Scientific American lost a good friend on August 14 with the death of physicist and demographer Sergei Petrovich Kapitza, 84, the founding editor of V Mire Nauki, the magazine's Russian edition. Kapitza was at the helm of V Mire Nauki when it launched in 1983 in the Soviet Union, and he successfully popularized science in his home country and abroad. He was perhaps best known as host of the long-running science television show Ochevidnoye-Neveroyatnoye (Evident but Incredible), which was launched in 1973 and for which he was awarded the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science in 1979.
Kapitza played an active role among Scientific American's 14 international editions. “He was a gracious man and a thoughtful colleague, ” says Scientific American editor in chief Mariette DiChristina. “Last year he was our genial host when the entire Scientific American family met in Moscow for the first time in many years. He was warm and enthusiastic toward all of us.”
After graduating from the Moscow Aviation Institute in 1949, Kapitza contributed significantly to the understanding of supersonic aerodynamics, applied electrodynamics and accelerator physics. He is also known for his work in developing the microtron, a type of particle accelerator.
Born on February 14, 1928, in Cambridge, England, Kapitza came from a strong scientific pedigree. His father, Soviet physicist Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitza, earned a Nobel Prize in 1978 for his discoveries and contributions to low-temperature physics. His mother was Anna Alekseevna Krylova, daughter of applied mathematician A. N. Krylov.
In 1949 Kapitza married Tatiana Damir, with whom he had three children.