Biographical Sketch of V. I. Gol'danskii
Reprinted from the April 1999 edition of the Mössbauer Spectroscopy Newsletter, published as part of Volume 22, Issue 4 of the Mössbauer Effect Reference and Data Journal

In this issue we give special tribute to one of the most eminent scientists who has been involved with the Mössbauer Effect, Professor Vitalii I. Gol'danskii. This June he will be celebrating his 76th birthday. His contributions to the Mössbauer community have included a total of 266 publications, which in itself is a major accomplishment, but in the case of Professor Gol'danskii this is but one of many contributions he has made to the scientific community in general. 

In addition to his scientific accomplishments, he has provided a high energy role in a number of social and political activities. A number of his essays have been published in a book entitled Essays of a Soviet Scientist (AIP Press, Woodbury, NY, 1997.  ISBN 1-56396-454-6). Commenting on the book, Glenn T. Seaborg said, “Vitalii Gol'danskii has captured the restless, vital, and often violent spirit of much of the last century in science and politics, particularly in the former Soviet Union. These essays offer a fascinating look into the workings of one of today’s most versatile and socially responsible scientists.”

Vitalii I. Gol'danskii was born in Vitebsk (Belarus, USSR) in 1923. His youth was spent in a war-torn region of Russia, the devastation of which he experienced first-hand: the painful loss of his father and other relatives; himself having been wounded; and then surviving the Winter Siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1941-1942 which led to his evacuation to Kazan. He graduated from the Chemical Department of Moscow State University in 1944, received his doctor of physics in 1954, and became a professor in 1956. This unusual background in both chemistry and physics gave him a special appreciation and insight into interdisciplinary science, which attributed to his high activity in a third area: nuclear  chemistry and physics.

Early in his career he made many contributions. He initiated different chemical applications of annihilation of positrons; investigated various classes of chemical reactions of positronium, its quenching and inhibition; and applied positron methods to the studies of defects in solids.  Among his works in chemical kinetics and radiation chemistry:  theoretical and experimental studies of cryochemical reactions; investigations of “polychromatic” kinetics of bimolecular reactions in molecular solids; and studies of radiation and shock wave-induced solid-state polymerization.

He predicted and experimentally discovered the phenomenon of the quantum low-temperature limit of a chemical reaction rate, and explained it in terms of molecular tunneling. He also introduced the notion and expression for the cross-over temperature between Arrhenius and tunneling regions, observed and investigated numerous cryochemical chain tunnel reactions, developed the concept of fluctuational preparation of reaction barriers, and suggested the tunnel mechanism of cold formation of complex polymers in dark interstellar clouds and cometary tails.

He revealed new macroscopic phenomena in low-temperature chemical conversions of irradiated solids (mechanochemical explosions and autowave propagation of chemical reactions). He developed the treatment of the problems of origin of life and evolution on the base of their connection to the spontaneous breaking of mirror symmetry in Nature. He has suggested new approaches to the treatment of properties of nuclei far off from the beta-stability line, and predicted the existence, masses and decay characteristics of numerous unknown neutron-deficient and neutron-excessive nuclei.

He has predicted and described several new phenomena in nuclear transformations: two-proton radioactivity; beta-delayed emission of neutron and proton pairs; two-neutron radioactive decay of nuclear isomers; and the nuclear Josephson effect in the transfer of pairs of nucleons. He has experimentally determined the electric polarizability of protons by studying the Compton effect on them.

All the above has been in addition to his contributions in the chemical and biophysical applications of the Mössbauer effect. These investigations have centered around areas of structural chemistry, chemical kinetics, surface phenomena, heterogeneous catalysis, physical chemistry of polymers and biopolymers, and the search for ores. He has contributed to the concept of pulse-pumped Mössbauer gamma-ray lasers; and has revealed the asymmetry of the Mössbauer spectra caused by the anisotropy of atomic vibrations (referred to as the Gol'danskii-Karyagin effect). He has investigated the temperature and hydration dependence of the dynamical properties of biopolymers by various methods of Mössbauer spectroscopy and suggested the glass-like dynamical model of proteins.

In addition to his scientific contributions to the Mössbauer community, he has provided unprecedented leadership to that community, and was for decades the primary force in the development of Mössbauer spectroscopy as a science in Eastern Europe. At an early age, Gol'danskii became a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1962, and was accepted as an Academician Member in 1991.

Vitalii Gol'danskii has been recognized internationally through various awards and memberships into selective academies. These include Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (1995), Member of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences (1993), Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1992), Foreign Member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences  (1991),  Member of the Academia Europaea (1990), Foreign Member of the American Philosophical Society (1989), Foreign Member of the Academy of Sciences of German Democratic Republic (1987), Foreign Member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters (1977), Corresponding Member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (1977), Member of the German Academy of Natural Sciences “Leopoldina” (1976), and many others. He has also been a member of many editorial boards, including Nuovo Cimento, Chemical Physics Letters, Radiation Physics and Chemistry, European Biophysics Journal, Hyperfine Interactions,  Atomic   Data  and   Nuclear  Data Tables, International Reviews in Physical Chemistry, Soviet Scientific Reviews, and others.  He has written several books, most of which have appeared both in Russian and English. The most noteworthy two on the Mössbauer effect are The Mössbauer Effect and Its Applications in Chemistry (1963 in Russian, 1964 first edition in English) and Chemical Applications of Mössbauer Spectroscopy with R. H. Herber (1968 in English, 1970 in Russian). He has been the Editor-in-Chief of the Soviet Chemical Physics Journal from 1987 to this current day.

Of particular note, Vitalii Gol'danskii is a Member of the Pugwash Council and Executive Committee, and has been the Chairman of the Soviet (Russian) Pugwash Committee from 1987 to the present. In this position he has become the spokesperson for a nuclear weapon-free world. During the last days of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Gol'danskii was one of the members of the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Union for almost four years.  To this day he is a personal friend of Mikhail Gorbachev.

His contributions are so numerous that it is only possible to list the major ones in this Newsletter. The details of his contributions in the field of the Mössbauer effect consist of 266 papers to date in the Mössbauer Effect Data Center’s database. For more details on his other contributions, there is an excellent article titled Vitalii Iosifovich Gol’danskii (on his seventieth birthday) that was published in Physics – Uspekhi  36(8), 757-9 (1993) (Russian published in Usp. Fiz. Nauk 163, 117-8 (1993)), and to gain an appreciation for the heart and soul of this unique individual, read the Essays of a Soviet Scientist (highly recommended).


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