The origin of theoretical physics at Odesa National University can be traced back to 1935, when Guido Beck, a young immigrant from Germany, came to Odesa to stay for a rather short period of time. He had already had an excellent educational background and research skills, which were results of his studies at universities in German, Austria, and Switzerland, and also his involvement into research work under supervision of the pioneers of the dramatic revolution in physics at the beginning of the twentieth century. Particularly, G. Beck had been the first assistant to Weiner Heisenberg at Leipzig University for five years, just after Dr. Heisenberg’s appointment as Professor and Chairman for the first time in his career.
Over less than a two-year period, from 1935 to the beginning of 1937, Prof. G. Beck delivered lectures in all branches of theoretical physics to the students of Odesa University. Yukhym Hryhorovych Vekshtein, one of his listeners at that time and later Associate Professor at the Department for over 40 years, took thorough notes of the lectures; those original notes would long make the foundations for teaching theoretical physics in Odessa. Researching actively at the time, G. Beck also managed to inspire some members of his audience to professional work in the fields of the nucleus theory, elementary particle theory, and high-energy physics. As far as we know, during G. Beck’s period in office in Odesa, his students prepared 6 articles in theoretical physics, which were published in the leading journals of the time. Of those G.Beck’s students, we are, unfortunately, not aware of all who later worked on a high performance level in the field. Nonetheless, some names have become well-known far beyond Odesa: Prof. Aba Yukhymovych Hlauberman, Prof. Mark Moiseyovych Alperin, Volodymyr Volodymyrovych Malyarov, Georgiy Victorovych Skrotskiy.
Despite all the hardships, Prof. G. Beck’s level of teaching and researching remained, to a certain extent, intact for rather long, even during the wartime and first years of the post-war period. Besides Dr. Yu.H. Vekshtein, original courses in the relativity theory and the theory of nucleolus and elementary particles were offered for many years by Prof. V.V. Malyarov. Based upon those, Prof. V.V. Malyarov published in 1958 the thorough monograph Fundamentals of the Atomic Nucleus Theory. The monograph was republished in Russian and English and was recommended as a textbook for university students. The way in which the material was selected and the key points were highlighted in the book still revealed Prof. G. Beck’s influence.
In the middle of the 1950s, the state of theoretical physics at Odesa University started declining.The fact made itself evident mainly in the absence of wide-ranging research. The situation was expected to improve as Professor Andriy Ivanovich Kostarev was invited to Odesa University to head the re-established Department of Theoretical Physics. Having gone through all the stages of academic career from a student to professor at Nizhnii Novgorod (then Gorkiy) University, A.I. Kostarev was a person representing the cultural and high scientific standards typical of this old educational institution; the latter was first of all known for its fundamental findings in radiophysics and oscillation theory. The most significant works by Prof. A.I. Kostarev were devoted to the study of the fine structure of X-ray spectra in metals.However, his period in office as Chairman of the Department (1958–1961) was not marked with high research activities or significant scientific achievements. On the other hand, his lectures were clear, well-logically patterned, and constantly brought up-to-date. Prof. A.I. Kostarev also initiated a seminar where articles from latest issues of scientific journals were regularly reviewed. Among its permanent participants was Yuriy Antonovych Tsvirko, a young teacher who had been assigned to the Department after his graduation from the post-graduate school at Kyiv University, where his scientific adviser was Prof. S.I. Pekar and where he had exposure to advanced solid state physics studies. Yu.A. Tsvirko worked at the Department from 1959 through 1962. Due to his own high research activity and qualification, gained in Kyiv, and despite his young age and his low-ranked positions of Assistant Professor and Senior Teacher, Yu.A. Tsvirko managed to spark off every research fellow associated with the Department to take an interest in solid state physics. This influence of his makes itself evident even nowadays.
It should also be noted that in 1961, Prof. A.I. Kostarev and Prof. V.V. Malyarov initiated the so-called Odesa All-Union Theoretical Physics Symposiums. The Symposiums were conducted by the Department along with L.D. Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics almost every other year for as long as until 1989.In the late 1970s and during the 1980s, the primary burden of responsibility for their organization was borne by Hrygoriy Isaakovich Salistra, Associate Professor of the Department, and Halyna Leontiyevna Pavlenko, Director of the Laboratory. Being almost on a voluntary basis, these two-weeks’ informal meetings were, however, of great prestige and were regularly visited by many outstanding physicists who literally determined the development of physics and theoretical physics in the former Soviet Union. Among those, let us mention only some Academicians: A.A. Abrikosov, A.F. Andreev, S.T. Belyaev, L.P. Gorkov, V.N. Gribov, A.I. Larkin, A.B. Migdal, R.S. Sagdeev, I.M. Khalatnikov. During the 1980s, in between these Symposiums, the ’filial’ All-Union Workshops on High-Energy and Elementary Particle Physics took place in Odessa as well.
The event of crucial importance for the development of theoretical physics at Odesa University and, on the whole, in Odessa took place in the fall of 1963, when Professor Iosyph Zalmanovych Fisher was invited to the University by its Rector Olexandr Ivanovych Yurzhenko and then was elected Chairman of the Department. By then, Prof. I.Z. Fisher had already been a mature scientist at the peek of his powers. Before his move to Odesa, he had worked as Professor at the Department of Nuclear Physics at Minsk University.
Prof. I.Z. Fisher began his career as a scientists with his inquiries into the general relativity theory. It is worth noting that those works, which were done in the late 1940s – early 1950s and which formed the basis for his Ph.D. thesis, have remained of importance until now – references to Fisher’s metric can still be encountered in current publications on the subject. But his real passion became the theory of liquids; at the moment of his move to Odesa, Prof. I.Z. Fisher had already been one of the recognized world authorities on the field. In a relatively brief time, the quality of research at the Department, now under his run, started meeting the highest world standards. In fact, it was Prof. I.Z. Fisher who was setting those standards, and there existed no other standards for him.
Everyone who had an opportunity to work with Prof. I.Z. Fisher considered him to be an example of creative attitude towards the teaching profession. This fact considerably contributed to the professional growth of the members of the department. Under the chairman’s ’pressure’, the department gradually transformed from a circle of provincial scientists into a recognized academic institution for the liquid state theory and statistical physics of condensed matter, which also trained professionals for these fields and collaborated with numerous laboratories and research centers all over the world.
During the 1966–1978 period, a strong impetus to the expansion of theoretical physics research at Odesa University was given by the return of Professor Aba Yukhymovych Hlauberman to Odesa. As a recognized scientist on solid state physics, he had been invited by Rector A.I. Yurzhenko to head the Physics Research Institute at the University. Prof. A.Yu. Hlauberman quickly managed to justify theoretically the results of the Institute’s traditional studies of electron processes in ionic crystals and scientific photography. Simultaneously, he closely cooperated with the Department of Theoretical Physics and Prof. I.Z. Fisher personally, gave lectures to the students, participated in joint seminars, and was a scientific adviser to the Ph.D. students. Unfortunately, Prof. A.Yu. Hlauberman’s untimely death stopped this fruitful cooperation.
As early as the middle of the 1960s, an efficient creative cooperation came into being between the Department and Profesor Serhiy Konstyantynovych Aslanov, Chaiman of the Department of Theoretical Mechanics; the cooperation has been lasting.
Though Prof. I.Z. Fisher was a strict leader and had established scientific interests, any dictates in the field of science were alien to him. His research fellows and students were free to chose the subject, object, and methods for their investigations. The only requirement was that their choice had to be of scientific importance and have strong justification behind. This combination of the freedom of scientific work, responsibility and discipline, prevailing in the Department under Prof. I. Z. Fisher’s run, prevented the Department from any collapses and malfunctioning after Prof. I. Z. Fisher’s resignation, caused by his serious illnesses in 1978. With Professor Vadym Movsesovych Adamyan as the new chairman, the Department kept functioning as a well-adjusted mechanism, with the research traditions, levels and volumes being preserved.The studies initiated in the previous years were successfully completed, their subjects were united to give rise to new research directions, which in turn branched into new challenging problems. The ideas, algorithms, and approaches in the theory of simple fluids, which were the stating point and subject for improvement in many Prof. I. Z. Fisher’s works, were enriched with techniques and methods of the solid state theory and the quantum statistical theory of Coulomb’s systems; as a result, a theory of equilibrium and kinetic properties of liquid metals was developed (Professor Yuriy Petrovych Krasnyy), and so were methods for analysis of many-particle interactions and their contributions to the thermodynamics parameters of liquid metals (Profesor Mykola Pavlovych Kovalenko). These results then were employed in the theory of metallic glasses. The general methods of the theory of many-particle systems combined with that of hydrodynamics fluctuations made it possible to put forward efficient methods for analysis of the optical parameters and diagnostics of non-ideal plasma (Professor Vadym Movsesovych Adamyan, Professor Ihor Mykhailovych Tkachenko). Further studies on the theory of viscous liquids and that of phase transitions resulted in a thorough theory of critical phenomena and phase transitions in viscous liquids and many-component systems (Professor Mykola Petrovych Malomuzh). Based upon the hydrodynamics approach to the theory of viscous liquids, an elegant theory of Mossbauer spectroscopy for solutions of macromolecules was constructed (Professor Olexandr Vsevolodovych Zatovskyy). Also, as in Prof. I.Z. Fisher’s period in office, the investigation of problems not adjacent to the liquid state theory were launched at the Department. Their outcomes were a theory of the magnetic ordering in crystals with tensor order parameter (Doctor Florina Pavlivna Onufriyeva) and many-dimensional versions of the classical and quantum cosmology (Doctor Olexandr Ivanovych Zhuk).
The studies on theoretical physics also continued at the Physics Research Institute at Odessa University, where, in particularly, a detailed theory of superionic crystals was developed (Doctor Victor Mykolayovych Bondaryev ).
Despite the well-known economic hardships, the 1990s were, in a sense, favorable for further development of theoretical studies at Odesa University. The work of a theoretical physicist is very much an individual creative process which does not require specially-designed rooms, many assistants, or considerable investments in equipment or materials. Much more important conditions for success in this kind of activities are freedom of creativity, absence of unnecessary administrating, free exchange with information and ideas within a wide circle of colleges, and recognition of the scientific significance of the results obtained. The opportunities to meet these conditions appeared in the early 1990s and were for theoretical physicists sort of compensation for the above hardships. Of significance in overcoming those hardships was financial support by international funds and societies, which enabled many theoretical physicists of Odesa University to present their achievements to the wide community of their international counterparts. These contacts favored a considerable increase in the number of publications in internationally-recognized editions. During the 1990s, the faculty and research fellows of the Department not only took part in international scientific programs, delivered lectures and did research at universities in many countries, gave plenary session reports at international conferences, but also themselves organized such conferences in Odessa, inviting a large number of foreign participants. Of the recent conferences organized by the Department and having caused resonant comments among the experts, two are worth mentioning: the international conference on the operator theory and its applications, in tribute of the 90th anniversary of Mark Hryhorovych Krein (Odesa, August 18–22, 1997), and the international conference Special Problems in Physics of Liquids, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of Iosyph Zalmanovych Fisher (Odesa, May 31 – June 4, 1999).