Vadim Y. Lashkarev | History of Computing in Ukraine

Vadim Y. Lashkarev

Scientist Vadim Lashkarev is one of the "fathers" of the transistor - a component of all digital equipment. He made ​​his discoveries in difficult circumstances: being in exile (where he was sent by Stalin) and during the war. Despite these difficulties, the scientist presented to the world discoveries such as p-n junction, the theory of the photo-electromotive force in semiconductors, and many more.

Vadim Lashkarev was born on October 7th 1903 in Kyiv. After the Revolution, he graduated from Kyiv University, where he worked at the Department of Physics until 1930. At the invitation of academician Abram Ioffe, Vadim moved to Leningrad, where he managed the laboratory at Leningrad Physico-Technical Institute and worked in the field of measured and fast electrons. During this period he carried out pioneering studies of electron density distribution in crystals, which he summarised in his monograph, "The diffraction of electrons." These works were so significant for science that in 1935 Lashkarev was awarded the Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences without any dissertation.

Despite all of his scientific merits, Lashkarev was arrested for "participating in a criminal group of mystics " on February 27, 1935. After spending three months in solitary confinement in prison, he was sent to Arkhangelsk, where he became the head of the Physics Department of the Arkhangelsk Medical Institute.

At that time, one of Lashkarev’s students was the now well-known scientist, Amosov. Looking back at 1937, Amosov says that Lashkarev was apparently exiled from Leningrad for spiritualism. According to the scientist, if Lashkarev’s offense had been too serious, such as an "enemy of the people," he wouldn’t have been allowed to teach at the institute, but rather would have been deported to a concentration camp. Vadim introduced Amosov to the world of "mystery”: spiritualism, telepathy, telekinesis, levitation, poltergeists and yoga.

According to Amosov, Lashkarev attended many séances and believed in otherworldly forces all of his life; despite the fact that he was a serious scientist, he still believed in such “awkward” things. Amosov, after meeting Lashkarev, also got interested in this "unscientific" sphere, which he called the "other physics," but he never found any evidence for these theories.

Lashkarev returned from exile after four years. In 1939 he moved to Kyiv and was appointed as head of the Department of Physics at the Institute of Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, where he worked for 21 years. From 1944 to 1957 Lashkarev, while working at the Institute of Physics, served as head of the Physics Department at Kyiv National University. Both institutions were evacuated to the Urals during the war. Helping the army, Lashkarev developed a cuprous diode for field military radio stations and helped with its series production. The academic kept one of the diodes and passed it onto his son. This diode is now in a museum in Kyiv.

In the 1950s and 60s Lashkarev actively worked researching the physical properties of semiconductors. Simultaneously, he was engaged in the development of x-ray optics, electron diffraction and biophysics. Lashkarev began to study X-rays early after his graduation. In 1926 he, together with Vladimir Linnik, developed a method of determining the refractive index of X-rays.

Back in Kyiv, in 1941 Lashkarev proposed a method of using a thermal probe to study the distribution of resistivity in the barrier layer. Thus, he first discovered the p-n junction in cuprous oxide. The research results were presented in the articles, "Research of Barrier Layers by Thermal Probe" and "The Effect of Impurities on the Barrier-Layer Effect in Cuprous Oxide" (co-authored with K.M. Kosonogova), which were published just before the beginning of World War II. American scientists John Bardeen, William Shockley, and Walter Brattain received the Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of the "transistor effect" (1947) and for the creation of the p-n junction transistor (1956). Lashkarev, the Soviet physicist, did not appear in the list of nominees for this award, although he had discovered the p-n junction seven years earlier than the Americans and the mass production of transistors was organized under his guidance at the Institute of Physics at the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in the early 1950s. The discoveries of the p-n junction and his study of the effects of impurities in semiconductors were not Lashkarev’s only contribution to physics. He discovered ambipolar diffusion of current excess carriers (1946) and developed a general theory of the photo-EMF (electromotive force) in semiconductors (1948). In 1950 Lashkarev, together with Liashenko, published an article, "Electronic States at the Semiconductor Surface," describing the results of the studies of surface phenomena in semiconductors, which became the foundation of the integrated circuits based on the field-effect transistors.

Lashkarev discovered the mechanism of the injection, which is the most important principle and the basis for making semiconductor diodes and transistors. He also carried out a number of fundamental researches of photoelectric phenomena in semiconductors: in particular, the mechanisms of occurrence and patterns of photo-EMF, linear and nonlinear conductivity, surface, electrical and other properties of semiconductors, electronic processes in compounds AII-BVI and the mechanisms of semiconductor devices.

For his outstanding results, Lashkarev was appointed as head of the new Institute of Semiconductors of the NAS of Ukraine in 1960.

Lashkarev’s desire and intention were always to get insight into the physical nature of processes, and to interpret and broadly apply the principles of the models and the analogies. He led scientific debates in such an exceptional way that it attracted many gifted students. As the head of the Department of Semiconductor Physics at the University of Kyiv, he created one of the first comprehensive series of lectures on semiconductors and mentored a large group of high-level professionals.

Lashkarev had a broad knowledge of literature and history, and he loved music, which made him one of the most educated men of his time. He was recognized by many outstanding scientists of various fields. Among his close friends were V.P. Filatov, I.V. Kurchatov, A.I. Alikhanov, A.I. Achihanyan, B.M. Wool, A.F. Ioffe and many others.

Lashkarev was a pioneer of information technologies in Ukraine and the USSR in the field of transistor element base of computer technology. It is also fair to consider him as one of the first founders of transistor microelectronics in the world. In 2002, Lashkarev’s name was given to the Institute of Semiconductors of the NAS of Ukraine, which he founded.