The Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (LPI PAS) is one of the largest and is, apparently, the oldest scientific research centre of the country. Its scientific subjects cover essentially all major trends in physics. As a modern polyphysical body, the Institute was founded in 1934 by Academician S.I Vavilov, an outstanding optical physicist and science organizer. The LPI takes its history from a collection of physical instruments at the Kunstkamera, established by the decision of the Emperor Peter the Great in 1714. Studies proper at the Physical Cabinet of the Kunstkamera using the collected instruments began since 1724, when the Cabinet was transferred to the management of the just established Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Such prominent scientists as D. Bernoulli, L. Euler, M.V. Lomonosov worked at the Physical Cabinet.
In 1912, due to the expansion of research, the Physical Cabinet directed by Prince B.B. Golitsyn was transformed into the Physical Laboratory. The Physico-mathematical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences organized on its basis in 1921 was directed by the known Academicians B.A. Steklov, A.F. Ioffe, A.N. Krylov, I.M. Vinogradov. In April 1934, the Physical Department of the Physico-mathematical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences directed by S.I. Vavilov is transformed into the Physical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences, and already in December that year it is named after a remarkable Russian physicist P.N. Lebedev. Soon the USSR Academy of Sciences moves to Moscow. The Institute is provided with the building of the former Institute of Physics and Biophysics constructed in its time by the Moscow merchantry for P.N. Lebedev in Miusskaya Square. Among those Moscow physicists who came to the LPI at that time were D.I. Blokhintsev, G.S. Landsberg, M.A. Leontovich, L.I. Mandelshtam, M.A. Markov, V.V. Migulin, N.D. Papaleksi and many other known scientists. In 1951, a building was constructed especially for the LPI in Kaluzhskaya Shosse (now 53 Leninsky Prospect), where it is situated at present.
The history of the LPI is marked with greatest scientific discoveries, such as the Vavilov–Cherenkov effect, the phase-stability principle, the scientific bases of controlled thermonuclear fusion and quantum generators. Research work at the Institute laid the bases of radio engineering and nonlinear theory of vibrations, semiconductor electronics, radioastronomy, high-energy physics and many other trends of modern physics.
Staff members of the Lebedev Physical Institute were repeatedly honoured with the most prestigious international and domestic prizes and awards, including Nobel prizes awarded to I.E. Tamm, I.M. Frank, P.A. Cherenkov, N.G. Basov, A.M. Prokhorov, A.D. Sakharov, V.L. Ginzburg. Today, despite certain difficulties, the LPI remains the flagship of Russian science. Both basic research and applied studies are carried out here. Cooperation with various research centres in Russia and all over the world is extensive. The most interesting achievements include the development of special lasers, which enable the generation, by a rather simple technique, of ultrashort 300-femtosecond pulses; the development of a transportable optical frequency standard required for precision measurements, e.g., for the detection of earth's crust vibrations at ultralow frequencies. Work is under way to determine ozone distribution in the earth's atmosphere, to determine the structure of the solar atmosphere. Of great importance are works in the field of the theory of the so called dark matter enclosing our Galaxy. Topical are studies in the field of the physics of nanostructures as applied to electric, magnetic and optical phenomena, which is of great significance for microelectronics. Special attention is paid to superconductivity, high-Tc superconductivity including. Experiments are under way in the field of elementary particle physics and nuclear physics, cosmic-ray physics and extrahigh energy gamma-ray astronomy. Unique targets for thermonuclear fusion are developed. Of great applied significance can be a highly efficient system for detection of concealed explosives (humanitarian mine clearance) based on the method of gamma-activation analysis.
Broad subjects of research covering virtually all trends of physics determine the current structure of the Lebedev Physical Institute, which includes six scientific divisions equated in their main directions to scientific-research institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences.