Russian scientists have made a series of innovative discoveries. Here are the three most notable.
1. Ilya Mechnikov and the “Great Immunity Revolution”
The biologist Ilya Mechnikov received the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his work in the field of innate immunity. He discovered phagocytes, the cells that engulf and destroy harmful bacteria. Mechnikov demonstrated how the process worked by studying the larvae of starfish. He put small spines on the larvae and saw that some unusual cells surrounded the spines. He speculated that these were white blood cells that accumulated at the site of the inflammation and killed the pathogens. However, his theory was met with intense skepticism on the part of the scientific community, which favored another theory at that time.
Mechnikov shared the Nobel Prize with another immunologist, Paul Ehrlich, the German scientist who was in favor of a theory that went against Mechnikov’s discoveries. Ehrlich’s adaptive immunity approach emphasized the production of antibodies. Throughout most of the 20th century, immunology continued to develop along the lines of Ehrlich’s theory of adaptive immunity, and Mechnikov’s views seemed somewhat marginalized.
However, in the late 1980s, it was discovered that many cells, especially those responsible for immunity, phagocytes, have special receptors designed to identify specific infections. Those cells are linked to certain genes. “It turned out that innate immunity is the main characteristic [compared to the adaptive] for all living creatures. And only in the case of organisms that are already advanced in the evolutionary scale … there appears an adaptive immunity. However, innate immunity is in charge of its launch and additional functioning … “wrote the authors of the article that labels the discoveries resulting from Mechnikov’s findings as” The Great Immunity Revolution “.
2. Prokhorov, Basov and the laser.
Alexander Prokhorov and Nikolai Basov are credited with the creation of a laser, winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964. They shared this award with the American scientist Charles Hard Towns, who worked in the same field.
Prokhorov and Basov built the first quantum microwave generator – maser (Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Radiation Emission) at the same time that Charles Hard Towns at Columbia University was doing similar experiments but not with microwaves. He used the light and was designing a laser. Amplification by Stimulated Radiation Emission).
A contemporary remembered how Prokhorov worked. “He proposed to the group of scientists to suggest how to fundamentally change their work. When in a month, all brought only some formal answers, Prokhorov took a hammer and destroyed all the laboratory equipment. There was a great scandal, and half of the scientists resigned; but the rest embarked on new investigations, although their future success was far from obvious. In a few years, this research gave its authors the Nobel Prize. ”
The work of Prokhorov and Basov laid the foundations of quantum electronics, and long-distance space radio communications and fiber optic lines soon became a reality after further research and development. Later, Basov studied the effects of laser emissions on chemical reactions, while Prokhorov concentrated on the use of lasers in medicine. The first ophthalmic lasers were developed under his leadership, and he was also a pioneer in the use of lasers in surgery and stomatology, as well as in the treatment of tuberculosis and oncological diseases.
3. Geim, Novoselov and the “super-material”
Physicists of Russian origin Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov are best known for discovering graphene, a “super-material” that won them the Nobel Prize in 2010. Graphene is only one atom thick but 160 times stronger than steel. It has a remarkable ability to conduct electricity and heat very efficiently. Graphene, sometimes called the most promising material on Earth, is an attractive material for the electronics industry.
According to Novoselov, “Graphene has qualities that all other materials lack. It is a fiber in the true sense of the word. You can treat it like a napkin: twist it, bend it and stretch it. ” Despite its flexibility, it is the strongest material on the planet, the scientist said in an interview with Forbes magazine a few years ago.
The extraordinary qualities of this new revolutionary material were illustrated by the Swedish physicist Per Delsing in the announcement of the Nobel Prize. He said that a hammock of one square meter (one atom thick) made of graphene would be strong enough to support a four-kilogram cat. The hammock itself would weigh approximately one milligram, like only one of the cat’s whiskers.
At the same time, however, graphene is difficult to produce in industrial quantities. However, there are already several ways in which super-material can be used: from dying hair to playing golf. Scientists are confident that the use of graphene in microelectronics can increase the speed of computers by a thousand times, which makes current silicon-based electronics obsolete.