Since I just taught about "Landau levels" I had a one power point slide biography of Landau. Here is my ranking, for both originality and impact, of Landau's major achievements:

- Theory of continuous phase transitions
- Fermi liquid theory
- Ginzburg-Landau theory of superconductivity
- Theory of superfluidity
- The Course in Theoretical Physics

1. has proven to be incredibly important not just in providing a unifying framework for condensed matter but also for broken symmetry in particle physics. It also led to the renormalisation group.

2. is the basis for understanding not just elemental metals but also nuclear physics. Furthermore, it showed the power of using quantum field theoretical techniques based on Green's functions to understand quantum many-body physics.

In preparing I learnt that Landau kept a list ranking system of other theoretical physicists. According to Wikipedia:

Landau kept a list of names of physicists which he ranked on a logarithmic scale of productivity ranging from 0 to 5. The highest ranking, 0.5, was assigned to Albert Einstein. A rank of 1 was awarded to "historical giants" Isaac Newton, Satyendra Nath Bose, Eugene Wigner, and the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Paul Dirac and Erwin SchrÃ¶dinger. Landau ranked himself as a 2.5 but later promoted himself to a 2. David Mermin, writing about Landau, referred to the scale, and ranked himself in the fourth division, in the article My Life with Landau: Homage of a 4.5 to a 2.I must say I think Landau was being modest. Due to the significance of 1. and 2. above, I would rank Landau above Bose, Wigner, and Bohr. As I have blogged before as much as Bohr advanced our understanding of quantum theory I think he also retarded it in several respects.

Bohr and Landau in Moscow in 1961

How would you rank these "greats" and Landau's acheivements?

I think it's important not to dwell too much on history, though. Only so much can be discussed in lectures, and I think rigorous derivations & problem solving are much more important.

ReplyDeleteI think Maxwell should come above founding fathers of Quantum_but nice to see among all Westerner one Bengali genius Satyendra Bose whose work has already brought 10 Nobel laureates including the coldest matter of the universe Bose Einstein condensate but discovery of Higgs boson has probably make boson's father little more popular.

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