Biography by Ivanova N.L.


In the 60s of the last century, carrying out unique observations with the Byurakan 1m Schmidt telescope, the astrophysicist Beniamin Egishevich Markarian revealed interesting objects with an excessive radiation at the ultraviolet range and made up their lists.

Just the first high-dispersion spectra obtained in the United States showed the presence of bright lines and called an overall interest of scientists, which was increased especially when it was proved that a considerable number of galaxies discovered by Markarian appeared to be Seyfert galaxies. And then, by means of the largest telescopes, aspiring to study in details the nature of the discovered objects, scientists of different countries involved in investigations of the “Markarian galaxies”.

The Life and Scientific Activity

Beniamin Egishevich Markarian was born in 1913 in Shulaver (at present Shahumian) of the Marneuli region of Georgia. Already in his school years he was interested in astronomy, read many scientific-popular books.

Losing his parents early, without any assistance in hungry 30s, the young man came to Yerevan and entered the Physical-Mathematical Department of the Yerevan State University and graduated from it in 1938 with a diploma of excellency. From 1938 to 1941 he worked at the Yerevan Correspondence Institute as a senior lecturer of High Mathematics.

In 1939 B.E. Markarian entered the post-graduate study at the Armenian branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences, «speciality astrophysics» and went to the Leningrad University. However, the war prevented him to finish the graduate courses. Markarian returned to Armenia and was called to the Army in summer of 1941, held a service in Iran with the Soviet Army.

After returning from the Army, Markarian worked as a senior research associate at the Yerevan Astronomical Observatory.

In May 1944 Beniamin Egishevich defended successfully his candidate thesis on a subject “Fluctuations in the visible distribution of stars and the cosmic absorption”.

From 1943 to 1956 he worked also in combination as a lecturer at the Yerevan State University.

Later, Markarian took part very actively in search of a site, and later on also in organisation of the Byurakan Observatory. He personally mounted and functioned all telescopes of the Observatory (beside the latest 2.6m), thus making base for development of the observational astronomy in Armenia.

In May 1953, Markarian was appointed the acting director of the Observatory and the colleagues remember him as a strict, requiring but simultaneously fair chief.

However, understanding that the science requires the entire time of the scientist, he left the honorary post in 1956 by his own wish, and was appointed at the position of the Head of, firstly the Department of the Stellar, and later Extragalactic Astronomy.

In 40s, the academician Ambartsumian put forward an interesting idea on continuing of the group birth of the stars at present time and on dynamical instability of stellar systems “associations”. Markarian took very active part in study of stellar associations, and the merit of revealing of the role of stellar clusters in associations belonged to the young scientist. On the basis of an analysis of a large observational material Markarian showed that it was possible to separate a class of O-clusters having a great significance in understanding of the initial stages of the stellar evolution. He worked out a new classification of stellar clusters allowing distinguish among them objects of different ages and made up the first systematic catalog of O-associations with mentioning of stellar clusters in them.

For important results on study of stellar associations in 1950 V.A.Ambartsumian and B.E.Markarian were awarded the USSR State Prize of the first degree.

In just the first years of the existence of the Byurakan Observatory, obtaining photos of a significant number of stars of open clusters with a small telescope, Markarian made up an “Atlas of stellar clusters”, which was used widely by astronomers of many observatories.

After the construction of a new telescope of the Schmidt system with a 1m mirror for the Byurakan Observatory by the Leningrad Optical Mechanical Works (LOMO), one of the most efficient telescopes of this type, Markarian together with colleagues from LOMO was engaged in its mounting. It was an intense work requiring many forces during day and night and the large experience acquired by Markarian during mounting of all previous telescopes here became necessary.

These works were successfully finished soon and now the question appeared: what interesting astrophysical tasks this unique telescope must be used for.

Already before the mounting of the new telescope Markarian was engaged in study of bright galaxies, where he noticed strange non-correspondence of the colors with the morphological types: these were galaxies with an excessive ultraviolet radiation. And the idea of discovery, catalogization and detailed study of fainter galaxies of this type already grew in the scientist’s head. For solving this task, a prism with a very low dispersion was needed additionally to the telescope. Markarian ordered such prism in LOMO, and receiving and mounting it on the telescope, he started the observations. Here we have to mention that according to the estimations of many authority scientists, he was a brilliant observer, and the special methods worked out by him allowed to solve the task of revealing these unusual galaxies.

The galaxies discovered by Markarian appeared to be so interesting objects that the observational time of the world largest telescopes during a long period of time was allocated for their detailed investigation. Searching galaxies with UV-excess, Markarian and his colleagues observed the entire Northern sky, and as a result of this work, the First Byurakan Spectral Survey of the Northern Sky was obtained.

It was found that among the objects having abnormal excess of UV radiation discovered during the fulfilment of the survey, there appear objects with various evidence of activity – quasi-stellar objects, Seyfert galaxies, lacertides, sources of radio, infrared and X-ray radiation.

In the last years of his life, Markarian together with his colleagues started the Second Byurakan Spectral Sky Survey for revealing and studies of fainter distant extragalactic peculiar objects.

Markarian’s investigations brought a wide fame to him and scientific authority among the specialists as in the Soviet Union, so as abroad. The results of most of his works entered the textbooks on stellar astronomy and astrophysics.

B.E. Markarian had more than 100 publications. For outstanding achievements in science in 1965 he was elected as a Corresponding member of the Armenian Academy of Sciences, and in 1971, its Full member.

In 1973-1976 Markarian was the Vice-President, and in 1976-1979, the President of the IAU Commission No. 28 on extragalactic astronomy.

In 1950 Markarian was awarded the USSR State Prize, and in 1961, the title of Deserved Figure of science of Armenia.

For achievements in the development of the Soviet science he was awarded the order of “People’s Friendship” and “Sign of Honour”, as well as medals “For Labour in the Great Motherland War”, “Veteran of Labour”, honorary letters of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR, honorary letter of the Armenian Supreme Soviet.

Till the end of his life, in spite of his bad health, Markarian worked actively, continuing to do the main job of his scientific activity, survey works on extragalactic astronomy.

Beniamin Egishevich was an honest, modest and kind person, but simultaneously strict and requiring: always spoke strictly against the unconscientiousness in science, lie, and demonstrations.

Being a true scientist, giving all his time to science, he always tried to skip a dialogue with the journalists, didn’t like to be photographed for press, didn’t allow to make noise around his name.

Senior researcher, Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory (BAO), Armenia