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In memoriam: Vladilen Letokhov

26 March 2009

Vladilen Letokhov

Vladilen Stepanovich Letokhov, Principal Researcher of the Institute of Spectroscopy, Russian Academy of Sciences, died on 21 March. He was 69.

After graduating Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in 1963 Prof. Letokhov became a PhD student of the Lebedev Institute of Physics under the supervision of the academician N. G. Basov. The start of his scientific research concurs with the thriving development of research in the fields of quantum electronics and laser physics. In the course of that period, Prof. Letokhov carried out pioneering research of generation and amplification high power laser pulses, lasers with nonresonant feedback, of lasers with highly stable frequencies.

Throughout his career, Letokhov's research included multi-photon isotope-selective dissociation of molecules by IR laser light, the work that was a milestone in the development of the first industrial setup for laser isotope separation; formulation of the principles of laser photo-ionization, the study of the detection of single atoms, and its application for ultrasensitive spectral analysis; development of laser cooling of atoms including pioneering experiments which led to the establishment of the physics of ultra-cold atoms; development of atom optics including collimation, reflection, and focusing of atomic beams, which extended the array of methods of photon, electron, and neutron optics, and evolved later into the methods of optical nanotechnology; the development of optical mass spectrometry of organic molecules; development of pico- and femtosecond nonlinear laser spectroscopy for investigation of the ultra-short processes in solids. In his last years Prof. Letokhov carried out research in the fields of nanophotonics and laser effects in interstellar medium.

Letokhov's legacy includes more than 850 research papers and 16 monographs. In the 1990s he published more than 20 papers in SPIE publications. He was awarded the Lenin Prize and the State Prize of the Russian Federation. Among his awards are also the Rozdestvensky prize of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the prize of the European Physical Community.