Coherent visible radiation of fast electrons passing through matter. Offprint from: Comptes Rendus (Doklady) de l’Academie des Sciences de l’URSS, Vol. XIV, No. 3, 1937.

de l’Academie des Sciences de l’URSS, 1937.

First edition, very rare offprint, of the explanation of Cherenkov radiation, for which Frank and Tamm shared (with Cherenkov) the Nobel Prize in Physics 1958. “In certain media the speed of light is lower than in a vacuum and particles can travel faster than light. One result of this was discovered in 1934 by Pavel Cherenkov, when he saw a bluish light around a radioactive preparation placed in water. Ilya Frank and Igor Tamm explained the phenomenon in 1937. On their way through a medium, charged particles disturb electrons in the medium. When these resume their position, they emit light. Normally this does not produce any light that can be observed, but if the particle moves faster than light, a kind of backwash of light appears” ( “Cherenkov radiation derives its name from Pavel Cherenkov, who as a young PhD student at Moscow’s Lebedev Institute in the early 1930s, was assigned by Sergei Vavilov the task of investigating what happens to the radiation from a piece of radium when it is immersed in a fluid. Such radioactive materials give off an eerie blue light, such as that seen in a ‘swimming pool’ nuclear reactor. Initially, this was thought to be fluorescence, similar to that seen when X-rays strike a screen, but Vavilov and Cherenkov were not convinced. After heroic investigations, where Cherenkov would typically prepare for a working day by staying in a totally dark room for one hour, he found that the radiation was produced by electrons and was essentially independent of the liquid used, thereby ruling out fluorescence. The explanation for the effect came in 1937 from Ilya Frank and Igor Tamm, who explained that the radiation is a shock wave resulting from a charged particle moving through a material faster than the velocity of light in the material – ­the optical equivalent of the sonic boom produced by an aircraft as it accelerates beyond the speed of sound. The ‘Cherenkov’ radiation propagates as a cone whose opening angle depends on the particle velocity. When this cone hits a flat surface, a characteristic ring is seen” (‘More light on the Cherenkov effect,’ CERN Courier, 26 November 1998). Not on OCLC. No copies in auction records.

“In 1888, [Oliver] Heaviside published a paper in The Electrician, in which he explored the electromagnetic effects of a charge moving through a dielectric. “If the speed of the motion exceeds that of light, the disturbances are wholly left behind the charge, and are confined within a cone,” he wrote. Unfortunately, nobody paid much attention to Heaviside’s work in this area—he was an eccentric recluse later in life. His contribution wasn’t uncovered until 1974, revealed in a one-page letter to Nature by physicist Tom Kaiser.

“A 1904 paper by Arnold Sommerfeld theoretically predicting Cherenkov radiation also failed to gain traction within the scientific community. And in 1910, Marie Curie notably referenced an observation of a strange blue light during her research into a highly concentrated radium solution. ‘Nor was this the end of the wonders of radium,’ she wrote. ‘It also gave phosphorescence to a large number of bodies incapable of emitting light by their own means.’ Neither Marie nor her husband Pierre followed up on the observation, but their French colleague, Leon Mallett, began studying the phenomenon in earnest in 1922.

“Enter Cherenkov. Born in July 1904 in a small village called Novaya Chigla, he graduated from Voronezh State University in 1928 and became a senior research in the Lebedev Physical Institute. In 1934, Cherenkov began conducting his own experiments on this strange form of radiation, working with his institute colleague Sergei Vavilov. (In fact, it was termed ‘Vavilov-Cherenkov radiation’ in the Soviet Union.) He noted that same emission of blue light when bombarding a bottle of water with radiation” (‘December 1934: Discovery of Cherenkov radiation,’ APS News, Vol. 29, No. 11, December 2020).

Ilya Frank (1908-90) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, to Mikhail Lyudvigovich Frank, a talented mathematician descended from a Jewish family, and Yelizaveta Mikhailovna Gratsianova, a Russian Orthodox physician. His father participated in the student revolutionary movement, and as a result was expelled from Moscow University. After the October Revolution, he was reinstated and appointed professor. Ilya Frank studied mathematics and theoretical physics at Moscow State University. From his second year he worked in the laboratory of Sergey Ivanovich Vavilov, whom he regarded as his mentor. After graduating in 1930, on the recommendation of Vavilov, he started working at the State Optical Institute in Leningrad. There he wrote his first publication — about luminescence — with Vavilov. The work he did there would form the basis of his doctoral dissertation in 1935” (

Igor Tamm (1895-1971) “was born in Vladivostok on July 8, 1895, as the son of Evgenij Tamm, an engineer, and Olga Davydova. He graduated from Moscow State University in 1918, specializing in physics, and immediately commenced an academic career in institutes of higher learning. He was progressively assistant, instructor, lecturer, and professor in charge of chairs, and he has taught in the Crimean and Moscow State Universities, in Polytechnical and Engineering-Physical Institutes, and in the J.M. Sverdlov Communist University. Tamm was awarded the degree of Doctor of Physico-Mathematical Sciences, and he has attained the academic rank of Professor. Since 1934, he has been in charge of the theoretical division of the P.N. Lebedev Institute of Physics of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences” (

“In 1934, Frank moved to the Institute of Physics and Mathematics of the USSR Academy of Sciences, were he started working on nuclear physics, a new field for him. He became interested in the effect discovered by Pavel Cherenkov that charged particles moving through water at high speeds emit light. In 1937, working with his colleague Igor Y. Tamm, Frank determined that the radiation emits charged particles that move faster than the speed of light — not faster than the sped of light in a vacuum, but faster than the reduced speed of light in a liquid. In exceeding this limit the particles shed a portion of their energy, which the human eye perceives as the color blue. Together with Igor Tamm, Frank developed a theoretical explanation: the effect occurs when charged particles travel through an optically transparent medium at speeds greater than the speed of light in that medium, causing a shock wave in the electromagnetic field. The amount of energy radiated in this process is given by the Frank–Tamm formula” (

Today, Cherenkov radiation is a critical element in numerous applications. The Cherenkov detector is now standard in particle research and one was even installed on Sputnik III. Astrophysicists rely on the effect to monitor cosmic rays hitting Earth’s atmosphere and to detect neutrinos in such facilities as the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, Super-Kamiokande, and IceCube.

“In particle physics, Cherenkov radiation is used to distinguish the lighter particles from the heavier ones. An advanced detector that employs Cherenkov radiation is the Ring-Imaging Cherenkov Detector (RICH), one of which is currently being built for the ALICE collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider.

“As for more practical applications, the glow from Cherenkov radiation is a good way to monitor nuclear reactors. It continues even after the chain reaction stops, dimming gradually as the more short-lived products of fission decay. It can also be an indication of how much spent nuclear fuel is still present in fuel pools. In medicine and biology, Cherenkov radiation is used to detect biomolecules doped with radioactive atoms like phosphorous-32 to characterize their interactions. In the medical realm, Cherenkov light can be used to detect radiation in the body. And external beam radiotherapy produces Cherenkov light in treated tissue, which can be detected at the entry and exit points” (APS News, ibid.).

8vo (257 x 167 mm), pp. [109], 110-114. Self-wrappers as issued with paper spine strip.

Item #5969

Price: $1,500.00