The Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (LPI RAS) is one of the largest and is, apparently, the oldest Russian research center. Its scientific program covers almost all major fields of physics. As a modern multidisciplinary unit, the Institute has come a long way since its foundation in 1934 due to the official proposal of the Academician S.I Vavilov, an outstanding optical physicist and a science organizer. The history of LPI begins from the collection of scientific devices and instruments in the Kunstkamera founded by the decision of Tsar Peter the Great in 1714. Based on the use of collected instruments the first studies at the Physics Cabinet of the Kunstkamera are dated by 1724 when the Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences has been established. The Cabinet of Physics was well recognized by the activity of prominent scientists of that time as D. Bernoulli, L. Euler, M.V. Lomonosov.
In 1912, due to research development, the Physics Cabinet, headed by Prince B.B. Golitsyn, was transformed into the Physics Laboratory.
The Institute for Physics and Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, created on its basis in 1921, was headed by such famous Academicians as: B.A. Steklov, A.F. Ioffe, A.N. Krylov, I.M. Vinogradov.
In April 1934, the Physics Department of the Institute for Physics and Mathematics of the USSR Academy of Sciences, headed by S.I. Vavilov, was transformed into the Institute for Physics of the USSR Academy of Sciences. It was named after a remarkable Russian physicist P.N. Lebedev in December of the same year.
Soon the Academy of Sciences of the USSR moved to Moscow and the Institute was transferred to the former building of the Institute for Physics and Biophysics constructed in its time for P.N. Lebedev by Moscow merchants in Miusskaya Square. Such renowned Moscow physicists as D.I. Blokhintsev, G.S. Landsberg, M.A. Leontovich, L.I. Mandelshtam, M.A. Markov, V.V. Migulin, N.D. Papaleksi and many others worked at LPI. In 1951, a building, specifically for LPI, was constructed in Kaluzhskaya Shosse (now 53 Leninsky Prospekt), where it is situated at present.
The history of LPI has been marked by the great scientific discoveries, such as the Vavilov–Cherenkov effect (Cherenkov radiation), the phase-stability principle, the basics of both controlled thermonuclear fusion and quantum generators. The research performed at LPI formulated the fundamental principles of radio engineering and nonlinear theory of vibrations, as well as the grounds for semiconductor electronics, radio astronomy, high-energy physics and many other branches of modern physics.
The important research contributions of LPI scientists have been appreciated by many prestigious international and national awards, including the Nobel Prize awarded to I.E. Tamm, I.M. Frank, P.A. Cherenkov, N.G. Basov, A.M. Prokhorov, A.D. Sakharov and V.L. Ginzburg. At present, in spite of some difficulties, LPI remains the flagship of Russian science. Both basic and applied researches are carried out here. A collaboration with various research centers in Russia and all over the world is quite extensive.
Some of the most attractive achievements are related to special lasers generating the ultra short 300-femtosecond pulses through a rather simple technique; to a transportable optical frequency standard for precise measurements, for instance, to detect the earth's crust vibrations at ultralow frequencies etc.
Now the studies to define the structure of the solar atmosphere and to determine the ozone distribution in the earth's atmosphere are held. The works on the theory of the so-called dark matter of our universe are of great importance. One of the topical studies at LPI, which is essential for microelectronics, is presently dedicated to the physics of nanostructures that helps in understanding the electro-magnetic and optical phenomena. Special attention is paid to superconductivity, including the HTS superconductivity. Experiments in the field of elementary particle physics, nuclear physics, cosmic ray physics and ultrahigh energy gamma ray astronomy are also carried out at LPI. Common objectives for the thermo-nuclear fusion are developed. A highly efficient system, which is under development, to detect the concealed explosives (humanitarian mine clearance) based on the method of gamma activation analysis can be very important.
A great number of research directions, covering practically all branches of physics, determine a current structure of the Lebedev Physical Institute, including six scientific divisions equal to the research institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences in their basic areas.