Viktor Amazaspovich Ambartsumian

Viktor Amazaspovich Ambartsumian


Date of Birth
September 18, 1908
Date of Death
August 12, 1996

Viktor Ambartsumian was born in then-Soviet Georgia and educated at the University of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg State University. He worked at the Pulkovo Observatory, the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (BAO), which he founded and directed, Erevan University, and the Armenian Academy of Sciences, which he served as president from 1947 to 1993. While at Pulkovo he also taught at the University of Leningrad, where he was appointed professor at age 26, and wrote the first Russian textbook on theoretical astrophysics. Most of his research was devoted to invariance principles applied to the theory of radiative transfer, inverse problems of astrophysics, and the empirical approach to the problems of the origin and evolution of stars and galaxies. He was first to suggest that T Tauri stars are very young and to propose that nearby stellar associations are expanding. He also showed that evolutionary processes such as mass loss are occurring in galaxies. He worked on interstellar matter, showing that it is in clouds, radio galaxies, and active galactic nuclei. He was the founding editor-in-chief (1964-87) of Astrofizika, which became the leading astronomy publication in the Soviet Union. He served as president of the International Astronomical Union, and he hosted conferences on the search for extraterrestrial civilizations. Note: His first name is sometimes spelled Victor, and his last name Ambartsumyan or Ambarzumyan. The only correct spelling is in the Armenian alphabet: Վիկտոր Համազասպի Համբարձումյան.


Presentation of Bruce medal

Mayall, N.U., PASP 72, 73-75 (1960).

Other awards

French Academy of Sciences, Janssen Medal, 1956.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1960, presented by R.V. Redman, QJRAS 1, 23-25 (1960).

Some offices held

International Astronomical Union, President, 1961-64

Biographical materials

“V.A. Ambartsumian—a Life in Science,” Astrophysics 51, 280-93 (2008).
“Victor Amazasp Ambartsumian (1908-1996),” in Y. Terzian, D. Weedman, & E. Khachikian, eds., Activity in Galaxies and Related Phenomena, Proceedings of IAU Syposium 194, held 17-21 Aug. 1998, in Yerevan, Armenia (Astronomical Society of the Pacific, San Francisco, 1999), xiii.
Ambartsumian, Viktor A., “On Some Trends in the Development of Astrophysics,” Annual Review of Astronomy & Astrophysics 18, 1-13 (1980).
Arzumanyan, Ashot, Envoy of the stars: Academician Victor Ambartsumyan [translated from the Russian by Cynthia Carlile] (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1987).
Chandrasekhar, S., “To Victor Ambartsumian on his 80th birthday,” Astrofizika 18, (1989); reproduced in Astrophysics 18, 3-4 (1989).
The Editorial Board of the Journal Astrofizika, “V.A. Ambartsumian—A Life in Science,” Astrofizika 51, 343-62 (2008); English translation in Astrophysics 51, 280-93 (2008).
Editorial Board and Editorial Council, “Viktor Amazaspovich Ambartsumian (on his 85th Birthday),” Astrofizika 36, 623-26 (1993); English translation in Astrophysics 36, 368-69 (1996).

Kalloghlian, A.T., “On the 90th birthday of Academician V. A. Ambartsumian, founder of the journal Astrophysics, at Symposium No. 194 of the International Astronomical Union,” Astrofizika 41, 495-98 (1998); English translation in Astrophysics 41, 325-27 (1998).
McCutcheon, Robert A., “The Early Career of Viktor Amazapovich Ambartsumian: an Interview (Erevan, Oct. 1987),” Astronomy Quarterly 7, 3, 143-176 (1990).
Mirzoian, L.V., Viktor Ambartsumian (Izd-vo “Aiastan,” Erevan, Armenia, 1985).
Mirzoian, L.V., Viktor Ambartsumian International Prize Pecker, Jean-Claude, “Victor Ambartsumian and the IAU” Astrofizika 29, 1, 409 (1989).
Plicht, Chris, Ambartsumian, Viktor A.


Blaauw, Adriaan, Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy, 18, 1-2 (1997).
Israelian, Garik, BAAS 29, 1466-67 (1997).
Lynden-Bell, Donald & V. Gurzadian, Astronomy and Geophysics 38, 2, 37 (1997).
Lynden-Bell, Donald & V. Gurzadian, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 44, 21-34 (1998).
Physics World 9, 54 (Oct 1996).
Petrosian, Artashes R., Haik A. Harutyunian, & Areg M. Mickaelian, Physics Today 50, 6, 106 (June 1997).
Unknown, Astrofizika 39, 517-22 (1996); English translation in Astrophysics 39, 307-09 (1996).
Woszczyk, A., “In memoriam - Viktor A. Ambartsumyan (1908 - 1996),” Postepy Astron. 45, 34-35 (1997). [in Polish]


AIP Center for History of Physics
Chemical Journal of Armenia, via Wikimedia

Named after him

Minor Planet #1905 Ambartsumian
Viktor Ambartsumian International Prize for outstanding contributions to astrophysics



There is a 1987 oral history interview at the AIP Niels Bohr Library & Archives.

Other References: Historical

Search ADS for works about Ambartsumian

Akopian, A.A. & Elma S. Parsamian, “On the 100-th anniversary of the birth of Academician V. A. Ambartsumian: V. A. Ambartsumian and the statistics of flaring objects,” Astrophysics 52, 322-34 (2009).

Ambartsumian, Viktor Amazaspovich, Razvitie Astronomii V SSSR, 1917-1967 (Nauka, Moscow, 1967).

Blaauw, Adriaan, History of the IAU: The Birth and First Half-Century of the IAU," (Kluwer, Boston, 1994).

Arp, Halton, “Ambartsumian’s Greatest Insight—The Origin of Galaxies,” in Active Galactic Nucleiand Related Phenomena, Proceedings of IAU Syposium 194, held 17-21 Aug. 1998, in Yerevan, Armenia. Edited by Y. Terzian, E. Khachikian, and D. Weedman, (Astronomical Society of the Pacific, San Francisco, 1999), pp. 473-77.

Boyarchuk, A, “Influence of V. A. Ambartsumian on the Development of Astronomy,” in Y. Terzian, E. Khachikian, and D. Weedman, eds., Active Galactic Nuclei and Related Phenomena, Proceedings of IAU Syposium 194, held 17-21 Aug. 1998, in Yerevan, Armenia (Astronomical Society of the Pacific, San Francisco, 1999), pp. 467-72.

Eremeeva, A. I., “Political Repression and Personality: The History of Political Repression Against Soviet Astronomers,“ J. Hist. Astron. 26, 297-324 (1995).

Gorelik, Gennady E. & Victor Ya. Frenkel, Matvei Petrovich Bronstein and Soviet Theoretical Physics in the Thirties. Birkhäuser Verlag, Boston, 1994.

Harutyunian, H.A., “Ambartsumian’s Paradigm for the Activity of Galactic Nuclei and the Evolution of Galaxies,” Astrophysics 52, 307-21 (2009).

Harutyunian, Haik A. & Areg M. Mickaelian, “V.A. Ambartsumian and the Activity of Galactic Nuclei,” in H.A. Harutyunian, A.M. Mickaelian & Y. Terzian, eds., Evolution of Cosmic Objects through their Physical Activity, Proceedings of the Conference dedicated to Viktor Ambartsumian’s 100th anniversary, held 15-18 Sep 2008 in Yerevan and Byurakan, Armenia ("Gitutyun" Publishing House of NAS RA, Yerevan, 2010), pp. 134-51 [abstract].

Iwanowska, Wilhemina, “Ambartsumian’s Views on Structure and Evolution of the Universe,“ in P. Flin & H.W. Duerbeck, eds., Morphological Cosmology. Proceedings of the XIth Cracow Cosmological School held in Cracow, Poland, Aug. 22-31, 1988 (Springer-Verlag, Berlin & New York, 1989), pp. 399-404.

McCutcheon, Robert A., “The 1936-37 Purge of Soviet Astronomers,“ Slavic Review 50, 1, 100-117 (1991).

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

Muradyan, R.M., “Origin of Galactic Rotation in the Ambartsumyan Cosmogony,” Astrofizika 11, 234-48 (1975); English translation in Astrophysics 11, 161-68 (1975).

Nikoghossian, A.G., “Ambartsumian’s Methods in the Theory of Radiative Transfer,” Astrofizika 52, 5-27 (2009); English translation in Astrophysics 52, 1-23 (2009).

Ossipkov, L.P., “On the Jubilee of Academician V. A. Ambartsumyan Statistical Mechanics of Stellar Systems: From Ambartsumyan Onward,” Astrofizika 51, 505-22 (2008); English translation in Astrophysics 51, 428-42 (2008).

Pecker, Jean-Claude, “Victor Ambartsumian and the IAU,“ Astrofizika 29, 9-14; English translation in Astrophysics 29, 409-12 (1988).

Robinson, Leif J., “Soviet Astronomy Today: A Personal View,“ Sky & Telescope 64, 518-19 (1982).

Rosino, Leonida, “Encounters with Victor Ambartsumian One Afternoon at the San Lazzaro Degli Armeni Island at Venice,“ Astrofizika 29, 15-17 (1988); English translation in Astrophysics 29, 412-14 (1988).

Shklovsky, Iosif, Five Billion Vodka Bottles to the Moon: Tales of a Soviet Scientist (W.W. Norton, New York, 1991).

Struve, Otto, “Stellar Associations,” Sky & Telescope 8, 215 (1949).

Wali, Kameshwar C., Chandra (U. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990).


Other References: Scientific

Search ADS for works by Ambartsumian

Ambartsumian, Rouben V., ed., A Life in Astrophysics: Selected Papers of Viktor A. Ambartsumian (Allerton Press, NY, 1998) .

Ambartsumian, Viktor A., Selected Papers Part 1: Stars, Nebulae and Galaxies (Advances in Astronomy and Astrophysics) (Taylor & Francis Group, 2003).

Ambartsumian, Viktor A., Scientific Works, Vol. 3 (Izdatel'stvo AN Armianskoi SSR, Yerevan, 1988) [In Russian].

Kosirev, N. & Ambarzumian, V., “Eine Methode der Bestimmung der Höhe der Sonnenfackeln nach der Veränderung ihrer Helligkeit,” Astr. Nach. 226, 93-96 (1925).

Ambartsumian, V. A. & D D Ivanenko, “Uber eine Folgerung der Diracschen Theorie der Protonen und Elektronen,” Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR-A 6, 53-55 (1930).

Ambartsumian, Viktor Amazaspovich, “On the Radiative Equilibrium of a Planetary Nebula,” Izvestiia Glavnoi astronomicheskoi observatorii v Pulkove 13, 3 (1933) [in Russian].

Ambartsumian, V.A., Astronomicheskii Zhurnal 14, 207 (1937). [Translation by Donald W. Goldsmith as “On the Statistics of Double Stars" : .]

Ambartsumian, V.A., “On the Scattering of Light in Planetary Atmospheres,” [originally published in Russian, 1942, 1943] (Smithsonian Institution Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, MA, 1966).

Ambartsumian, V.A., “Expanding Stellar Associations,” Astronomicheskii Zhurnal 26, 1-9 (1949) [in Russian] [ A translation of part of this paper, with commentary, appears in Kenneth R. Lang & Owen Gingerich, eds., A Source Book in Astronomy & Astrophysics, 1900-1975 (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1979), 685-90 and also in Shapley, Harlow, ed., Source Book in Astronomy, 1900-1950 (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1960), 130-39.]

Ambartsumian, V.A, Teoreticheskaia Astrofizika (1952), translated as Theoretical Astrophysics (Pergamon Press, NY & London, 1958).

Ambartsumian, Viktor Amazaspovich, “On the Evolution of Galaxies,” in R. Stoops, ed., La Structure et l’Evolution de l’Univers (Coudenberg, Brussels, 1958), 241-74) [ A translation of part of this paper, with commentary, appears in Kenneth R. Lang & Owen Gingerich, eds., A Source Book in Astronomy & Astrophysics, 1900-1975 (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1979), 763-72.

Ambartsumian, V.A., “On the Evolution of Stellar Systems (George Darwin Lecture),“ QJRAS 1, 152-63 (1960).