An Argentina physicist who was jailed without charge for seven months said yesterday that large numbers of other Argentine scientists have been jailed or lost their jobs.

Maximo Victoria, 34, a physicist and former division head at Argentina's Atomic Energy Commission, said that 159 of the 1,000 scientists and technicians at the commission have lost their jobs and left the country since March 1976, when the military took power in a coup.

Shortly after that, Victoria and nine of his colleagues were arrested and taken to a navy ship. Later, Victoria said, he was held in two prisons where conditions were "disastrous."

Victoria was brought to Washington by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and three other scientific groups to describe his experiences to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

The physicist who specializes in metallurgy now does research at the Belgian Institute of Welding in Gent.

Victoria said at a news conference that large numbers of psychologists and psychiatrists have lost their jobs, and at least nine have been arrested.

He said there have also been dismissals at a physics institute in Cordoba and at the National Institute of Geophysical Studies, where he said 62 of a staff of 100 were fired.

Victoria said the Argentina Physical Association has charged that 20 per cent of its members have lost their jobs.

The physicist told the human-rights group that he and other prisoners were often beaten and generally mistreated.

"The most harsh methods of torture were not used on me," he said, but added: "I can testify to the results of torture on prisoners who survived."

At one jail, he said, two fellow prisoners were "psychologically distrubed as a result of torture" and another "had lost the use of one arm because of electrical shocks."

Victoria said the only political activity he had been involved in was an effort in 1973 to stimulate public discussion of plans for a nuclear power plant.