Mihai Gavrilă

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Mihai Gavrilă
Born October 10, 1929 (1929-10-10) (age 87)
Cluj, Romania
Citizenship France
Nationality Romanian
Fields Physicist, (theoretical)
Institutions University of Bucharest
Alma mater School of Physics, University of Bucharest
Doctoral advisor Acad. Prof. Dr. Șerban Țițeica
Doctoral students 12
Known for Quantum theory, the Relativistic K-Shell Photoeffect

Mihai Gavrilă (Romanian pronunciation: [miˈhaj ɡaˈvrilə]; b. October 16, 1929, Cluj) is a Romanian quantum physicist, member of the Romanian Academy since 1974. He made fundamental contributions to quantum theories of electromagnetic interactions with atoms. His parents were Ion and Florica Gavrilă (née Vișoiu). His father taught medicine and his mother taught English at the University of Cluj.


He began his higher education at the Gheorghe Lazăr High School in Sibiu, and completed his studies at the Seminarul Pedagogic Universitar of the University of Cluj. Then, in 1948, he enrolled in the School of Mathematics and Physics of the University of Bucharest from which he graduated with a major in physics, and a minor in radiotechnology, in 1953. While still a student, between 1951 and 1953, he became a teaching assistant to Professor Eugen Bădărău in the Optics Laboratory of the School of Physics.

Doctoral studies[edit]

In 1953, he was accepted for doctoral studies in theoretical physics by Acad. Professor Dr. Șerban Țițeica in the School of Physics at the University of Bucharest, and completed successfully his doctoral studies with the Ph.D. thesis entitled The Relativistic Theory of the Photoelectric Effect, apparently following in Albert Einstein's and Alexandru Proca's footsteps.[1][2] He published in 1959 the main results of his Ph.D. thesis in a peer-reviewed paper in Physical Review.[3]

Academic career[edit]

In 1956, Gavrilă was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Thermodynamics, Statistical Physics and Quantum Mechanics of the School of Physics of the University of Bucharest, where he was subsequently promoted to a lectureship, an Associate Professorship in 1962, and to full Professorship in 1968. He studied also as a visiting scholar at several major physics centers around the world: Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, JINR (at Dubna in Russia), Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, JILA (Boulder, Colorado, USA), International Centre for Theoretical Physics, ICTP (Trieste in Italy), and the University of Pittsburgh, (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA). He taught courses on Quantum Mechanics, Group theory representations and Lorentz group transformations.

He was elected a corresponding Member of the Romanian Academy in 1974. However, in spite of his election to the Academy, he refused to become entangled in any political affairs under the increasingly dictatorial communist regime, and finally he had to leave his country for Norway in the autumn of 1974. At first, he worked at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU (in Trondheim) and at the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, in Stockholm. In 1975 he settled in Amsterdam at the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics, AMOLF, where he became the theoretical physics group leader. Since 1992 he has worked as a Senior Scientist at the Institute for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP) based at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

After 1990 he was able to visit Romania several times and continued to contribute also to the development of theoretical physics research in Romania.

Scientific achievements[edit]

Atomic Dichotomy. The wave function of atomic hydrogen in a high frequency, ultra-high intensity laser field, represented in a plane passing through the symmetry axis of the laser field. α0 = I1/2ω−2, where I is the laser field intensity, and ω is its frequency in atomic units.

Radiative transitions between the inner atomic shells[edit]

Mihai Gavrilă completed in 1977 his previous work on the relativistic theory of the photoelectric effect in the inner atomic orbitals that he had begun in his PhD thesis in 1958; thus, he applied radiative corrections to his previous calculations[4] He also investigated two-photon excitations and the elastic photon scattering amplitude in the hydrogen ground state,.[5][6] He completed also the non-relativistic Compton scattering calculation for an electron in the K-shell[7] These calculations were then extended in the dipolar approximation to the study of Compton scattering in the L- shell.[8] The results of his investigations confirmed the presence of the infrared divergence—as predicted in quantum electrodynamics, and also predicted the presence of a resonance in the spectrum of the scattered photons.[9][10]

Interactions of laser beams with atoms[edit]

He began these studies in 1976 in connection with experimental studies carried out at AMOLF by group of Marnix van der Wiel. Initially, his interest was focused on multi-photon transitions treated by non-perturbation quantum theory. However, he switched to perturbation methods in quantum theory when it became possible experimentally to attain ultra-high laser intensities at very high frequencies based on the High-Intensity High-Frequency Floquet Theory (HI-HFFT).[11][12] His investigations lead to very surprising results—the phenomenon of ``atomic dichotomy"[12][13][14] in which the hydrogen atom when it is placed in a linearly polarized field exhibits a splitting of its spherical charge distribution into two lobes that oscillate in the laser field. On the other hand, in a circularly polarized laser field, the hydrogen atom's charge distribution takes on a toroidal shape with its symmetry axis oriented along the propagation vector of the field and passing through the center of the atom. His theory also predicts for two-electron atoms the appearance of a new bound state which is induced by the ultra-intense laser field;[15][16] these are 'light-induced excited states'. Apparently paradoxical events do occur in the presence of the extremely intense laser field: a proton can bind more than two electrons thus leading to the formation of hydrogen negative ions with multiple negative charges that are relatively stable.[17] Other novel and unexpected properties of molecules were also predicted in the presence of such ultra-intense laser fields.[18]

Scientific leadership[edit]

Professor Gavrilă organized several international physics conferences, such as International Conference on Atomic Physics, International Conference on Photonic, Electronic, and Atomic Collisions, and International Conference on Multiphoton Processes. He was also a peer-reviewer for Physical Review A (1991–1993), Journal of Physics B and several other international physics journals.

He also managed several projects financed by EU and Stichting FOM. He coordinated successfully the project Atoms in Super-intense, Femtosecond Pulses involving four experimental laboratories and theoretical groups from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, to build an ultra high-power laser at the Laboratoire d'Optique Appliquée (Palaiseau in France).


In the early 1950s, he was married for three years to Ana-Dorica Blaga, the daughter of Lucian Blaga.[19]


  1. ^ Alexandru Proca. "On the relativistic theory of Dirac's electron" PhD thesis defended by Alexandru Proca under Nobel laureate Louis de Broglie at the Sorbonne University
  2. ^ Brown, Laurie M.; Rechenberg, Helmut (1996), The origin of the concept of nuclear forces, CRC Press, p. 185, ISBN 978-0-7503-0373-6 
  3. ^ Mihai Gavrila: Relativistic K-Shell Photoeffect, Physical Review, 113 (2), 514–526 (1959)
  4. ^ James McEnnan și M. Gavrila: Radiative corrections to the atomic photoeffect, Physical Review A, 15 (4), 1537–1556 (1977). James McEnnan and M. Gavrila: Radiative corrections to the high-frequency end of the bremsstrahlung spectrum, Physical Review A, 15 (4), 1557–1562 (1977).
  5. ^ Mihai Gavrila: Elastic Scattering of Photons by a Hydrogen Atom, Physical Review, 163 (1), 147–155 (1967)
  6. ^ M. Gavrila and A. Costescu: Retardation in the Elastic Scattering of Photons by Atomic Hydrogen, Physical Review A, 2 (5), 1752–1758 (1970). Erratum: Physical Review A, 4 (4), 1688 (1971)
  7. ^ Mihai Gavrila: Compton Scattering by K-Shell Electrons. I. Nonrelativistic Theory with Retardation, Physical Review A, 6 (4), 1348–1359 (1972). Mihai Gavrila: Compton Scattering by K-Shell Electrons. II. Nonrelativistic Dipole Approximation, Physical Review A, 6 (4), 1360–1367 (1972). (1972).
  8. ^ A. Costescu și M. Gavrila: Compton scattering by L-shell electrons, Revue Roumaine de Physique, 18 (4), 493–521 (1973). M. Gavrila and M.N. Țugulea: Compton scattering by L-shell electrons. II, Revue Roumaine de Physique, 20 (3), 209–230 (1975)
  9. ^ V. Florescu and M. Gavrila: Elastic scattering of photons by K-shell electrons at high energies, Physical Review A, 14 (1), 211–235 (1976).
  10. ^ Viorica Florescu and Mihai Gavrila: Extreme-relativistic Compton scattering by K-shell electrons, Physical Review A, 68 (5), 052709:1–17 (2003)
  11. ^ M. Gavrila și J.Z. Kamiński: Free-Free Transitions in Intense, High-Frequency Laser Fields, Physical Review Letters, 52 (8), 613–616 (1984).
  12. ^ a b Mihai Gavrila: Atomic Structure and Decay in High-Frequency Fields, in Atoms in Intense Laser Fields, ed. M. Gavrila, Academic Press, San Diego, 1992, pp. 435–510. ISBN 0-12-003901-X
  13. ^ M. Pont, N.R. Walet, M. Gavrila și C.W. McCurdy: Dichotomy of the Hydrogen Atom in Superintense, High-Frequency Laser Fields, Physical Review Letters, 61 (8), 939–942 (1988)
  14. ^ M. Pont, N.R. Walet and M. Gavrila: Radiative distortion of the hydrogen atom in superintense, high-frequency fields of linear polarization, Physical Review A, 41 (1), 477–494 (1990).
  15. ^ H.G. Muller and M. Gavrila: Light-Induced Excited States in H, Physical Review Letters, 71 (11), 1693–1696 (1993).
  16. ^ J.C. Wells, I. Simbotin and M. Gavrila: Physical Reality of Light-Induced Atomic States, Physical Review Letters, 80 (16), 3479–3482 (1998)
  17. ^ Ernst van Duijn, M. Gavrila and H.G. Muller: Multiply Charged Negative Ions of Hydrogen Induced by Superintense Laser Fields, Physical Review Letters, 77 (18), 3759–3762 (1996)
  18. ^ J. Shertzer, A. Chandler and M. Gavrila: H2+ in Superintense Laser Fields: Alignment and Spectral Restructuring, Physical Review Letters, 73 (15), 2039–2042 (1994)
  19. ^ "Dorli Blaga" (in Romanian). Humanitas. Retrieved February 8, 2014. 

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