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In Memoriam: Valdimir Zakharov, 1939-2023

Aug 20, 2023

Vladimir Zakharov, Optica Fellow and renowned figure in the fields of mathematics, physics, and literature, passed away on 20 August 2023 at the age of 84. He was most known for his contributions to nonlinear wave theory, advancements in mathematical physics, and publishing several books of poetry.

Zakharov was born on 1 August 1939, in Kazan, Russia, to Evgeniy and Elena Zakharov. He pursued his education at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute and the Novosibirsk State University. His academic pursuits led him to receive his specialist degree in physics in 1963 and his Candidate of Sciences and Mathematics degree (equivalent to a PhD) in 1966, studying under Roald Sagdeev.

After his studies, Zakharov worked as a researcher at the Institute for Nuclear Physics from 1966 until 1974. In 1992, he held the position of Professor of Mathematics at The University of Arizona. His research ranged from the intricate physics of plasmas and hydrodynamics to geophysics, solid-state physics, and the profound realms of general relativity. In recognition of his groundbreaking work, Zakharov was awarded the Dirac Medal in 2003. His keen insights into turbulence theory were hailed as transformative, particularly his pioneering efforts in establishing exact solutions and stability analyses. He redefined wave turbulence, introducing the notion of inverse and dual cascades. In 2004, he served as the Head of the Mathematical Physics Sector at the Lebedev Physical Institute. That same year, the University of Arizona awarded him the Regent’s Professor.

Outside of nonlinear wave theory, he was a poet who wrote verses resonating with the human experience. His poems were found in Russian literature, including periodicals such as Novy Mir. In 2009, an English translation of his poetry collection, “The Paradise for Clouds,” was published in the UK and reached a global audience.

Zakharov was recognized for his scientific and mathematical achievements in 2012 by the European Academy of Sciences, the American Mathematical Society, and Optica (formerly The Optical Society). Optica named him a Fellow for outstanding contributions to nonlinear wave theory in optics, including optical solutions, turbulence and wave collapses.

Zakharov was also a husband and father. He is survived by his wife and three sons.

Optica and the scientific community mourn his loss.

Awards & Distinctions

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