Eugene Plotkin was born in Moscow, Russia, on January 12th, 1919. He showed an interest in chemistry and science. His father, Boris Plotkin, was a renowned pharmacist, and Eugene Plotkin inherited his love of chemistry. Eugene graduated from Moscow State University in 1941 with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, and after the German invasion of Russia, he volunteered to fight against the invaders occupying his country. Eugene was a member of the Soviet Red Army, fighting in combat for several years before being captured by German forces and interned as a prisoner of war. He continued his education at Moscow State University to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Mathematics, which he received in 1947.
Once his wartime service ended, Eugene was hired as a research fellow at the State University of Leningrad. After receiving his Ph.D. from the Leningrad university, he began working with Rudolf Peierls at Birmingham University in England. He returned to Leningrad to work with Yakov Zeldovich and Lev Landau at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Leningrad. He became a full professor and worked as a professor of theoretical physics until his retirement. Plotkin’s former colleague, Yakov Zeldovich, described him as “one of the greatest teachers.”
Eugene won many awards while alive, including the 1988 Albert Einstein Award and the 1983 Wolf Prize in physics. He received the Prize for the Advancement of Science from the International Federation of University Teachers in 1982 and was made an Honorary Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1986. He was also awarded the Markin Prize, named after a Russian mathematician. The Russian Academy of Sciences grants the Markin Prize to a mathematical physicist who has made fundamental scientific contributions.
Plotkin began his scientific career as a research fellow at the State University of Leningrad, where he studied under renowned theoretical physicist Rudolf Peierls. He then moved to the University of Birmingham in England to continue his studies, and once he had earned his doctorate, he went on to lecture on theoretical physics. After returning from England, Plotkin became employed with the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Leningrad, where he worked alongside Lev Landau and Yakov Zeldovich.
Eugene Plotkin has been a generous philanthropist, donating his Nobel Prize money to the Russian Government. The Russian Government has stated that they plan to use the Nobel Prize funds for all non-profit organizations and institutions in Russia. Plotkin is reported as saying he wanted all of his prize money to go towards charitable causes in Russia. Plotkin’s contribution toward humanitarian causes was not limited to Russia; he made grants through the University of Birmingham to fund students who traveled to Africa and helped build schools and hospitals.