Remembering founding fathers: Georgy Flerov

News, 02 March 2022

On 2 March, a prominent scientist Georgy Nikolaevich Flerov (1913-1990) was born. He was Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences, an author of several scientific discoveries, a founder and the first Director of the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions JINR.

In 1938, G. N. Flerov graduated from the Engineering and Physics Faculty of Leningrad Industrial Institute. In 1936, he began working at the laboratory of I. V. Kurchatov. Then, he moved to Kurchatov’s group at the A. F. Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute.

In 1939-1940, in collaboration with Lev Rusinov, Flerov demonstrated the emission of more than 2 neutrons in uranium nucleus fission. In 1940, together with Konstantin Petrzhak, he discovered a new kind of nuclear transmutation called uranium spontaneous fission.

At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, Flerov took part in the battles to defend Leningrad. Later, he was called up for study at the Air Force Academy and served in the Air Defence Forces in Voronezh. Lieutenant Flerov wrote several letters from the line to Joseph Stalin and the State Defence Committee justifying the importance of atomic bomb creation. His initiative resumed nuclear research in this area in the Soviet Union. In 1943, he joined a group of scientists under the leadership of Igor Kurchatov. The group worked on the Soviet atomic project.

Flerov dealt with the problem of nuclear fission physics of heavy elements, studied the cross-section of slow neutron interaction with various materials defining critical mass of plutonium and uranium-235.

In 1949, Georgy Flerov personally conducted a risky experiment on the critical mass determination of plutonium during the creation of the first Soviet atomic bomb RDS-1. He was responsible for the physical part of the explosion at the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site.

In 1951, under his leadership, scientists developed techniques and the designed equipment for neutron and gamma-ray logging of oil wells.

Since 1953, the researcher was involved in compound nuclei collision study and problems of new element synthesis.

After a one-year period of being the Head of the sector at Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy of the USSR Academy of Sciences in Moscow, in 1957, Georgy Flerov was an organiser and the first Director of the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions JINR. The laboratory celebrates its 65th anniversary this year. Flerov remained the permanent Head of LNR until his death. Here, under the guidance of Flerov and with his direct participation, isotopes of new transfermium elements of the Mendeleev’s Periodic Table with numbers 101 (Md Mendelevium), 102 (No Nobelium), 103 (Lr Lawrencium), 104 (Rf Rutherfordium), 105 (Db Dubnium), 106 (Sg Seaborgium), 107 (Bh Bohrium) were synthesised. Their chemical and physical properties were investigated. Spontaneously fissioning isomers and a phenomenon of delayed protons emission were discovered. Researchers of the Laboratory developed the methods of obtaining and accelerating multiple-charged heavy ions of heavy atoms. Experiments on superheavy element synthesis in heavy-ion reactions started.

Georgy Flerov developed technologies of track membranes. They were used to eliminate the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.

Georgy Flerov was awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labour (1949). He was a Laureate of the USSR State Prizes (1946, 1949, 1975) and a Laureate of the Lenin Prize. He received many other state awards.

Chemical element 114 Flerovium (Fl), the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions JINR, a street in the city of Dubna where he lived, and the Dubna Lyceum No. 6 bear the name of Georgy Nikolaevich Flerov. A monument to the scientist was erected in Dubna.