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Vitaly Ginzburg

(1916 - 2009)

Vitaly Ginzburg was a Russian theoretical physicist and astrophysicist who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Ginzburg was born in 1916 in Moscow. In 1938 he graduated from the Moscow State University and, in 1942, successfully defended his doctoral dissertation and received his Ph.D. He has worked at the Moscow-based Lebedev Physical Institute since 1940, including serving as department head from 1971 to 1988. Since 1945 has also taught at Gorky State University. Ginzburg is the author of several hundred papers and a dozen books devoted to physics and astrophysics. He is an ardent atheist, and early in his career was an outspoken critic of science trumping a religious world view.

Since 1956, Vitaly Ginzburg has been a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, taking on significant leadership roles in 1966 and 1989. Since the 1940s until the twenty-first century, Ginzburg has been the recipient of numerous awards from the Soviet and Russian government.

Ginzburg has been instrumental in helping to rebuild Russian Jewish life since the collapse of communism. He has served on the board of directors of the Russian Jewish Congress since the organization's founding in 1996. He is well known for his stand against anti-Semitism, support for the State of Israel, and for secular Jewish identity (including in Israel). For example, the head of the Russian Jewish Congress, Yevgeny Satanovsky, recalled an instance in which Ginzburg argued strenuously against a line in a RJC statement of solidarity with Israel that offered a prayer for the well-being of the State of Israel. He is co-chair of the Society for the Solidarity With the People of Israel, a pro-Israel advocacy group created by Russian Jews in 2002 to enlist Russian public support for Israel. In 2002, when Russian Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn came out with a book on Russian Jewish history that many in the Russian Jewish community found to be biased against Jews, Ginzburg persuaded the RJC to allocate funds towards the publication of a book that would refute Solzhenitsyn's perceived anti-Jewish claims.

Sources: JTA and I.E.Tamm Theory Department - Homepage of Vitaly Ginzburg ; Photo: Courtesy of the University of Houston