Iosif Samuilovich Shklovskii

Iosif Samuilovich Shklovskii


Date of Birth
July 1, 1916
Date of Death
March 3, 1985

Iosif Shklovskii was born in the Ukraine and began his education at Vladivostok University, but he soon transferred to Moscow State University and earned his doctorate at its Shternberg Astronomical Institute. He worked as a professor at Moscow University, as founding head of the radio astronomy department at the Shternberg Institute, and from 1972-85 as chief of the astrophysics department of the Institute of Space Research in Moscow. He investigated the solar corona, showing that its temperature is of the order of a million kelvins and that it is confined by magnetic fields. He proposed a new distance scale to planetary nebulae, and made theoretical and radio studies of supernovae. He proposed that cosmic rays from occasional nearby supernovae might be the cause of mass extinctions on earth. He is best known for explaining the continuum radiation of the Crab Nebula as synchrotron radiation. After the 1957 launch of Sputnik I Shklovskii worked on space astronomy. He successfully explained some x-ray stars as binary systems containing neutron stars. He wrote several popular books, including the famous Intelligent Life in the Universe, translated and expanded by Carl Sagan. He was one of the first major astrophysicists to propose serious examination of the possibility of extraterrestrial life. He had major influence on the Soviet space program and educated many important scientists. Note: His name is also transliterated as Shklovskij or Shklovsky. The only correct spelling is in the Cyrillic alphabet: Шкловский.

Presentation of Bruce medal

Mercury 1, 4, 6 (1972) (photo)

Other awards

National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Jansky Prize, 1968.
USSR, Lenin Prize, 1960.

Biographical materials

Kurt, V.G. & I.N. Minin, “Iosif Samuilovich Shklovskij (1 July 1916 - 3 March 1985), on the occasion of his 75th Birthday,” Zemlya Vselennaya 6, 37-41 (1991). [in Russian]
Popov, Leonid, in People’s History [in Russian].
Shklovsky, Iosif, Five Billion Vodka Bottles to the Moon: Tales of a Soviet Scientist (W.W. Norton, New York, 1991).


Anonymous, Soviet Astronomy 29, 364-65 (1985).
Beyer, Robert T., ed., Soviet Astronomy Letters 11, 131-32 (1985).
Goldberg, Leo, Sky & Telescope 70, 2, 109 (1985).
Scheglov, P.V., Astron. Vestn., 19, 4, 359-61 (1985) [in Russian].
Scheglov, P.V., QJRAS 27, 700-702 (1986) [translation from Astronomical Herald].


Columbia Encyclopedia
Friedman, Jon R., Portrait Sketch
Shklovskii as a young man, courtesy Yuri Ilyasov
Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Moscow University

Named after him

Minor Planet #2849 Shklovskij


Papers, etc.

There are two 1979 oral history interviews with Shklovskii at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives. There is a 1979 interview in the W.T. Sullivan, III papers at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Other References: Historical

Badalyan, O.G. & M.A. Lifshits, “Solar Corona: From Shklovsky to our Days,” Astrophysics & Space Science 252, 317-24 (1997).

Buckley, David, Stephen E. Schneider, & David van Blerkom, “The Shklovsky Paradox,” in Ronald Weinberger & Agnes Acker, eds., Planetary Nebulae: Proceedings of the 155 Symposium of the International Astronomical Union; held in Innsbruck; Austria; July 13-17; 1992 (Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1992), p. 179.

Friedman, Herbert, “Joseph Shklovsky and X-Ray Astronomy,” in Kardashev, N.S., ed., Astrophysics on the Threshold of the 21st Century (Gordon & Breach, 1992), pp. 245-52.

Ginzburg, V.L., “Remarks on My Work in Radio Astronomy,” in The Early Years of Radio Astronomy: Reflections Fifty Years after Jansky’s Discovery, W.T. Sullivan III, ed. (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1984).

Ginzburg, V.L., “Notes of an Amateur Astrophysicist,” Ann. Rev. Astr. Astrophys. 28, 1-36 (1990).

Goldberg, Leo, “Josif Shklovsky: A Personal Reflection,” Sky & Telescope 70, 109 (1985).

Kardashev, N.S., & L.S. Marochnik,  “The Shklovsky Phenomenon” in Kardashev, N.S., ed., Astrophysics on the Threshold of the 21st Century (Gordon & Breach, 1992), pp. 7-24. [also in ..]

Kovalev, Yu. A. & Y.Y. Kovalev, “On the Nature of Variability of Extragalactic Radio Sources: Fundamental Ideas by I.S. Shklovsky,” Astrophysics & Space Science 252, 133-38 (1997).

Kurt, V.G., “I. S. Shklovsky - An outstanding astronomer (to the 90th anniversary),” Istoriko-Astronomicheskie Issledovaniya 33, 276-88 (2008) [in Russian].

Medvedev, Z.A., Soviet Science (W.W. Norton, NY, 1978).

Moroz, Vasilii I., “A Short Story about the Doctor,” Astrophysics & Space Science B252, 1/2, 5-14 (1997).

Nikolskaya, K.I., “Shklovsky's Ideas and the Recent Study of the Solar Corona,” Astronomical & Astrophysical Transactions 18, 1, 305-07 (1999).

Rudnitskij, G.M., “I.S. Shklovsky and Modern Radio Astronomy,” Astronomical and Astrophysical Transactions 25, 363-68 (2006).

Shklovskii, I.S., “On the History of the Development of Radio Astronomy in the USSR.” News on Life, Science, and Technology. no. 11 (Izd. Znanie, Moscow, 1982) [in Russian].

Shklovskii, I.S., “Twenty Years of X-ray Astronomy,“ Priroda, Sept. 1982, p. 10-20 [in Russian].

Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Moscow University, History of the Sternberg Astronomical Institute [in Russian]

Sobolev, V.V., ed., The History of Astronomy in Russia and the USSR (Janus-K, Moscow, 1999). [in Russian]

Strelnitski, Vladimir S., “The Early Post-War History of Soviet Radio Astronomy,” J. Hist. Astron. 26, 349-62 (1995).

Swift, D.W., SETI Pioneers (U. of Arizona Press, Tucson, AZ, 1990), p. 167-77.

van de Hulst, H.C., “Two Great Astrophysicists: Some Personal Reflections” in Kardashev, N.S., ed., Astrophysics on the Threshold of the 21st Century (Gordon & Breach, 1992). [Shklovskii and S.B. Pikel’ner]

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Other References: Scientific

Stevens-Rayburn, Sarah, The History of Radio Astronomy: A Bibliography 1898-1983

Sagan, Carl, ed., Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1973) [proceedings of a conference held at the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory, 1971, includes contributions by Shklovskii, who was one of the organizers].

Shklovskii, I.S., “On the Emission of Radio Waves by the Galaxy and by Upper Layers of the Solar Atmosphere,” Astron. Zh. 23, 333 (1946) [in Russian].

Shklovskii, I.S., “The Current Status of the Problem of the Nature of the Solar Corona,” Uspekhi Fiz. Nauk 30, 63 (1946) [in Russian].

Shklovsky, Joseph S., “Emission of Radio-Waves by the Galaxy and the Sun,” Nature 159, 752-53 (1947).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Monochromatic Radio Emission from the Galaxy and the Possibility of its Observation,” Astron. Zh. 26, 10 (1949); reprinted in W.T. Sullivan III, ed., Classics in Radio Astronomy (D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 1982), pp. 318-24.

Shklovskii, Iosif Samuilovich, The Solar Corona (GITTL, Moscow, 1951) [in Russian].

Shklovskii, I.S., “Radio Stars,” Doklady Akad. Nauk SSSR 79, 423 (1951) [in Russian].

Shklovskii, I.S., “On the Nature of Galactic Radio Emission,” Astron. Zh. 29, 418 (1952) [in Russian].

Shklovskii, I.S., “The Problem of Cosmic Radio Emission,” Astron. Zh. 30, 15 (1953) [in Russian].

Shklovskii, I.S., “On the Nature of the Crab Nebula’s Optical Emission,” Doklady Akad. Nauk SSSR 90, 983 (1953) [in Russian; translated with commentary in Lang, Kenneth R. & Owen Gingerich, eds., A Source Book in Astronomy & Astrophysics, 1900-1975 Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1979),488-93.

Shklovsky, J.S., “Supernovae as a Source of Cosmic Rays,” in Geert Ceuterick. ed., Les Processus Nucléaires dans les Astres, Communications présentées au cinquième Colloque International d'Astrophysique tenu à Liège les 10-12 Septembre, 1953 (Mémoires de la Société royale des sciences de Liège, 1954), pp. 515-23.

Shklovskii, I.S., “On the Nature of Planetary Nebulae,” in George H. Herbig, ed., Non-Stable Stars, Proceedings from IAU Symposium no. 3 held in Dublin, Sept. 1, 1955 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1957), 83-86.

Shklovskii, I.S., “Optical Emission from the Crab Nebula in the Continuous Spectrum,” in H.C. van de Hulst, ed., Radio Astronomy, Proceedings from IAU Symposium no. 4, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1957), 201-04.

Shklovskii, I.S., “On the Nature of the Emission from the Galaxy NGC 4486,” in Radio Astronomy, Proceedings from IAU Symposium no. 4, H.C. van de Hulst, ed., (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1957), 205-09.

Shklovskii, I.S., “Some Problems of Metagalactic Radio-Emission,” in Radio Astronomy, Proceedings from IAU Symposium no. 4, H.C. van de Hulst, ed., (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1957), 241-43.

Pikel’ner, S.B. & I.S. Shklovskii, “An Investigation of the Properties and Energy Dissipation of the Gaseous Galactic Corona” Sov. Astron. 1, 149-60 (1957).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Once More on the Distances to Planetary Nebulae and the Evolution of Their Nuclei,” Sov. Astron. 1, 397-403 (1957).

Shklovskii, I.S., “On the Nature of the Optical Emission from the Crab Nebula,” Sov. Astron. 1, 690-97 (1957).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Models of the Solar Chromosphere,” Sov. Astron. 2, 32-44 (1958).

Shklovsky, I.S., “Optical Emission from the Crab Nebula in the Continuous Spectrum,” in by Bo Lehnert, ed., Electromagnetic Phenomena in Cosmical Physics, Proceedings from IAU Symposium no. 6. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1958), pp. 520-28.

Pikel’ner, S.B. & I.S. Shklovskii, “On the Nature of the Galactic Halo,” Revs. Mod. Phys. 30, 935-39 (1958).

Pikel’ner, S.B., I.S. Shklovskii, & G.S. Ivanov-Kholodnyi,“On Possible Mechanisms of Emission of Discrete Galactic Objects in the Spectral Region 1225-1350 A.” Sov. Astron. 3, 263-66 (1959).

Shklovskii, I.S., V.F. Esipov, V.G. Kurt, V.I. Moroz, & P.V. Shcheglov, “An Artificial Comet,” Sov. Astron. 3, 986-91 (1959) [This is the paper for which Shklovskii was awarded the Lenin Prize].

Shklovskii, I.S., “Secular Variation of the Flux and Intensity of Radio Emission from Discrete Sources,” Sov. Astron. 4, 243--49 (1960) [This is the paper for which Shklovskii was awarded the Lenin Prize].

Shklovskii, I.S., “The Nature of Supernovae,” Sov. Astron. 4, 355-64 (1960).

Gringauz, K.I., V.G. Kurt, V.I. Moroz, & I.S. Shklovskii, “Results of Observations of Charged Particles Observed Out to R = 100,000 km, with the Aid of Charged-Particle Traps on Soviet Space Rockets,” Sov. Astron. 4, 680-95 (1961).

Shklovskii, Iosif Samuilovich, Cosmic Radio Waves (English translation: Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1960).

Shklovskii, I.S., V.I. Moroz, & V.G. Kurt, “The Nature of the Earth’s Third Radiation Belt,” Sov. Astron. 4, 871-73 (1961).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Radio Galaxies,” Sov. Astron. 4, 885-96 (1961).

Shklovskii, I.S., “On the Nature of Radio Galaxies,” Sov. Astron. 6, 465-76 (1964).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Nature of Jets in Radio Galaxies,” Sov. Astron. 7, 748-54 (1964).

Shklovskii, Iosif Samuilovich, Physics of the Solar Corona (GIFML, Moscow, 1962; English translation: Pergamon Press, Oxford, UK, 1965).

Shklovskii, I.S., Nature 206, 176 (1965).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Quasistellar Objects and Seyfert Galaxies,” Sov. Astron. 9, 683-89 (1966).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Remarks on the Synchrotron-Radiation Spectrum of the Crab Nebula,” Sov. Astron. 10, 6-8 (1966).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Possible Maser Effect in Clouds of Interstellar Hydrogen in the Galactic Corona,” Sov. Astron. 11, 240-43 (1967).

Shklovskii, I.S., “On the Nature of the Source of X-Ray Emission of SCO XR-1,” Ap.J. 148, L1-L4 (1967).

Shklovskii, I.S. & Carl Sagan, Intelligent Life in the Universe (Holden-Day, San Francisco, 1968). [This is Sagan’s greatly expanded translation of Shklovskii’s 1962 book. A new version of Shklovskii’s book, with a collection of memoirs of Shklovskii’s sixty disciples and colleagues was published in Russian in 1996.]

Shklovsky, I. S., Supernovae (English translation: Wiley, NY, 1968).

Shklovsky, I., “Concerning the Nature of the Sky Background of Soft X-ray Emission,” Astrophysical Letters 3, 1-2 (1969).

Shklovsky, I.S., “Pulsar NP 0532 and the Injection of Relativistic Particles into the Crab Nebula,” Ap.J. 159, L77-L80 (1970).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Possible Causes of the Secular Increase in Pulsar Periods,” Sov. Astron. 13, 562-65 (1970).

Shklovskii, I.S., “The Origin of Absorption Lines in the Spectra of Quasistellar Objects,” Sov. Astron. 13, 734-37 (1970).

Shklovskii, I.S., “The Nature of the Outbursts in Quasars and Seyfert-Galaxy Nuclei,” Sov. Astron. 14, 594-601 (1971).

Shklovskii, I.S., “What Type of Supernova is Responsible for Most Observed Remnants?,” Sov. Astron. 18, 1-3 (1974).

Shklovsky, I. S., “On the Nature of the X-ray Source Connected with Remnant of Tycho Supernova,” Naturwissenschaften 61, 682 (1974).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Analysis of Gamma and Synchrotron Radiation of the Galaxy and the Origin of Cosmic Rays” Sov. Astron. 18, 677-79 (1976).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Is the Galactic Nucleus a Black Hole?” Sov. Astron. Lett. 1, 135-36 (1975).

Shklovskii, I.S., “The Problem of Extraterrestrial Civilizations and its Philosophical Aspects. I,” Astronomie und Raumfahrt 4, 97-104 (1976) [in German] [abstract].

Shklovskii, I.S., “Evolution of Radio Sources Associated with Supernova Remnants” Sov. Astron. Lett. 2, 95-96 (1976).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Origin of the Pecularities in the Crab Nebula” Sov. Astron. 20, 422-24 (1976).

Shklovskii, I.S., “The Sources of Hard X-ray Bursts” Sov. Astron. Lett. 2, 188-90 (1976).

Shklovskii, I.S., “On the Injection of Relativistic Particles into the Crab Nebula,” Sov. Astron. 21, 371-74 (1977).

Shklovskii, I.S., “The Nature of the Jet in M87,” Sov. Astron. 21, 401-06 (1977).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Bursters - A New Type of X-ray Source or a Property of Old X-ray Pulsars” Sov. Astron. Lett. 4, 140-44 (1978).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Is Cassiopeia A a Black Hole?” Nature 279, 703 (1979).

Shklovskii, I.S., “The Relationship between Supernovae and their Remnants” PASP 92, 125-26 (1980).

Shklovskii, I.S., “The Nature of the Emission Regions in M87” Sov. Astron. Lett. 6, 107-09 (1980).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Type I Supernovae,” Soviet Scientific Reviews, Section E: Astrophysics and Space Physics Reviews 1, 177-204 (1981).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Planetary nebulae,“ Priroda, 7, p. 3-13 (1981) [in Russian].

Shklovskii, I.S., “A Consequence of the Asymmetry of Jets in Quasars and Active Nuclei of Galaxies,” in Extragalactic radio sources; Proceedings of the Symposium, Albuquerque, NM, August 3-7, 1981 (D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 1982), pp. 475-81.

Shklovsky, I. S., Problems in Modern Astrophysics (Izdatel'stvo Nauka, Moscow, 1982) [collection of previously published articles, in Russian].

Shklovskii, I.S., “Does the Activity at the Galactic Center Stem from a Recent Supernova?” Sov. Astron. Lett. 9, 182-84 (1983).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Cosmological Estimate of the Age of Stars Exploding as Type I Supernovae,” Nature 304, 513 (1983).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Why are There No Type-II Supernovae in Irregular Galaxies?” Sov. Astron. Lett. 10, 302-03 (1984).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Synchrotron Self-Absorption of the Radio Emission of Supernova 1983.51,” Sov. Astron. Lett. 11, 105-06 (1985).

Shklovskii, I. S & I.G. Mitrofanov, “On the Astronomical Nature of the Sources of Gamma-Ray Bursts,” MNRAS 212, 545-51 (1985).

Shklovskii, I.S., “Comments on the Frequency of the Occurrence of Extraterrestrial Civilizations,” in Problem of the Search for Life in the Universe (Izdatel'stvo Nauka, Moscow, 1986), p. 21-25 [in Russian].

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Other Works: Popularizations, Fiction, etc.

Shklovsky, I.S., Newspaper interviews on the hypothesis that the martian satellite Phobos is artificial
Komsomol’skaya Pravada, 1 May 59 and 31 May 59

Shklovskii, I. S., The Universe, Life, Reason (Izd-vo Akademii nauk SSSR, Moscow, 1962, 1965, 1973, 1976, 1987) [in Russian].

Shklovskii, I. S., Stars: Their Birth, Life, and Death (English translation: W. H. Freeman & Co., San Francisco, 1978).