Founding fathers: Georgi Nadjakov

News, 08 January 2023

On 8 January, the Joint Institute pays tribute to the memory of the outstanding Bulgarian physicist Georgi Stefanov Nadjakov (8.01.1897 – 24.02.1981), who made a significant contribution to the development of JINR during the first decades of the Institute’s existence.

From 1957 to 1970, Georgi Nadjakov was Plenipotentiary Representative of Bulgaria in JINR. From the moment of the Institute’s foundation until 1973, he was a Member of the JINR Scientific Council.

His study at Sofia University was interrupted in 1916 because of the World War I. Being a student, he was mobilised and sent to the reserve officers’ school. When he finished that school in 1918, he came back to the University. In 1925-26, he worked in Paris with Paul Langevin and Marie Skłodowska Curie. Nadjakov carried his relations with Langevin and Frédéric Joliot-Curie through his whole life, recognising with respect and gratitude, “If there was not this window, through which I looked at great science, I would hardly become a scientist.”

In 1927, he began teaching at Sofia University (from 1932 – Professor, in 1947-52 – Rector). In 1946-71, he held the post of the Director of the Institute of Physics with Atomic Scientific Experimental Base at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

The scientific heritage of Georgi Nadjakov relates to physics of dielectrics and semiconductors, magnetism, nuclear physics. Nadjakov published more than 60 scientific papers devoted to solid state physics. The scientist experimentally studied photoconducting properties of sulphur. He discovered the permanent photoelectret state of matter (1937). It was this discovery that was the basis of the invention of non-vacuum TV technology, X-ray dosimeters. Moreover, without this discovery, we would not be able to use such equipment as photocopiers and printers familiar to us today.

“I expected to see which application this discovery would find. I found the photoelectret state of matter in 1937 here in Sofia using primitive equipment. However, I had my own idea! That was the main thing. You can have the most expensive and modern equipment, but if you do not have your own idea, you will not make a discovery,” he highlighted. A thesis “A scientist is the one who gives birth to ideas” was also reflected in the way Nadjakov taught his students. He was demanding to them, giving them a lot of strength and soul.

Georgi Nadjakov was an active public figure who held high positions. In different years, he was Deputy Chairman of the Board on the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria, Chairman of the Bulgarian Peace Committee. Since 1950, he was a Member of the World Peace Council (in 1970-1980, he was its Honorary Chairman), since 1956 he was a Member of the Pugwash Movement of Scientists for Peace. He was a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen (1940), Academician of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (1945), in 1945-58 years, he held the post of the Vice-President of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. He was a foreign member of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1958). From 1950 to 1969 he was a deputy, then in 1954—1958, he was a Member of the Bulgarian National Assembly. He was a laureate of the Dimitrov Prize (1950) and the Frédéric Joliot-Curie Gold Medal for his activities on peace consolidation (1967).

Moreover, despite being very busy with public and organizational activities, Georgi Nadjakov developed and constructed new types of electrometers. In cooperation with his son, Professor Emil Nadjakov, he developed a vacuum X-ray spectrograph.

The Institute of Solid State Physics in his birthplace – Bulgaria – was named after Georgi Nadjakov, just like one of the alleys at the DLNP JINR site. In Antarctica, on the Arctowski Peninsula near South America, there is a Najakov Glacier. It is 5.5 km long and 2 km wide.

At his birthplace, people remember him as a kind, very modest man, who at the same time had great authority. At the moment he appeared at a session of the Scientific Council or at a seminar, everybody stopped talking and got up from their seats. Georgi Nadjakov enjoyed the well-deserved love not only of his colleagues, but also of the public as a whole.