Nikolai Kardashev

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Nikolai Kardashev
Nikolai Semyonovich Kardashev

(1932-04-25)25 April 1932
Died3 August 2019(2019-08-03) (aged 87)
Known forKardashev scale

Nikolai Semyonovich Kardashev[1] (Russian: Никола́й Семёнович Кардашёв, IPA: [nʲɪkɐˈlaj sʲɪˈmʲɵnəvʲɪtɕ kərdɐˈʂof]; 25 April 1932 – 3 August 2019[2]) was a Soviet and Russian astrophysicist, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and the deputy director of the Astro Space Center of PN Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Moscow to a family of professional revolutionaries involved with the Bolshevik Party. His parents were Semyon Karlovich Brike and Nina Nikolaevna Kardasheva; his father was a prominent member of the party, and his mother joined as well before the October Revolution in 1917. Both of his parents were arrested during the Great Purge in 1937 and 1938. His father was ultimately shot and his mother was forced into labor camps and would not be released for many years.[3] Due to his parents’ absence, he was sent to an orphanage where he was then taken by his mother's sister after a great deal of effort.[4] His aunt then died during World War II when he was 16 years old and he then had to live on his own in a large communal flat.[4] His mother was released in 1956, by which point Nikolai had completed university.[3]


He attended Moscow State University (Russian abbreviation MGU) in the Astronomy division of the Mechanics and Mathematics Department. Here he focused his studies/interests in radio astronomy, a field which was new and developing.[3]


He joined the Space Research Institute (IKI) of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1967. He became deputy director of IKI in 1977. During the dissolution of the USSR, Nikolai became the director of the Astro Space Center of the Lebedev Physical Institute. In 1978, Nikolai started a project called the Space VLBI mission RadioAstron. This mission covered more than 30 years and was finally launched in 2011. The RadioAstron mission has become one of the highlights of modern observational astrophysics.[5]

He invented the Kardashev scale, a method of measuring a civilization's level of technological advancement based on the amount of energy they are able to use, in 1964.[5] He proposed Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). This replaced conventional radio transmission lines with magnetic tape recordings. It was demonstrated in 1967.[5]

He may have predicted the existence of pulsars before they were officially discovered in his paper ‘Transmission of Information by Extraterrestrial Civilizations'.[3]


He was active in the International Astronomical Union where he was: Vice-President of Executive Committee (1997-2003), Vice-President of Commission 51 Bio-Astronomy (1982-1991), Organizing Committee Member of Commission 40 Radio Astronomy (1967-1985), Member of Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science (2019), Member of Division F Planetary Systems and Astrobiology (2019), Member of Commission 40 Radio Astronomy (2015), Member of Commission 51 Bio-Astronomy (2015), Member of Division III Planetary Systems Sciences (2012), Member of Division X Radio Astronomy (2012), and Member of Special Nominating Committee (2000-2003).[6]

He was a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Division of General Physics and Astronomy: first as a corresponding (associate) member (12 December 1976), then as a Full Member (21 March 1994), and served as chair of the Russian Academy of Sciences Council on Astronomy from 1999 until his death.[7]

He was on the Committee on Space Research as Vice President of the Committee for Space Research from 1982-1986.[5]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1980 he shared the USSR's State Prize for the development and experiments with the orbital radio telescope KRT-10,[8] and in 1988 he shared the USSR's State Prize for the discovery of Radio Recombination Lines.[5] In 2012, Nikolai received the Grote Reber Gold Medal for innovative lifetime contributions to radio astronomy.[5]

Film career[edit]

His first connection with the film industry was in 1981. He was asked to be a consultant on the set of Petlya Oriona, a Russian TV series documentary. He played himself in a TV show episode on the documentary series Space's Deepest Secrets in 2018 as well as playing himself in a TV show episode on the documentary series Horizon in 2018.[9]


Kardashev died on 3 August 2019 at the age of 87.[4]


  • Kardashev, Nikolai (1985). ""On the Inevitability and the Possible Structures of Supercivilizations" in "The search for extraterrestrial life: Recent developments; Proceedings of the Symposium, Boston, MA, June 18–21, 1984"". The Search for Extraterrestrial Life: Recent Developments. 112: 497–504. Bibcode:1985IAUS..112..497K. doi:10.1007/978-94-009-5462-5_65. S2CID 118286044.
  • 1963 - "Candidate of Science" dissertation, later promoted to higher level of doctoral thesis.[5]
  • 1964 - “Transmission of Information by Extraterrestrial Civilizations” which Presented the classification of civilizations based on their level of power consumption spanning 20 orders of magnitude. Became known as Kardashev Scale.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Also transliterated Kardashov, preserving the letter yo.
  2. ^ "Умер выдающийся советский астрофизик Николай Кардашев" (in Russian). Красная Весна. 2019-08-04.
  3. ^ a b c d Balega, Yurii Yu; Boyarchuk, Aleksandr A.; Braginsky, Vladimir B.; Varshalovich, Dmitrii A.; Dagkesamansky, R. D.; Keldysh, Leonid V.; Mesyats, Gennadii A.; Novikov, Igor D.; Pariisky, Yu N.; Stepanov, Alexander V.; Cherepashchuk, Anatolii M.; Shustov, Boris M. (2012). "Nikolai Semenovich Kardashev (On his 80th birthday)". Physics-Uspekhi. 55 (6): 633–634. Bibcode:2012PhyU...55..633B. doi:10.3367/UFNe.0182.201206i.0677.
  4. ^ a b c "Astrophysics Legend Nikolai Kardashev, Civilization Ranking Scale Author, Died Age 87". Retrieved 2020-04-28.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Balega, Yu Yu; Gurvits, L I; Dagkesamanskii, R D; Zelenyi, L M; Kellermann, K I; Kovalev, Yu Yu; Kolachevsky, N N; Konovalenko, A A; Kurt, V G; Novikov, I D; Pariiskii, Yu N (2020-06-30). "In memory of Nikolai Semenovich Kardashev". Physics-Uspekhi. 63 (6): 622–624. Bibcode:2020PhyU...63..622.. doi:10.3367/ufne.2020.05.038765. ISSN 1063-7869. S2CID 225765448.
  6. ^ "Nikolay S. Kardashev". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 2020-04-28.
  7. ^ "Nikolai Kardashev, 1932-2019 | METI International". Retrieved 2020-04-28.
  8. ^ "Лауреаты Государственной премии СССР в области науки и техники (1976—1980)", Википедия (in Russian), 2021-06-25, retrieved 2021-07-12
  9. ^ "Nikolai Kardashev". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-04-28.