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LATVIAN WOMEN IN SCIENCE. Erna Karule, Gita Revalde, Aija Tale, Inta Muzikante*. Institute of Atomic Physics and Spectroscopy, University of Latvia *Institute of Physical Energetics, Latvian Academy of Sciences. The surface area of Latvia is 646 00 km 2 .

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latvian women in science


Erna Karule, Gita Revalde, Aija Tale, Inta Muzikante*

Institute of Atomic Physics and Spectroscopy, University of Latvia

*Institute of Physical Energetics, Latvian Academy of Sciences


The surface area of Latvia is 64600 km2 .

Is is bordered by Estonia to the north (300 km), Russian Federation to the east (300 km), Belarus to the south-east (200 km), and Lithuania to the south (600 km). The length of the BalticSea coastline is 500 km.

The capital of Latvia Riga.

The state language - Latvian

The population is over 2.5 million, about 55% of which are Latvians.


"Financing of science from the states budget was 0.21 % from GDP in 2000 in Latvia. This value is the lowest in comparison with other EU candidate states. We are in the shameful last place in respect to the states support to science. With such amount of support there are no hope to keep the present level in science and to have progress in the future, there are no hope at all."

(From the speech of President of Latvia Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga at the 2nd Congress of Latvian Scientists at 14 august 2001, Riga, Lettonie)







RTD % from GDP


















the first woman - habilited doctor (professor)

in Optics in the Baltic states

E. Kraulina was born in 1920 in Sloka, Latvia. Shortly after Elza's birth her family moved to Riga. In the school time, Elza attended the well known N. Draudzinas gymnasium. In 1939 Elza Kraulina started to study in the University of Latvia, at the Department of Mathematics and Natural sciences. The Second World War interrupted her studies in 1941. After the war Elza Kraulina continued studies parallel to her work as the redactor in the newspaper "Cîòa". Elza graduated from the University of Latvia in 1947. After two years she left good paid position in the newspaper and proceeded the following carrier only with physics. Her PhD studies she carried out at the University of St. Petersburg from 1949 to 1952. The supervisor of the doctor thesis of E. Kraulina was famous physicist S. E. Frish. She investigated the second type collisions in fluorescence of Sodium and Mercury vapour mixture. After graduating the doctor studies, Elza was employed as an assistant in the University of Latvia, on the Department of Physics and Mathematics from 1952-1953, as a senior teacher from 1953-1956, as a docent from 1956-1973. From 1956 to 1959 Elza Kraulina was the Dean of the Department of Physics and Mathematics, from 1958 to 1967 - the Head of the Chair of Experimental Physics. She gave lecture courses in general Physics, Applied Optics, Spectral Analysis and Atomic Spectroscopy. Elza combined the teacher's responsibilities at the Department of Physics with an active scientific work. In that time, only 2 physicists in the Department of Physics had scientific degree, Elza Kraulina and theoretician P. Kunin. Elza was initiator and founder of the Laboratory of Spectroscopy in Riga (now Institute of Atomic Physics and Spectroscopy). From 1967 to 1979 Elza Kraulina was the Head of the Laboratory of Spectroscopy. The beginning of this laboratory was very difficult. States financing was given first only for three scientific staffs, not for equipment. There was also a big lack of qualified researchers. The physics students started to work in the laboratory under the leadership of Elza. After some time, the first contract was concluded with the Optical Institute in St. Petersburg. Thus it gave the possibility to buy the equipment, and the serious scientific work could be started. In fact, Elza was the founder of the experimental spectroscopy in Latvia. Elza Kraulina investigated processes in the metal vapour phase for their use as active medium for lasers.


Experiments were made in mixtures of Hg with Na, Cd, Zn, In, Tl, Cs. Elza defended her thesis of second dissertation in St. Petersburg on 1971. The tittle of the habilitation's work was: "The excitation energy exchange in the sensibilised fluorescence in the metal vapour mixtures". She was the first physicist - woman, who obtained the habilited doctor (USSR doctor) degree at the University of Latvia and in the optics - the first in the Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) . In 1973 Elza Kraulina earned the name of the professor. Elza Kraulina was supervisor of many PhD students. Elza Kraulina has more than 100 publications, she was editor of 15 collections of scientific papers. More than 30 industrial projects were realised under the Elza's leading. Elza was famous and well known in the society of physicists in Latvia and abroad. In 1978 Elza organised the international conference on Atomic Physics in Riga. Since 1958 she was the leader of Scientific Council of Spectroscopy at the Academy of Science in Latvia, and the member of the Scientific Council of Spectroscopy in USSR. Elza was awarded with many honorary diplomas and titles for her work, one of highest was Order of Lenin (the highest order in former USSR). Privately Elza was responsive, responsible, vital, gentle to her colleagues, always helpful in all difficult situations of life.

Some of her publications and books:

1. E. Kraulina, Estimation of the absolute cross-sections in collisions of second type from fluorescence of Na and Hg vapour mixture, Optics and Spectroscopy, V17, 1964, p. 464-466.

2. E. Kraulina, A. Lezdiòð, J. Silinð, Absolute intensities of thallium spectral lines in fluorescence of the Hg and Tl vapour mixture, Optics and Spectroscopy, V19, 1965, p. 154-156.

3. E. Kraulina, M. Arman, A. Lezdin, S. Liepa, O. Sametis, M. Jansons, Excitation processes in low energy atom - atom collisions, In 6 Intern. Conf. of the physics of electronic and atomic collisions, M.I.T. Cambridge, 1969, p. 595-597.

4. E. Krauliòa, S. M. Papernov, M. L. Jansons, He-Ne 632,8 nm radiation induced disintegration of caesium dimer, Chem. Phys. Letters, V63, N3, 1979, p. 533-534.

5. Sensibilised fluorescence of the metal vapour mixture, Editor E. Kraulina, Riga, University of Latvia, V1, 1968, p. 132.

6. Sensibilised fluorescence of the metal vapour mixture, Editor E. Kraulina, Riga, University of Latvia, V4, 1973, p. 161.

7. Electrodeless high-frequency light sources, Editor E. Kraulina, Acta Universitatis Latviensis, V573, Riga, University of Latvia, 1992, p. 126.



IRENA PLAVINA is the well-known physicist of Latvia. She is a specialist in solid state (ionic crystal) physics, in particular, in the fields of optical spectroscopy of ns2 ions, radiation-induced luminescence and defect formation, as well as in photo-stimulated luminescence of doped alkali halides and its applications (radiation storage, recording, imaging, dose measuring). She is the author or co-author of over 75 publications in scientific journals and conference proceedings, holds about 8 patents, over 40 communications to scientific meetings.

IRENA PLAVINA is born February 28, 1928 in Riga (Latvia). She was the first daughter in a teacher’s family. Her parents Elizabete and Kârlis Velmers gave both daughters the highest education.

IRENA graduated from the Department of Physics and Mathematics of the State University of Latvia (UL) in 1952. The subject of her undergraduate degree was ’’Effect of electrolysis on the optical properties of ionic crystals.’’ Dr. L. Jansons introduced her in the ionic crystal physics. After studies the years of the obligatory work PLAVINA spent in Frjazino, a small city near Moscow. She studied in the Moscow University and graduated it as the Candidate of Sciences which is equivalent to PhD. Her thesis was ’’On kinetics of photo- and g-luminescence of some activated alkali halides’’, advisor M.D. Galanin).

In 1958 PhD I.PLAVINA started to work in the Institute of Physics (IP) of the Latvian (former Latvian SSR) Academy of Sciences (LAS). She initiated the formation of a group of physicists to study the luminescence of doped alkali halides. In 1959 in this group were four women physicists I.PLAVINA, M.Trinklere, B.Zunde (Bçrziòa), and A.Everte (Tâle), among them were two recently graduated, and one undergraduate student. The group was growing and on its base emerged the research Laboratory of Spectroscopy of Ionic Crystals (LSIC). I.PLAVINA became the Head of it. The very fruitful collaboration lasted for more than 30 years (1968-1991).

I.PLAVINA has been advisor to 2 undergraduate and 7 graduate students. In 1976 defending the thesis ’’Fast luminescence processes in the activated alkali halides,’’ I. PLAVINA got her highest degree: Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, and afterwards scientific title of Professor in solid state physics. In 1992 in independent Latvia after nostrification she obtained the degree of Dr. habil. Phys.


Under PLAVINA’s leadership the LSIC changed into a large research laboratory with modern equipment for time-resolved spectral measurements over a wide temperature range (LHeT, LNT, RT and higher temperatures; correspondingly cryostats and furnaces; UV, visible and IS-light, electron beam, X-ray and other pulsed or continuous radiation sources, He-Ne and excimer lasers, optical prism and grating monochromators, PMT with complex electronics, oscillographs, XY recorders etc.), and for preparation of different samples (monocrystal growth by the Stocbarger and Kyropulos techniques, crystal surface polishing, thin layer evaporation and powder making).

The fundamental studies were combined with highly promising applications in UV information recording and imaging. The research in this direction was largely supported by contracts with the institutions in the former USSR, in Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). In period 1987-1992 two devices for UV and X-ray energy recording were designed and developed. They were image plates based on KBr:In/PMT and using photostimulated luminescence (PSL).

For many years I.PLAVINA served as the member of Scientific Council and at the Dissertation Committee in the IP. In 1988 she was presented the honorary title of scientist of Latvia.

In 1992 due to reduction in science funding there were all-round staff reduction in scientific institutions, retired all the oldest researchers and all technical staff. In lab. remained only 4 scientists. In 1992 IRENA PLAVINA retired, partly due to illness. Head of the LSIC became B. Bçrziòa. Along with other 4 solid state laboratories, the LSIC was moved from IP of the LAS to the ISSP of the LU.

I PLAVINA has arranged an experimental set-up at home, in her solely one room, and is continuing her research. In 1994, 3 from 4 reports she with co-authors submitted to the conference (on Radiation Protection and Dosimetry) in USA (Orlando, Florida) were included as oral contributions.

In 1997 I. PLAVINA was awarded by the title of Scientist Emeritus. Since then she continues to guide and take part in the projects without any other payment. She is very active senior researcher at the ISSP up to now.

During all her scientist career she had contacts with many local and foreign colleagues. She has joint papers with Latvian, Russian, Estonian, Ukrainian, and Polish physicists. Her ideas stimulated many experiments of Latvian, Estonian and German scientists.Irena PLAVINA has two children and four grand-children.