Paul Tamarkin, 55, a research scientist in the Rosslyn offices of the Riverside Research Institute, died of cancer Monday at his home in Arlington.

Born in Leningrad, Russia, he came to this country with his family in 1925. He received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Brown University in 1942.

Dr. Tarmarkin then served as an officer in the Navy and later as a civilian employee at the David Taylor Model Basin from 1944 to 1947.

He returned to Brown University where he recived a doctorated in physics two years later.

After teaching at Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Tamarkin joined the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1956 as a physicist and group leader. He became deputy manager of the national security research division, associate head of the physical sciences department and program director of marine technology.

In 1965, he became director of the advanced sensors office and deputy director of the advanced research projects agency of the Department of Defense here.

He returned to the Rand Corp. in 1967 as assistant to the vice president. He joined Riverside here in 1974.

Dr. Tamarkin had been a member of the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel and also of panels of the National Wiretap Commision, the Defense Science Board and the scientific advisory committee of the Defense Special Projects Group.

He worked with other Defense Department groups on nuclear test detection, advanced ABM systems and later applications.

The author of coauthor of many papers for scientific journals, He had contributed to the American Institute of Physics Handbook as a member of the organisation.

Dr. Tamarkin also belonged to the American Geophysical Union, the Amercian Physical Society, the Amercian Chemical Society and the Washington Philosophical Society.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia, and a son, Jan, both of the home and two daughters, Nina, of Santa Monica, and Carol Myers of Phonenix, Ariz.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the National Zoological Park.