Vladimir was born in Moscow, Russia, on 16 February 1934. During the war with Germany, his family was evacuated to Ural Mountains, where he began elementary school. At his school in Moscow, where he returned in 1945, Vladimir encountered a remarkable group of inspiring teachers, including the teacher K. A. Uspenskii who motivated him and many of his classmates to fall in love with physics.
Although he graduated with straight As and was awarded a so-called “gold medal” which nominally entitled him to enter any college or university in the city without entrance exams, Vladimir was denied entry into Moscow State University: the Soviet government’s infamous antisemitic pressure erected unspoken but omnipresent barriers to those whom it labeled as ethnically Jewish. After a wasted year, in a stroke of luck he found out that one could become a professional physicist by attending the much lesser-known Moscow Pedagogical University. By an irony characteristic of the system, this university’s physics faculty included a roster of eminent scientists who, with a “Jewish” stamp in their documents, were similarly kept out of Moscow State’s walls. Here Vladimir obtained his undergraduate and PhD degrees. His 1960 dissertation was entitled Transport Properties and Paramagnetism in Superconductors, written under the mentorship of Prof. B. T. Geilikman who became both a brilliant colleague and an admired friend.
During 1957-58, Vladimir passed the renowned Landau Theoretical Physics Minimum (he recalled coming to Lev Landau’s apartment where the latter himself administered the first screening in mathematical methods) and became a member of Landau’s school, an informal but renowned group of theorists for whom the beauty, breadth, and rigor of theoretical physics reigned supreme and who marked it in a prominent way. Meeting Landau and becoming a part of this circle and its scientific culture were life-forming experiences for Vladimir.
From 1960 to 1978 he worked as a professor at the distance learning faculty of the Pedagogical University. (All offers of positions at high-ranking institutes and research centers were unfailingly voided by the aforementioned ethnical label.) In 1968 he received the DSc degree (with the dissertation, Problems in the Theory of Superconductivity).
In the 1970s, under strong American trade pressure, the USSR started allowing a trickle of its Jewish residents to leave the country. In 1978, with the Soviet regime stagnant and its ongoing antisemitism making the prospect of a decent college science education for their son remote, Vladimir and his wife Lilia applied for a permission to emigrate. After a nine nail-biting and jobless months’ wait, the family was granted an exit visa, and in the summer of 1979 they were resettled in the Bay Area.
Vladimir’s publications by that point included work on superconductivity, condensed matter physics, statistical physics, and the physics of correlation effects in aromatic molecules. In 1980 he was introduced to Dr. William Lester, and received from him the offer of a temporary appointment at the LBNL National Resource for Computation in Chemistry. This gave him an opportunity to restart his scientific life in this country. Vladimir remained at LBNL for the rest of his career, becoming a Staff Scientist and Principal Investigator. He officially retired in January 2003, but continued to be actively engaged in research, writing, and editing at LBNL as a rehired retiree and later as an affiliate.
Vladimir published approximately two hundred fifty papers in the fields of condensed matter theory, statistical physics, superconductivity, molecular spectroscopy, quantum chemistry, and nanoscience. As is the hallmark of the Landau school, his work combined sharp physical insight, powerful analytical technique, clear reasoning, and close attention to experiment. A long-term experimentalist colleague has remarked that whereas he usually preferred talks by experimentalists, he always made an exception for Vladimir’s seminars because of his skill in identifying the origin of even complicated physical phenomena in an understandable way. Vladimir greatly respected theory that was based on rigorous principles and solid calculations, and had a low regard for papers that showed poor understanding of the underlying concepts, revealed lack of familiarity with the literature, or were driven by fashionable terminology or scientific politics.
Much of Vladimir’s work was devoted to the phenomenon of superconductivity: transport and electromagnetic properties of superconductors, mechanisms of superconducting pairing, the physics of strong electron-phonon coupling, high-Tc superconductivity, the proximity and Josephson effects, the isotope effect, inhomogeneous superconductivity and the pseudogap state, superconductivity in organic and π-electron systems, and pairing effects in nanocluster particles and nanoparticle networks. His last publications focused on the nearly room-temperature superconductivity recently observed in hydride materials under high pressure: its mechanism was explicated and strategies toward developing ambient-pressure materials were analyzed.
Vladimir’s other work on condensed-matter physics included the physics of thin films and layered systems, plasmons, structural transitions, manganites, and relaxation cascades in solids.
In the field of molecular and chemical physics, Vladimir jointly with W. A Lester contributed extensively to the theory of polyatomic photodissociation, non-adiabatic chemical dynamics, and catalysis.
Vladimir organized and co-organized many international meetings and co-edited their proceedings. He was especially proud of the 1987 Conference on Novel Mechanisms of Superconductivity which was held at the Berkeley Marina and turned out to be the very first major international conference held after the discovery of high-Tc cuprates. Looking back, we can recognize that the enthusiastic participation of outstanding scientists, the discussions of exciting new physics, the spectacular location on San Francisco Bay, and the smooth organization and hospitality were all emblematic of Vladimir’s passion for science, beauty, and friendship.
Vladimir was the author of several definitive reviews and books. The last edition of the authoritative monograph Superconducting State: Mechanisms and Materials (jointly with S. G. Ovchinnikov and S. A. Wolf) was published by Oxford University Press a year ago. He also was very interested in science education, via outreach talks and articles aimed at high school physics students. His 1968 book Superconductivity and Superfluidity aimed to describe macroscopic quantum phenomena to high school and college students and teachers and was likely the first such book on the subject published in Russian. A second edition came out in 1978, and an English-language version, updated jointly with S. A. Wolf, was published by Plenum Press in 1990 as Fundamentals of Superconductivity.
For three decades Vladimir served as the editor of the Journal of Superconductivity and Novel Magnetism, working tirelessly to keep it at the forefront of the field and initiating many special-topic and festschrift issues.
In addition to his supreme dedication to physics, Vladimir had an infectious love for music, opera, theatre, art, and literature. He set high standards for science, art, honesty, and friendship, and lived his life meeting these standards with passion, integrity, and humor.