Valerian Ill’ich Tatarskii

In Memoriam: Valerian Ill’ich Tatarskii, 1929-2020

April 19, 2020

Valerian I. Tatarskii, OSA Fellow and 1994 recipient of the Max Born Prize, passed away on 19 April 2020 at the age of 90. Tatarskii was known for his pioneering research in the field of wave propagation in random media, which involves the propagation and scattering of electromagnetic and acoustic waves in a turbulent atmosphere and fluctuating ocean. Over the course of his career, Tatarskii’s ground breaking research would go on to be recognized as the authoritative and most widely referenced work in this field.

Tatarskii was born in Kharkov, USSR in 1929. He studied physics at Moscow State University and received his M.S. degree in 1952, under the guidance of Professor V. N. Krasil’nikov. In 1953, Tatarskii joined the Laboratory for Turbulence Research at the Geophysical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences, which later became the Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics. Tatarskii completed his Ph.D. in 1957 and his thesis would be the basis for the book, Wave Propagation in a Turbulent Medium (1959). Following his Ph.D., Tatarskii would pursue a D.Sc. degree and publish, The Effect of the Turbulent Atmosphere on Wave Propagation in 1965, translated into English in 1971.

Tatarskii held several prestigious scientific positions while in the USSR, among them serving as Laboratory Chief at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (1978-1990) and Division Chief at the Lebedev Physical Institute, within the USSR Academy of Sciences (1990). At the invitation of the NOAA Wave Propagation Laboratory (WPL) Director Dr. S. Clifford, Tatarskii moved to the USA in 1990 to begin work at WPL in Boulder, CO. Following his move to WPL, Tatarskii’s research focused on developing new analytical and numerical methods for electromagnetic wave scattering from rough ocean surfaces. He completed his service with NOAA in 2006, after which he worked at Radio-Hydro-Physics, LLC.

Tatarskii published extensively and made significant contributions to the scientific community as an editor of several journals. Among his publications was the four-volume series, Principles of Statistical Radiophysics, and he served on the Editorial Board of the Russian journal, Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk (Advances in Physical Sciences), as an Associate Editor of the journal, Waves in Random Media (1991-1998), and as a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Electromagnetic Waves and Applications.

During his career, Tatarskii received numerous recognitions including, Corresponding Member of the USSR/Russian Academy of Sciences (1976), recipient of the USSR State Prize (1990), OSA Fellow (1991), member of the USA National Academy of Engineering (1994), and recipient of the OSA Max Born Award (1994). Tatarskii received the Max Born Award for his outstanding seminal contributions to the theory of wave propagation through random media, particularly optical propagation through atmospheric turbulence, as well as for his fundamental contributions to the fields of statistical and quantum optics.

When not working in the lab, Tatarskii enjoyed listening to classical music, cross-country skiing, hiking, and kayaking with family and friends. He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He will be dearly missed by his family, colleagues, and the scientific community.

OSA mourns the loss of Valerian I. Tatarskii.


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