Alexey Alexandrovich Starobinsky was born on April 19th, 1948 in Moscow; his father died when Alexey was two years old.
In 1972 he graduated with honors from the Lomonosov Moscow State University, having studied at the Department of Physics. . Throughout his career, he remained faithful to the L.D. Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics RAS (situated in Chernogolovka, Moscow Region), where he completed his postgraduate studies and subsequently worked as a Junior Research Fellow, Research Fellow, Senior Research Fellow, Scientific Secretary (1987-1990), and Leading Research Fellow; Starobinsky headed the Sector of the Theory of Gravity and Cosmology from 1990 to 1997, was the acting Deputy Director during the 1999-2003 period, and has been the Chief Research Fellow of the Institute since 1997.
In 1991, he was a visiting researcher at the École Normale (Paris, France). In 2006 he worked at the Institut Henri Poincaré (Paris). In 1993/1994 and 2007 he was a visiting Professor at the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics, attached to Kyoto University (Japan), while 2000/2001 marked his years as a visiting Professor at the Research Center for the Early Universe in the University of Tokyo.
Since 2017, Starobinsky has been Professor of the Department of Physics in the Higher School of Economics.
His other accomplishments include being Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (since 1997), Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences (since 2011, working at the Department of Physical Sciences, RAS).
A.A. Starobinsky, Academician, the most distinguished theoretical physicist in Russia, is known all over the world for his contributions to the fields of gravity, cosmology and relativistic astrophysics. His research interests include the classical theory of gravity, the quantum theory of gravity, the inflationary epoch of the early universe, dark energy, dark matter, CMB radiation, the large-scale structure of the universe, black holes, gravitational waves, modified gravity, and the Multiverse. He is one of the most widely cited Russian astrophysicists.
A.A. Starobinsky is one of the creators of the modern inflationary Universe theory describing a new historical stage in the evolution of the Universe in the distant past preceding the Hot Big Bang. He derived the first complete and consistent model of such a stage (1980), during which, over a period that is only a few orders of magnitude greater than the Planck time (about 10-43 seconds), the Universe expands by more than 1025 times at an accelerating rate, later gradually switching to the Hot Big Bang stage, as known elementary particles are born and subsequently heated. The inflation theory has been dubbed the most important achievement in cosmology over the past half century, since it radically changed the way scientists understand the history of the early Universe, allowing the theory to predict subtle details of the modern structure of the Universe, which were then quantitatively confirmed by measuring angular anisotropy of the temperature and polarization of the CMB radiation permeating the Universe, first by the COBE space mission (1992), and later in considerably more detail by the Planck space mission since 2013. Moreover, Starobinsky’s breakthrough inflation model outlined in 1980 still provides the best agreement with existing observation data, as compared to models proposed subsequently by other researchers, such as A. Guth and A. Linde.
Even before publishing his 1980 paper that detailed the specific inflationary model now bearing his name, in 1979 A.A. Starobinsky computed in a model-independent way the first observational effect of the inflationary stage in the early Universe, that is, the Fourier spectrum of primary gravitational waves arising from quantum vacuum fluctuations of the gravitational field during the inflationary stage, which is remarkably almost invariant on a scale. To do this, he assumed the observable part of the universe at some point in its past to have been as symmetrical as the laws of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory could allow. This hypothesis forms the core of the entire inflationary scenario of the early universe. Despite it being extreme, it turned out to be a success!
Later, A.A. Starobinsky and his colleagues continued to further develop various inflationary scenarios describing the early Universe, comparing those predictions to observation data. When enumerating Starobinsky’s major achievements in this field, the following should be included: he quantitatively developed the theory concerning generation of scalar perturbations in the spacetime metric along with the corresponding small inhomogeneities in matter density against a homogeneous isotropic universe background, said inhomogeneities arising during the inflationary stage from vacuum fluctuations in a certain effective scalar field that exists in all inflationary models (1982, simultaneously with and independently from A. Guth and S. Hawking; V.F. Mukhanov also contributed greatly to this issue); Starobinsky also derived the theory of multicomponent inflation with simultaneous generation of spacetime metric perturbations and elucidated the mechanism of transition from the quantum description of initial perturbations to classical yet stochastic heterogeneities, which are what is currently observed in the case of scalar perturbations; he also developed the theory of generation, subsequent rapid heating and thermalization of matter following the inflationary stage in a wide parametric resonance mode (1994-1997, together with L.A. Kofman, his student, and A.D. Linde); moreover, Starobinsky developed the formalism for stochastic inflation necessary to describe the early stage of inflation, when the scalar spacetime metric perturbations were not small; finally, he derived inflationary models featuring a temporary violation of slow-roll conditions, which leads to local peak formation in the spectrum of initial heterogeneities in matter density in the Universe and subsequent formation of primordial black holes.
Detection of primordial gravitational waves is a problem yet to be solved, since the magnitude of those is significantly smaller than the magnitude of scalar perturbations, in full accordance with the prediction of inflationary models where the spacetime curvature slowly varies during the inflationary stage. The «slow-roll» mathematical method used in this type of models was originally developed by A.A. Starobinsky as well, back in 1978 in the broader context of cosmological models featuring «bouncing» off the singularity, that is, describing a universe that first collapses and only then begins to expand towards an intermediate inflationary stage. Whenever astrophysicists manage to detect these primordial gravitational waves with a scale-invariant spectrum, this is likely to become a decisive argument in favor of the reliability of the inflationary scenario for the early Universe.
In general, A.A. Starobinsky, A.Guth and A.D. Linde are considered the originators of this method, and they were jointly awarded the leading international prize in astrophysics — the Kavli Prize (2014) — «for pioneering the theory of cosmic inflation». However, the inflationary stage was not the absolute beginning of the universe, as something had existed before it. Currently, we simply do not have any reliable observations that would allow us to choose a single one among various theoretical options for the pre-inflationary history of the universe.
As it always happens in the world of science, establishing novel ideas about the distant past of our Universe involved an open and intense scientific struggle with multiple eminent opponents. Still, gradually, the vast majority of them turned into advocates of the inflationary scenario. Originally, as the discussion started during the famous Nuffield Symposium in Cambridge in the summer of 1982, when A.A. Starobinsky, S. Hawking and A. Guth independently obtained quantitatively identical expressions for the power spectrum of scalar perturbations arising in a specific «new» inflation model previously proposed by A.D. Linde earlier in 1982, the ratio of supporters and opponents was approximately equal (in particular, three other symposium participants initially obtained a completely different result for the same value, but by the end of the symposium they acknowledged the correct answer); nonetheless, in 2017, 33 world-famous science luminaries signed a letter to Scientific American in defense of the inflation theory.
However, in addition to works on the early Universe inflation theory, A.A. Starobinsky is known for multiple fundamental achievements in other areas of the theory of gravity and cosmology.
When A.A. Starobinsky was still a student, in 1970 (before he graduated from the Moscow State University in 1972) he was introduced to the famous physicist Yakov Borisovich Zeldovich, Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences; A.A. Starobinsky immediately began to study the cosmological theory of particle birth. This period marked his first fundamental scientific result, that is, calculating the number of particles born and the average value of the quantum field energy-momentum tensor in a homogeneous anisotropic cosmological model, followed by the first widely cited 1971 article on this topic, co-authored by Ya.B. Zeldovich (boasting more than 800 citations, according to Google Scholar). Therefore, A.A. Starobinsky’s research style was formed from merging two distinct styles, those of Zeldovich and the Landau school. The style of the Landau school is more mathematically rigorous, while Zeldovich always proceeded from experiments and observations, being ever eager to explore new experimental and observational results published in scientific journals.
Shortly thereafter, while developing Zeldovich’s hypothesis, in 1973 A.A. Starobinsky proved the existence of the wave over-reflection effect (first regarding scalar waves, then electromagnetic and gravitational ones later in the same year, jointly with S.M. Churilov, his student) when scattered by rotating black holes, and calculated the magnitude of this effect. At the same time, he proved that rotating black holes create particle-antiparticle pairs by reducing their rotational energy. These works anticipated the famous 1974 publication by Stephen Hawking, who then discovered another particle generation effect concerning black holes, which is true in the case of non-rotating black holes as well. A.A. Starobinsky managed to relay his results to Hawking during their private meetings in the summer of 1973 at a conference in Poland, and then in the fall of 1973 during Hawking’s visit to Moscow, which Hawking mentions in his books as well.
Other A.A. Starobinsky’s accomplishments in cosmology include developing the theory of reconstructing the physical properties of dark energy in the modern Universe from observation data and (1998 onwards) implementing this theory in practice using observation data on supernovae and baryon acoustic oscillations in the spatial distribution of galaxies in the modern Universe, as well as deriving consistent field models of dark energy in modified scalar-tensor and f(R) theories of gravity (2007 onwards). Shortly after Starobinsky’s discovery of the temperature anisotropy in the cosmic microwave background radiation at large angular scales, facilitated by the COBE space mission (1992), the same year marked the discovery of said anisotropy at smaller angular scales in ground-based radio telescope RATAN-600 observations by Starobinsky, Yu.N. Pariysky (Acad. RAS) et al.
Research teams from Russia, Italy, France, Japan, India, South Korea, Brazil and other countries collaborate with A.A. Starobinsky. The theoretical models of the history and the present structure of the universe that he is developing form a unity with astronomical observation data and ground experiment results from particle accelerators and comparable facilities.
Expressing the disagreement with the Russian Academy of Sciences undergoing reforms in 2013, Starobinsky and a group of like-minded researchers known as the «July 1st Club» signed the following letter: «Expressing categorical rejection of the draft of the Federal Law «On the Russian Academy of Sciences, the reorganization of state academies of sciences and amendments to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation» 305828-6 as submitted to the State Duma, we declare that we refuse to join a new «RAS» if the law is adopted, since we do not consider it a legitimate and worthy successor and replacement of the existing Russian Academy of Sciences founded by Peter the Great».
In an interview, A.A. Starobinsky once said: «It seems to me that people who have left Russia for more than a year then lose the ability to live here. There exist certain peculiarities when it comes to living in Russia that we are accustomed to, while foreigners are not accustomed to that at all. So those of us who have lived abroad for a long time, with rare exceptions, will lose the ability to live here.»
He trained 4 Professors (including a member of the three National Academies of Sciences of India), as well as 16 PhDs and Doctors and Candidates of Sciences.
Starobinsky is the author of over 300 scientific publications,
the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Russian journals «Astronomy Letters» of the RAS and «Gravitation and Cosmology», member of the editorial boards of the Russian journals «Pis’ma v ZhETF»/»JETP Letters» of the RAS and «Physics of Elementary Particles and Atomic Nuclei (Particles & Nuclei)» of the RAS, member of the editorial boards of international journals, such as «Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics», «European Physical Journal C», «International Journal of Modern Physics D», «Modern Physics Letters A», «Universe» (Advisory Board), SIGMA («Symmetry, Integrability and Geometry: Methods and Application»). He has also been an editorial board member of «Physical Review D», «Classical and Quantum Gravity», and «General Relativity and Gravitation».
He is also a member of the Bureau of the Department of Physical Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, member of the Academic Council of the L.D. Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics RAS , member of the dissertation council D.002.207.01, as well as
President of the Russian Gravitational Association since 2017, Doctor Honoris Causa of Kazan (Volga region) Federal University (2014), Honorary Professor of Bashkir State Pedagogical University (2012), Foreign (now International) Member of the US National Academy of Sciences since 2017, Member of the Leopoldina Academy of Sciences (the National Academy of Sciences of Germany) since 2010, Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters since 2014, Foreign Member of the Indian National Science Academy (New Delhi) since 2017, Foreign Member of the National Academy of Sciences of India (Allahabad) since 2013, Fellow of the American Physical Society (2011), Member of the New York Academy of Sciences.
A.A. Starobinsky was awarded the Medal of the Order «For Merit to the Fatherland» of the 2nd degree (2009), the Medal of the USSR «For Labor Valor» (1986).
He was also awarded the Gold Medal of A.D. Sakharov of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2016), the Medal of A.A. Friedmann of Perm State University (2013), the Commemorative Medal named after V.Ya. Struve (2019), the Commemorative Medal of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation «300 Years of M.V. Lomonosov». He was the winner of the A.A. Friedmann award of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1996), and of the Pleiades Publishing Group Prize (2004).
He was conferred with the most prestigious international awards: the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Ministry of Education and Research of Norway and the Kavli Foundation — the highest astrophysics award in the world (2014, jointly with A. Guth and A.D. Linde); the Dirac Medal (2019, Italy, jointly with V.F. Mukhanov and R.A. Sunyaev), which is considered the most prestigious award in the field of theoretical and mathematical physics; the Gruber International Prize (USA) — the top award in the field of cosmology (2013, jointly with V.F. Mukhanov); the Amaldi Medal from the Italian Society for General Relativity and Gravitation SIGRAV (2012, jointly with V.F. Mukhanov); the Tomalla Foundation International Prize (Switzerland) for outstanding contributions to the general theory of relativity and gravity (2009, jointly with V.F. Mukhanov); the title of Officer of the Ordre des Palmes académiques (2017, France); the Oskar Klein Medal from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences with a proposal to deliver the Oscar Klein Memorial Lecture (2010); the Pomeranchuk Prize from the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics (2021).