. Frank was made a member of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R in 1946.
Frank died on June 22, 1990.