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BENJAMIN G . 191 7-1987 LEVICH BY ANDREAS ACRIVOS BENJAMIN G LEVICH an internationally known physicist and electrochemist and the founder of the discipline known as physicochemical hydroclynamics, died sum enly of a heart attack on January 19, 1987, in Englewood, New Jersey. During the previous eight years, he was the Albert Einstein Professor of Science at the City College of the City University of New York as well as a distinguished professor of chemical engineering and of physics at the City College. He also held a dual appointment as a professor of physics at the University of Tel Aviv. Ben Levich was born in Kharkov, U.S.S.R., on March 30, 1917, and received his first degree from the university in that city at the age of twenty. He then enrolled at the State Pedagogical Institute in Moscow, where he earned his D.Sc. in physics under the supervision of Academician Lev D. Landau, one of the world's outstanding theoretical physicists. His thesis dealt with a theory of the processes that occur in electrolytic cells and led him to single out the phenomenon of concentration polarization as being of singular importance and to develop, as a research tool, the rotating-disk electrocle, which brought him international recognition. He then joined Academician A. N. Frumkin at the Institute for Colloid Chemistry and Electrochemistry (later re- named the Institute for Electrochemistry) of the U.S.S.R. Acad- emy of Sciences where he continued his research until he left Russia at the encI of 1978. He was head of the theoretical 165
166 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES department in that Institute from 1958 until 1972 and was also a full professor and department head, first of theoretical physics at the MoscowInstitute of Physics and Engineering (195~1964) and then of chemical mechanics at the University of Moscow (1964-1972~. Ben Levich was a researcher of extraordinary originality and productivitywho, during his lifetime, authored more than three hundred scientific papers ranging from electrochemistry to turbulence, flows with chemical reactions, and flows dominated by variations in surface tension. He was, for example, the first to show conclusively that the seemingly paracloxical observation that the rise velocity of small air bubbles in viscous liquids equals that of solid spheres having the same density is clue to the accumulation of trace amounts of surface-active agents on the gas-liquid interface. This fact has important implications in a large variety of mass transfer operations. He also showed, against all prior expectations, that certain viscosity-dominated flow phenomena, such as the attenuation of capillary waves or the steady rise velocity of moderate-sized bubbles in low viscosity liquids, can be computed simply through knowledge of the corresponding motion of fluids having zero viscosity. Other papers dealt with theories of gas-phase collision reactions, the photoemission of electrons from electrodes into solutions, and the quantum mechanics of electron transfer between ions in solution en c! between an ion and an electrocle. In addition, Ben Levich authored a four-volume treatise on Theoretical Physics, which rivals in scope the famous series by Landau and Lifshitz. Undoubtedly though, of all his publica- tions, the one that had the biggest and most lasting impact is his book Physicochemical Hydrodynamics, which was first published in Russian in 1952 and then translates! into English in 1962. A new field of research was thereby born at the interface between physics and chemistry, which clears with the effects of fluid motion on chemical and physicochemical transformations and conversely with the influence of the latter on the motion of fluids. This book was widely accIaimecT as a masterful synthesis of different branches of science that hacI, until then, developed separately. Indeed, Levich showed how to create a scientific
BENJAMIN G. LEVICH 167 unity out of seemingly highly diverse phenomena by lucidly expounding the relatively few underlying patterns and basic laws of science. This was achieved by using mathematical analysis to explain experimental observations and by citing the results of measurements with sufficient frequency to illustrate principles without, however, overburdening the reader with detail. Even though out of print, this book still brims with a wealth of useful information and, as befits a classic, it is very much a pleasure to read. Ben Levich was elected a corresponding member of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences in 1958, and his meteoric rise within the academic establishment of the Soviet Union as well as his research productivity would have continued unabated had he notin 1972, afterlongconsultationswith hiswife, his two sons, and his conscience, applied to emigrate to Israel. All at once, his chair at the university was abolished and his status at the Electro- chemistry Institute was reduced to that of a scientific worker without supervisory responsibilities. In addition, his former colleagues and collaborators, almost without exception, found reasons to distance themselves from him; Sovietjournal editors declined to publish his articles; and his frequently cited name was laboriously excised from all the copies of Western publica- tions distributed in the U.S.S.R. In fact, during this period and prior to his emigration, Levich's primary source of income was his stipend as a corresponding member of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences. Although his sons and their families were allowed to emigrate in 1975, Ben Levich and his wife, Tanya, had to stay behind on the pretext that he was in possession of state secrets. Fortunately, he was so well known and respected by his Western colleagues that the scientific establishment in the free world was quickly mobilized on his behalf. Thus, in addition to the numerous protests and letters addressed to Soviet officials, an international conference on physicochemical hydrodynamics was organized at Oxford University in 1977 and specifically dedicated to Lev- ich, whose sixtieth birthday fell in that year. A second confer- ence, similar in spirit, was held in Washington, D.C., the follow- ing year. Eventually, in late 1978, as a result of this continuous
168 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES agitation and following the personal intervention of Senator Edwarc! Kennedy, Ben and Tanya were allowed to leave for Israel, where the University of Te] Aviv had, for several years, been keeping a chair ready for the most distinguished Soviet scientist ever to settle in his ethnic home. The followingyear, Benjamin Levich accepted the prestigious Albert Einstein Professorship in Science at the City College of the City University of New York, where he also founded the Institute of Applied Chemical Physics, renamed the Levich Institute upon his cleath. In his lateryears, his research clealtwith aspects of theoretical turbulence, but it is a measure of his universality that he felt equally at home among physicists, chem- ists, chemical engineers, fluid mechanicists, appliecl mathemati- cians, and biologists. He received the Palladium Medal of the American Electro- chemical Society in 1973 and was elected a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences in 1977 and a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 1982. He was also a member of numerous scientific organizations, although on leaving the U.S.S.R. in 1978 he haci to relinquish his Soviet citizenship and, therefore, was expeller! from the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences. Ben Levich leaves two sons, Evgeny and Alexancler, and their families; his wife Tanya passed away in 1983. He was a unique scientist who left a permanent imprint and legacy in this world.