Vladimir A. Fock (1898-1974), one of the most celebrated theoretical physicists of the XX-th century and the founder of theoretical physics in our University, was born in St. Petersburg. He graduated from the University in 1922, which was the time of revolution in physics - the time of creation of a new science called "quantum mechanics".
The mathematical school and mathematical traditions of St. Petersburg University were represented by such famous names as Chebyshev, Steklov, Lyapunov, Tamarkin. Outstanding intellectual faculties of V. Fock, brilliant teachers and fundamental education resulted in the fact that he became one of the creators of the new quantum theory together with its principal founders N. Bohr, A. Einstein, W. Heisenberg, P.A.M. Dirac, and E. Schroedinger. After a few years in Gottingen (Germany), where he worked with M. Born, Vladimir A. Fock returned home and in 1932 became the head of a newly organized quantum mechanics division. Before this date theoretical physics in the University was represented by A.A. Fridman, G.A. Krutkov, V.R. Bursian, V.K. Friederix, and others. Among the graduates of those years one should mention such
outstanding theorists as L.D. Landau, G.A. Gamov, and M.P. Bronshtein.
In the early 1930's V. Fock had three pupils - three graduate students who later became members of the staff. They were: M.I. Petrashen who has fulfilled the pioneer self-consistent field calculations for atoms; M.G. Veselov and P.P. Pavinsky, afterwards well-known authorities in quantum theory of atoms and molecules. During the Second World War people were evacuated to Elabuga (near Kazan) where they have been working out different scientific problems, connected with the needs of the war. After raising the blockade everybody has returned to Leningrad, and in 1944 the studies in the University have resumed.
In the early 1950's the staff of the (united to that time) theoretical department consisted of eight persons: V. Fock, L. Sturman (the technical secretary), M.G. Veselov, P.P. Pavinsky, Yu.V. Novozhilov (now the head of the theoretical department), Yu.N. Demkov, G.F. Drukarev, and V.G. Nevzglyadov. A few years later some reorganization took place which resulted in appearance of two theoretical divisions , the quantum mechanics division headed by M.G. Veselov and the quantum field theory and elementary particles division (at present "high energy physics division") headed by Yu.V. Novozhilov. Vladimir. A. Fock became the head of the joint theoretical department. Within it the division of statistical physics was organized afterwards with F.M. Kuni at the head.
After Fock's death in 1974 the department of theoretical physics was headed by M.G. Veselov. His research in the field of quantum theory of atoms and molecules has favoured greatly the development of quantum chemistry in our University. From 1974 till 1991 the position of the head of the quantum mechanics division was held by Yu.N. Demkov, one of the founders of atomic collision theory at our University; from 1991 till 1997- by I.V. Abarenkov, one of the founders of quantum theory of solids; and in the years 1997 - 2002 by L.N. Labzowsky, who has founded relativistic theory of atoms. Next came V.N. Ostrovsky, a well-known authority in atomic and molecular physics. After his premature death in 2006 the head of the department became V.M. Shabaev.