Viktor Hambardzumyan is a legendary Armenian scientist. He essentially put Armenia on the map in the field of astrophysics and made astronomers all across the world take Armenia seriously.
There are many famous and influential Armenians whose lives we may not know much about or whom we don’t know about altogether.
It is important for Armenians and members of other nations to know about the lives of these influential Armenians and for them to be honored in the same way that prominent members of other ethnic groups are.
Viktor Hambardzumyan is an example of a famous Armenian who should be remembered and honored. He is an Armenian scientist who was prominent during the Soviet Union.
As an Armenian scientist, he has won many awards and medals, and many scientific innovations were advanced by him.
Read on to learn more about his life, his influence, and his legacy.
Viktor Hambardzumyan: Background
- Viktor Hambardzumyan is most well known for being an Armenian scientist during the Soviet era and for being one of the main founders of theoretical astrophysics.
- Hambardzumyan was born in Tiflis, which is modern-day Tbilisi, located in the country Georgia. He was born in 1908 to an Armenian family.
- His father, Hamazasp Hambardzumyan, was also a prominent Armenian; he was the one who translated the Iliad into Armenian. He was also a philologist and writer.
- Viktor died in 1996 in the town of Byurakan in Armenia.
Viktor was a student of physics and math at the Leningrad State Pedagogical Institute, and then became a student at Leningrad State University.
While he was a student at the university, he wrote his first article relating to science, which was about sun jets. Then, he went on to continue his postgraduate studies at the Pulkovo Observatory.
He first began to gain prominence in the field of physics in 1929, when he wrote a paper dedicated to how atomic nuclei was unable to be formed from protons and electrons. He became the pro-rector of Leningrad State University during the Second World War.
He was the head of the first astrophysics chair at the university. Then, he moved to Yerevan, Armenia with his whole family to form the Faculty of Astrophysics at Yerevan State University.
He became a corresponding member, and later a full academician, of the Academy of Sciences of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He then became the vice president of the Armenian Academy of Sciences.
Viktor Hambardzumyan was a member of the Communist Party, and was a permanent delegate to the USSR Supreme Soviet from Armenia between the years of 1950 and 1990.
He encouraged the repatriation of Armenian scientists to Armenia to help expand the field of science and astrophysicists. He was elected to the Supreme Soviet of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1947.
He was married, and had 4 children- two daughters and two sons.
He died on August 12th, 1996, in the village of Byurakan. He was buried next to the Grand Telescope Tower.
Viktor Hambardzumyan’s Role in Science
Viktor Hambardzumyan is one of the most prominent contributors to astrophysics. Some of the fields he worked in included stellar astronomy, physics of stars and nebulae, mathematical physics, the dynamics of stellar systems, and the cosmogony of stars and galaxies.
He discovered a new stellar system which he called stellar association in 1947. This study was important when he realized that star formation in the Milky Way Galaxy still continues and stars originate from the changing of the systems of different groups of stars.
When he was a student, he was very interested in the field of quantum physics and the theory of atomic structure. He was very influential in the field of researching inverse problems and said that it was one of the greatest creations of his life.
He wrote a textbook which was titled Theoretical Astrophysics. He also wrote the first manual regarding astrophysics in the USSR in 1939. He is known for studying the radio signals which come from outside the Milky Way, which do not have to do with star systems colliding, but of the fission process that occurs subatomically within different galaxies.
He observed that the Milky Way is over a thousand times younger than the scientific community had previously thought that it was. He also contributed to the field and development of tomography, and he wrote one of the most prominent papers which regarded to components of the atomic nucleus.
What Viktor Hambardzumyan is most famous for founding is the Byurakan Observatory, which is in the village of Byurakan in Armenia, on the slope of the mountain Aragats.
It was one of the most prominent astronomical centers in the Soviet Union, and after founding this, he has been credited with putting Armenia on the map of astrology, according to The Independent.
The Byurakan Observatory
To this day, the Byurakan Observatory remains a rather popular destination for tourists, especially those with a love of astronomy. It was founded in the year 1946 by Viktor Hambardzumyan, and currently houses a museum as well.
It uses several small telescopes. Its main telescope is a cassegrain reflector, and it also uses a Schmidt camera. These were considered to be the largest telescopes in the Soviet Union, and continue to be some of the largest telescopes in the world.
In 1947, Viktor Hambardzumyan discovered stellar associations at the observatory. These are groups of younger stars which were formed more recently.
During the first Byurakan Survey, the observatory used the Schmidt telescope, which found about 1500 galaxies called the Markarian galaxies, which were named after Benjamin Markarian, in 1963. These galaxies had ultraviolet excess.
Besides that, over 1,000 flare stars have been discovered at the observatory, as well as several dozens of Supernovae, hundreds of galaxies, and hundreds of Herbig-Haro objects and cometary nebulae.
The observatory is currently owned by the Armenian Academy of Sciences. Armenia is a nation with a long history of studying astronomy, and the building of the Byurakan Observatory greatly helped Armenia to be integrated into the field of modern science.
It currently is home to five observational instruments. Its astronomers work together with astronomers from other countries and is the site of many symposiums. Now, the Byurakan Observatory has prestige within the field of astronomy and within academic circles.
It is somewhere worth going if you are planning a trip to Armenia. Its location on Mount Aragats provides for clear viewing of the stars.
Viktor Hambardzumyan’s Legacy
Because of his worldwide prominence, Viktor Hambarzumyan has an extensive legacy. He not only is highly respected and remembered within the Republic of Armenia, but he also is remembered all across the world.
His birthday, September 18th, is considered to be the Day of Astronomy in Armenia. 2008 was declared to be his year by UNESCO. The Byurakan Observatory now carries his name.
He was the president of the Armenian Academy of Sciences from 1947 until 1993, and therefore was its longest-serving president. He was also the president of the International Astronomical Union and the International Council of Scientific Unions.
An asteroid which was found within the inner parts of the asteroid belt was named after him- the 1905 Ambartsumian.
Viktor Hambardzumyan received many awards throughout the course of his life. He won:
- two Stalin Awards,
- the Russian Federation State Award,
- the Lomonosov Gold Medal of the Academy of Science of the USSR,
- the Gold Medals of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and British Royal Astronomical Societies,
- Jansens Medal of the French Astronomical Society,
- the Gold Medal of Slovak Academy of Science,
- the Helmgolz Medal of the German Academy of Science in Berlin,
- the Cotenius Medal of the German Academy of Science in Halle,
- the Bruce Gold Medal, the Hero of Socialist Labor,
- and the Medal of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science.
He became a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as becoming either an honorary or international member of the Academies of Science of many other countries, such as the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and Belgium. He was also a foreign member of the Royal Society.
For the first time in 2010, the President of Armenia created a new award within the field of science, which was called the Viktor Ambartsumian International Prize. The prize is worth $500,000 and is awarded to those who have made significant contributions within the field of astrophysics and fields related to it.
He also was given the award of National Hero of Armenia. There is a school in the city of Vanadzor in Armenia named after him, and he was also on the 100 dram bill and on a stamp that was issued on the hundredth anniversary of his birth.
The best students of the Academy of Sciences of Armenia have been rewarded with a gold medal named after Viktor Hambardzumyan ever since 1996, when he died. His statue is in front of the Yerevan State University Observatory.
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