Prof. Mark Azbel - Obituary

updated: 20.04.2020


On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, Professor Emeritus Mark Azbel passed away. For 47 years, Mark was our colleague at the Condensed Matter Department (School of Physics and Astronomy, Tel Aviv University). He was an outstanding theoretical physicist and an exceptional person.


Mark began his fundamental studies of quantum physics of electrons in metals at Kharkov State University where he joined the group of Professor Ilya Lifshitz. This group was the first to demonstrate that all electronic properties of a metal can be explained by the topology of its Fermi surface. In particular, this approach naturally solved the long-standing problem of the conductivity dependence on magnetic fields. Next came the theoretical prediction of cyclotron resonance in metals.  Today this effect is widely known as the Azbel-Kaner resonance. It appears in textbooks and is the main method to study metals. In 1964, Mark became a Professor at Moscow State University. In parallel, he had an adjoin position at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics (also in Moscow).


In 1972, Mark submitted an official request to immigrate to Israel and was fired from all his academic positions in the Soviet Union. At the same time, Mark joined the movement calling to allow free immigration of Russian Jews to Israel. He was one of the organizers of famous Moscow Scientific Seminar, which although being illegal and prohibited by the regime, was widely attended by many distinguished scientists from all over the world. Eventually in 1977, with the help of distinguished scientists such as Y. Ne’eman (TAU), B. Halperin (Harvard), and J. Langer (UCSB), Mark was allowed to leave USSR and immigrated to Israel.


In an effort to help him leave the USSR, Tel Aviv University appointed Mark as a full professor already in 1973, four years before he was allowed to emigrate. For the rest of his academic career, Mark was an active member of our School until he retired in 2000. Many of us, who had a privilege to know him in person, enjoyed vivid scientific discussions with him and will always cherish the impact of his deep insight on science and humanistic values.             


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