Kirill Borisovich Tolpygo

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Kirill Borisovich Tolpygo (Ukrainian: Кирилo Борисович Толпиго; 3 May 1916 – 13 May 1994), also known as K. B. Tolpygo, was a Soviet physicist and a corresponding member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. He was recognized for his works on condensed matter theory; the theory of phonon spectra in crystals; electronic structure and defects in insulators and semiconductors; and biophysics. He created the Department of Theoretical Physics and the Department of Biophysics at Donetsk National University.[1] Tolpygo was a teacher, mentor and scientific advisor to graduate students. Tolpygo was awarded the Order of the Great Patriotic War (2nd Degree).

Early life[edit]

Tolpygo was born during WWI in Kyiv, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. His father, Boris Nikolaevich Tolpygo (1889 – 1958) was a jurist who received the Order of St. Stanislaus for his services to the Russian army during WWI. Tolpygo's mother, Tatiana B. Bukreeva (1889 – 1992), was the daughter of Boris Yakovlevich Bukreev, a mathematician and geometer at Kyiv University (University of St. Volodymyr, Kyiv).[2] In 1923, Tolpygo's father was arrested by the Cheka, for alleged "counter-revolutionary" activities.[3] Through the intervention of individuals such as Raymond Poincaré, President of France, he avoided execution and was sentenced to 10 years hard labor.[4] In 1947, Tolpygo's father was again imprisoned. It was 1957 before he would return to Kyiv, shortly before his death. Hence, Tolpygo grew up in the family of his grandfather, Boris Y. Bukreev.


Tolpygo's life was complicated by being the son of a political prisoner. Nevertheless, he was allowed to enter Kyiv University. After graduating from the Physics and Mathematics Faculty in 1939, he went on to post graduate study at the Institute of Physics at the Ukrainian SSR Academy of Sciences and started his research work in theoretical physics.

Military service[edit]

In November 1939, Tolpygo was drafted into the Red Army. From 1941 to 1945, he was in the artillery section and was wounded during the Yelnya Offensive in 1941. He returned to Kyiv in 1945 when all physicists were recalled from active duty to work on the atomic bomb and other projects, and to restore universities and research institutions destroyed during the War.

Scientific career[edit]

On returning to Kyiv, Tolpygo helped to restore the University and continued to work on his thesis. His scientific advisor was Solomon Isaakovich Pekar, creator of the theory of polarons.[5][6] From 1945 to 1966 Tolpygo worked at Kyiv State University. From 1963, he was Professor of Physics, and from 1960 to 1966 he was Chair of the Department of Theoretical Physics. Concurrently, from 1948 to 1960, he worked as a Senior Scientist at the Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences of UkrSSR, Kyiv. He received his PhD in 1949 and his Doctor of Sciences in 1962. In 1965 he was elected a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences of UkrSSR.

Support of dissidents[edit]

Tolpygo joined the movement of the "Sixtiers" (shestidesiatniki) and signed a letter to the Soviet authorities in support of dissidents Alexander Ginzburg and Yuri Galanskov. As a result, his position at Kyiv University was jeopardised. At the time, Alexander A. Galkin was organizing a new scientific center in Donetsk, Ukraine. His aim was to decentralise scientific research and promote science and technology in regional Ukraine. [7] Galkin convinced Tolpygo to join him in Donetsk and create a new school of theoretical physics, far from political scrutiny. In 1966, Tolpygo moved with his family from Kyiv to Donetsk. From 1965 to 1988 he worked as Head of Department of Theoretical Physics at Donetsk Physical-Technical Institute (DonPTI) of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and at the same time was Professor and Chair of the Department of Theoretical Physics at Donetsk State University.

Later life[edit]

From 1988 to his death in 1994 Tolpygo worked as Principal Scientist at the DonPTI and continued to teach physics at the university. Tolpygo also enjoyed music. He practiced the piano regularly. The Beethoven piano sonatas were among his favourites. In his later years, Tolpygo developed an interest in ecology and environmentalism.

Family life[edit]

Tolpygo had four children: Alexey (a mathematician, chess player, and political writer) and Natalia (musician and piano teacher) from his first marriage in 1946 to Oksana Fedorivna Tomasevych, a theoretical physicist, and Sergey (a condensed matter physicists) and Vladimir (a materials scientist), from a second marriage in 1959 to Yelena Isaakovna Kaplunova Tolpygo, also a physicist.

Scientific work[edit]

Crystal lattice dynamics[edit]

Between 1949 and 1956, Tolpygo used quantum-mechanics to build a theory of crystal lattice dynamics. It included deformation of electronic shells of ions and effects of retardation.[8][9] In the theory of crystal lattice dynamics this model is now known as a "shell model".[10][11] He considered optical modes of vibrations; took account of retardation; and predicted bound states of photons and phonons in crystals, which he called "light-excitons". (Subsequently, these states were investigated experimentally and termed "polaritons").

Coulomb interactions[edit]

Later, Tolpygo generalized his theory to include cases of homopolar and molecular crystals. Thus, he introduced long-range Coulomb interactions in their lattice dynamics.[12] On this basis, he developed a microscopic theory of optical and elastic properties of crystals, and a theory of the small-radius localized states of electrons in solids.[13][14] This theory allowed for the interaction of electrons with phonons of all branches and wavelengths, and was applied to the theory of polaritons, F-centers, and excitons in alkali halide crystals. Tolpygo also worked on kinetic phenomena in semiconductors and their phenomenological theory: theory of thermal emission, photovoltaic effect, p-n junctions, surface phenomena, etc.[15][16][17][18]

Many-electron theory[edit]

Tolpygo also worked on the "many-electron" theory of crystals: development of an efficient method for accounting electron correlations in the band theory; justification of the quasi-molecular model of valence crystals; and the theory of their optical absorption based on a model of metastable Frenkel excitons. He developed a theory of defect formation at intrinsic optical absorption; the microscopic theory of optical absorption by crystals; and a microscopic theory of Cherenkov radiation as it results from generation of light-excitons (polaritons) by the field of a moving relativistic electron.[19][20] [21][22][23]


In addition to condensed matter physics, Tolpygo was also interested in biophysics. He proposed an original microscopic theory of muscle contraction based on the idea that the energy of ATF decomposition is transferred along the chains of hydrogen bonds between actin and myosin polymers causing their mutual motion.[24] This theory allowed him to explain experimental features of muscle contraction, such as the relation of tension to velocity as described by Hill's muscle model. He also studied mechanisms of mutations[25] and investigated nonradiative excitations of protons in hydrogen bonds in DNA. He predicted a new quasiparticle – protonic exciton – and investigated its properties.[26]


  1. ^ Tolpygo K. B. [1] Visnyk Akademiyi Nauk Ukrainskoyi RSR, Kyiv, May, 1986. no. 5 p108
  2. ^ "Bukreev" accessed 3 April 2012
  3. ^ Golinkov D. L. "Krakh vrazheskogo podpolia (Iz istorii bor'by s kontrrevoluziey v Sovetskoi Rossii v 1917–1924 gg." Moscow, Izdatel'stvo Politicheskoi Literatury, 1971, p.330-340.
  4. ^ Golinkov D. L. "Krushenie antisovetskogo podpolia v SSSR," Kniga 2, Moscow, Politizdat, 1978, pp. 180–186
  5. ^ Pekar S. I. "Untersuchung uber die Elektronentheorie der Kristalle" Akademie Verlag, Berlin (1954).
  6. ^ Pekar S. I. "Research in electron theory of crystals". United States Atomic Energy Commission, Washington, DC (1963).
  7. ^ Krivoruchko D. V. "DΟnetsk Institute for Physics and Engineering – History" Accessed 3 April 2012
  8. ^ Tolpygo K. B. "Physical properties of a rock salt lattice made up of deformable ions." Zh.Eks.Teor.Fiz. v.20, No 6, pp.497–509 (1950), in Russian. English translation: Ukrainian Journal of Physics, v.53, special issue (2008)
  9. ^ Tolpygo K. B. "Present state of the theory on polarization of ideal ionic and valence crystals." Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk, v. 74, no. 2, pp. 269–288 (1961).
  10. ^ Upadhyay G. K. "Solid State Physics (Lattice Dynamics of Ionic Solids)", Laxmi Publication Ltd, New Delhi, 1st Edition: 2008, p37.
  11. ^ Kaplan H. and Sullivan J. J. "Lattice Vibrations of Zincblende Structure Crystals." Phys. Rev. 130, 120–129 (1963).
  12. ^ Tolpygo K. B. "Long-range forces and the dynamical equations for homopolar crystals of the diamond type." Soviet Physics - Solid State, v. 3, no. 3, pp. 685–693 (1961).
  13. ^ Mashkevich V. S. and Tolpygo K. B. "Electrical, optical and elastic properties of diamond crystals." Soviet Physics JETP-USSR v. 5, no. 3, pp. 435–439 (1957).
  14. ^ Tolpygo K. B. "Optical, elastic and piezoelectric properties of ionic and valence crystals with ZnS-type lattice." Soviet Physics - Solid State, v. 2, no. 10, pp. 2367–2376 (1961).
  15. ^ Rashba E. I. and Tolpygo K. B. "Static volt-ampere characteristics of the barrier formed on the boundaries of electron and hole semiconductors in the reverse direction." Zhurnal Tekhnicheskoi Fiziki, v. 25, no. 7, pp. 1335–1338 (1955)
  16. ^ Rashba E. I. and Tolpygo K. B. "Bipolar diffusion of current carriers at the presence of deep traps." Zh. Eks. Teor. Fiz. v.31, no. 2, pp. 273–277 (1956).
  17. ^ Rashba E. I. and Tolpygo K. B. "The direct voltage-current characteristic of a plane rectifier with large currents." Soviet Physics - Technical Physics. v.1, no. 7, pp. 1388–1395 (1956)
  18. ^ Tolpygo K. B. "Variation of the emissivity of a p-n junction with its structure and operating conditions." Soviet Physics - Technical Physics. v. 2, no. 5, pp. 809–822 (1957).
  19. ^ Tolpygo E. I. et al "Nonradiative Auger recombination of electrons at donor-acceptor pairs." Soviet Physics semiconductors - USSR, v.8, no.3, pp. 326–328 (1974)
  20. ^ Telezhkin V. A. and Tolpygo K. B. "Theory of electron-structure of radiation defects in semiconductors (Review)." Soviet Physics Semiconductors - USSR, v. 16, no. 8, pp. 857–875 (1982).
  21. ^ Latynin S. L. and Tolpygo K. B. "Microscopic theory of light propagation in a semi-infinite crystal." Fizika Tverdogo Tela, v. 30, no. 4, pp. 1191–1193 (1988).
  22. ^ Tolpygo K. B. "Microscopic theory of Cherenkov radiation." Ukranian Fizicheski Zhurnal. v. 32, no. 8, pp. 1190–1198 (1987)
  23. ^ Kovalenko L. A. and Tolpygo K. B. "Cherenkov radiation at subrelativistic velocities." Fizika Tverdogo Tela, v. 32, no. 9, pp. 2800–2804 (1990).
  24. ^ Tolpygo K. B. "Possible role of hydrogen-bonds in conformational changes in biopolymers and carrying out their macroscopic displacements." Studia Biophysica, v. 69, no. 1, pp. 35–51 (1978).
  25. ^ Tolpygo K. B. "An exact solution to the problem of cell multiplication in the presence of a mutagenic factor." Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR, v. 183, no. 5 p. 1209 (1968).
  26. ^ K.B. Tolpygo (1993). "Spreading of excitations and changes in atomic vibrations in poly-guanine-cytosine due to hydrogen bond excitations". Journal of Molecular Structure 299: 185–190. doi:10.1016/0022-2860(93)80293-5.