Valerian Ilich Tatarskii, a world-renowned physicist, passed away at his home in Boulder, CO, on April 19, 2020, at the age of 90. Professor Tatarskii was recognized worldwide as a founder of a new field in physics, Wave Propagation in Random Media, which involves the propagation and scattering of electromagnetic and acoustic waves in a turbulent atmosphere and fluctuating ocean. Valerian Tatarskii was born on October 13, 1929 in Kharkov, USSR. In 1952, he received his M.S. degree from the Physics Department of Moscow State University. The subject of his thesis was sound propagation in a turbulent atmosphere. This study later progressed into his main research area: studies of electromagnetic (radio-frequency and optical) wave propagation in random media. 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 earned his PhD in 1957. The PhD thesis was then converted into a book, Wave Propagation in a Turbulent Medium (1959, in Russian). Due to the importance of the topic for a variety of applications, the book was translated into English (1961 and 1967) and became an authoritative and widely referenced work. In 1964, Tatarskii received a Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) degree, which is similar to Habilitation in Europe. His D.Sc. thesis became the basis for another book, The Effect of the Turbulent Atmosphere on Wave Propagation (1965, in Russian) which was translated into English (1971). These two books, and a later four-volume series, Principles of Statistical Radiophysics, co-authored with S. Rytov and Yu. Kravtsov, became the foundations of a new field, Wave Propagation in Random Media, and established Tatarskii as a founder of this field. Dr. A. Wheelon, a respected scientist who also worked in this field wrote in his books: "These volumes are dedicated to Valerian Tatarskii who taught us all". Tatarskii was a Laboratory Chief at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (1978-1990) and a Division Chief at the Lebedev Physical Institute, the USSR Academy of Sciences (1990). In 1990, after invitation by Dr. S. Clifford, who was then Director of the NOAA Wave Propagation Laboratory (WPL), Tatarskii started to work at NOAA/WPL in Boulder, CO. Since 2006, Tatarskii worked at Radio-Hydro-Physics, LLC. Tatarskii was a member of the Editorial Board of the Russian Journal Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk (Advances in Physical Sciences), an Associate Editor of the journal Waves in Random Media (1991-1998), a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Electromagnetic Waves and Applications, and a consultant for the Great Russian Encyclopedia. Professor Tatarskii was elected a Corresponding Member of the USSR/Russian Academy of Sciences in 1976 and was a recipient of the USSR State Prize (1990). In the U.S., he became a Fellow of the Optical Society of America, a Member of the USA National Academy of Engineering (1994), and received the Max Born Award of the Optical Society of America (1994). In his private life, Valerian Tatarskii was an avid lover of classical music: he regularly attended performances of the symphony orchestra. In winter he enjoyed cross-country skiing in Rocky Mountains. During summer he went on hiking and kayaking trips with his family and friends. He is survived by his wife, Maya, son Viatcheslav, and two grandchildren. Professor Tatarskii will be truly missed. His passing closes an important chapter in Wave Propagation in Random Media, the field which he largely created.
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Published in The Daily Camera on Apr. 29, 2020.