|Born||29 June 1896
Taganrog, Imperial Russia
|Died||28 November 1966 (aged 70)
|Institutions||University of Cincinnati
Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute
Institute for Advanced Study
Xavier University, Cincinnati
Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light
University of Southern California
|Doctoral advisor||Paul Sophus Epstein|
|Doctoral students||Philip Schwed|
|Known for||EPR paradox|
Boris Yakovlevich Podolsky (Russian: Бори́с Я́ковлевич Подо́льский; 1896–1966) was an American physicist of Russian Jewish descent, noted on his work with Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen on entangled wave functions and the EPR paradox.
In 1896, Boris Podolsky was born into a poor Jewish family in Taganrog, in what was then the Russian Empire, and he moved to the United States in 1913. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1918, he served in the US Army and then worked at the Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light. In 1926, he obtained an MS in Mathematics from the University of Southern California. In 1928, he received a PhD in Theoretical Physics (under Paul Sophus Epstein) from Caltech.
Under a National Research Council Fellowship, Podolsky spent a year at the University of California, Berkeley, followed by a year at Leipzig University. In 1930, he returned to Caltech, working with Richard C. Tolman for one year. He then went to the Ukrainian Institute of Physics and Technology (Kharkov, USSR), collaborating with Vladimir Fock, Paul Dirac (who was there on a visit), and Lev Landau. In 1933, he returned to the USA with a fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. In 1935, he took a post as professor of mathematical physics at the University of Cincinnati. In 1961, he moved to Xavier University, Cincinnati, where he worked until his death in 1966.
Working with Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen, Podolsky conceived the EPR paradox. This famous paper stimulated debate as to the interpretation of quantum mechanics, culminating with Bell's theorem and the advent of quantum information theory.
In 1933, Podolsky and Lev Landau had the idea to write a textbook on electromagnetism beginning with special relativity and emphasizing theoretical postulates rather than experimental laws. This project did not come to fruition due to Podolsky's return to the United States, where he had immigrated in 1913. However, in the hands of Lev Landau and E. Lifshitz, the outline they produced became The Classical Theory of Fields (1951). On the same basis, Podolsky and K. Kunz produced Fundamentals of Electrodynamics, Marcel Dekker Press (1969), to which Podolsky's son, Robert, contributed most of the questions at the end of each chapter.
A 2009 book by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, outs Podolsky as a spy. During the war, Podolsky sought out Soviet intelligence and recommended the USSR work on processing Uranium 235. As suggested by KGB files and decrypted Venona cables, Podolsky, code named QUANTUM, passed to the Soviets information he had probably gleaned from his contacts in the scientific community: complex chemical equations on the process of gaseous diffusion in order to separate bomb grade U-235 from unwanted U-238. Unlike most other Soviet spies operating in the US who passed information only for ideological reasons, Podolsky apparently passed this information for a price ($300), according to Soviet sources recently analyzed by historians.
It should be noted that Podolsky's son, Robert, adamantly denies these charges of espionage - citing the fact that Podolsky fled Russia before the Soviet revolution, was avidly pro-America, joined the US army during WWI, and turned down at least one invitation to defect to the USSR in later years.
In popular culture
- John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Boston: Yale University Press, 2009).
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