Alexander Friedmann

Alexander Friedmann
Alexander Friedmann
Born Alexander Alexandrovich Friedmann
(1888-06-16)June 16, 1888
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died September 16, 1925(1925-09-16) (aged 37)
Leningrad, USSR
Nationality Russian
Alma mater St. Petersburg State University
Known for Friedmann equations
Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker metric
Spouse(s) Natalia Malinina
Scientific career
Fields Mathematics and Physics
Institutions Petrograd Polytechnical Institute
Main Geophysical Observatory
Doctoral advisor Vladimir Steklov
Doctoral students George Gamow
Nikolai Kochin
Pelageya Polubarinova-Kochina

Alexander Alexandrovich Friedmann (also spelled Friedman or Fridman /ˈfrdmən/; Russian: Алекса́ндр Алекса́ндрович Фри́дман) (June 16 [O.S. 4], 1888 – September 16, 1925) was a Russian and Soviet physicist and mathematician. He is best known for his pioneering theory that the universe was expanding, governed by a set of equations he developed now known as the Friedmann equations.

Early life

Alexander Friedmann was born to the composer and ballet dancer Alexander Friedmann (who was a son of a baptized Jewish cantonist) and the pianist Ludmila Ignatievna Voyachek.[1] Friedmann was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church as an infant, and lived much of his life in Saint Petersburg.

Friedmann obtained his degree from St. Petersburg State University in 1910, and became a lecturer at Saint Petersburg Mining Institute.

From his school days, Friedmann found an inseparable companion in Jacob Tamarkin, who at the end of his career was one of Brown University's most distinguished mathematicians.[2]

World War I

Friedmann fought in World War I on behalf of Imperial Russia, as an army aviator, an instructor and eventually, under the revolutionary regime, as the head of an airplane factory.[3]


Friedmann in 1922 introduced the idea of an expanding universe that contained moving matter; Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître would later independently reach the same conclusion in 1927.[4]

In June 1925 he was given the job of the director of Main Geophysical Observatory in Leningrad. In July 1925 he participated in a record-setting balloon flight, reaching the elevation of 7,400 m (24,300 ft).[5]



Friedmann's 1924 papers, including "Über die Möglichkeit einer Welt mit konstanter negativer Krümmung des Raumes" ("On the possibility of a world with constant negative curvature of space") published by the German physics journal Zeitschrift für Physik (Vol. 21, pp. 326–332), demonstrated that he had command of all three Friedmann models describing positive, zero and negative curvature respectively, a decade before Robertson and Walker published their analysis.

This dynamic cosmological model of general relativity would come to form the standard for both the Big Bang and Steady State theories. Friedmann's work supports both theories equally, so it was not until the detection of the cosmic microwave background radiation that the Steady State theory was abandoned in favor of the current favorite Big Bang paradigm.

The classic solution of the Einstein field equations that describes a homogeneous and isotropic universe is called the Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker metric, or FLRW, after Friedmann, Georges Lemaître, Howard P. Robertson and Arthur Geoffrey Walker, who worked on the problem in 1920s and 30s independently of Friedmann.

Hydrodynamics and meteorology

In addition to general relativity, Friedmann's interests included hydrodynamics and meteorology.


Physicists George Gamow, Vladimir Fock and Lev Vasilievich Keller[5] were among his students.

Personal life

In 1911, he married Emily Tung, though he later divorced her. He married Natalia Malinina in the last years of his life. They had a religious wedding ceremony, though both were far from religious.[6]


Friedmann died on September 16, 1925 from misdiagnosed typhoid fever. He had allegedly contracted the bacteria on his way back from his honeymoon in Crimea.[7]

Named after Friedmann

The moon crater Fridman is named after him.

Alexander Friedmann International Seminar

Alexander Friedmann International Seminar is a periodical scientific event. The objective of the meeting is to promote contacts between scientists working in the field of Relativity, Gravitation and Cosmology and related fields. The First Alexander Friedmann International Seminar on Gravitation and Cosmology devoted to the centenary of his birth took place in 1988.

Selected publications

  • Friedman, A. (1922). "Über die Krümmung des Raumes". Zeitschrift für Physik. 10 (1): 377–386. Bibcode:1922ZPhy...10..377F. doi:10.1007/BF01332580. . English translation in: Friedman, A. (1999). "On the curvature of space". General Relativity and Gravitation. 31 (12): 1991–2000. Bibcode:1999GReGr..31.1991F. doi:10.1023/A:1026751225741. The original Russian manuscript of this paper is preserved in the Ehrenfest archive, together with some letters and unpublished work.
  • Friedman, A. (1924). "Über die Möglichkeit einer Welt mit konstanter negativer Krümmung des Raumes". Zeitschrift für Physik. 21 (1): 326–332. Bibcode:1924ZPhy...21..326F. doi:10.1007/BF01328280. . English translation in: Friedmann, A. (1999). "On the Possibility of a World with Constant Negative Curvature of Space". General Relativity and Gravitation. 31 (12): 2001–2008. Bibcode:1999GReGr..31.2001F. doi:10.1023/A:1026755309811.


  1. Hockey, Thomas (2009). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. Springer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  2. Pyenson L. Book review. Physics Today [serial online]. September 1994; 47(9):93. Available from: MasterFILE Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 18, 2012.
  3. Pyenson L. Book review. Physics Today [serial online]. September 1994;47(9):93. Available from: MasterFILE Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 18, 2012.
  4. Daintith J. Dictionary Of Scientists [e-book]. Oxford University Press; 1999. Available from: eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 18, 2012.
  5. 1 2 Davidson et al., A Voyage Through Turbulence, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521149310, September 2011 (for a partial and legal excerpt of the book, see: )
  6. Eduard A. Tropp; Viktor Ya. Frenkel; Artur D. Chernin (2006). "The final year". Alexander A Friedmann: The Man who Made the Universe Expand. Cambridge University Press. p. 209. ISBN 9780521025881. [Alexander Friedmann and Natalia Malinina] even had a religious wedding ceremony in the Crimea, though both were far from religious. “Just to make it stronger,” Friedmann said to his wife (she told this to her sister Sofia).


  • Poluboyarinova-Kochina, P. Ya. (January–February 1964). "Aleksandr Fridman" (PDF). Soviet Physics Uspekhi (English edition): 467–472.
  • Ferguson, Kitty (1991). Stephen Hawking: Quest For A Theory of Everything. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-29895-X.
  • Frenkel', V.Ya. (1988). "Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Fridman (Friedmann): a biographical essay". Soviet Physics Uspekhi. 31 (7): 645–665. Bibcode:1988SvPhU..31..645F. doi:10.1070/PU1988v031n07ABEH003574.
  • Alexander A Friedmann: The Man who Made the Universe Expand – Biography written by Eduard A. Tropp, Viktor Ya. Frenkel and Artur D. Chernin
  • O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Alexander Friedmann", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews .
  • How Do We Know the Age of the Universe – Mary Lynn Germadnik
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