died Jan. 6, 1990, U.S.S.R.
Soviet physicist who shared the 1958 Nobel Prize for Physics with fellow Soviet scientists Igor Y. Tamm and Ilya M. Frank for the discovery and theoretical interpretation of the phenomenon of Cherenkov radiation.
A peasant's son, Cherenkov graduated from Voronezh State University in 1928; he later became a research student at the P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute. In 1934, working on his dissertation under the guidance of and in collaboration with Sergei Ivanovich Vavilov, he observed that electrons produce a faint blue glow when passing through a transparent liquid at high velocity. This Cherenkov radiation, which was correctly explained by Tamm and Frank in 1937, led to the development of the Cherenkov counter, or Cherenkov detector, that later was used extensively in experimental nuclear and particle physics. Cherenkov continued to do research in nuclear and cosmic-ray physics at the P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute. Cherenkov was elected to the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences as a corresponding (1964) and subsequently full (1970) member.