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Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker

 

Andrei Sakharov

Sakharov was one of the younger generation of scientists to work on the Soviet bomb project. He was born in 1921, four years after the October Revolution.

He was a good student, but had difficulty relating to his fellow students. After passing his final exams with distinction, he entered Moscow University to study physics.

Andrei SakharovDuring the Second World War, Sakharov worked as an engineer at a munitions factory until 1945. After the war, he was accepted to study for his doctorate in physics at the Academy of Sciences. Igor Tamm became his mentor and became a major influence on Sakharov's studies and personal views.

Sakharov refused a few invitations to join the atomic bomb project, but accepted a invitation from Tamm to work on checking the equations used to design the hydrogen bomb. During his work, Sakharov came up with his own design, which was eventually used to build Russia's first thermonuclear bomb.

Sakharov also worked on peaceful uses of nuclear power, including finding a way to harness fusion to generate power. One of his designs, the Tokamak, is still considered one of the leading possibilities for a workable fusion reactor.

While working for Kurchatov, Sakharov started writing about the great dangers of nuclear war and testing these new weapons. He called for a universal ban on all tests. He was eventually removed from top secret work, but continued to protest nuclear weapons.

His protests expanded beyond nuclear weapons as he fought against abuses of human rights. To recognize his personal struggle, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, but wasn't allowed to attend the ceremonies in Norway.

In 1979, Sakharov strongly protested the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. For his protests, he was exiled to the Russian city of Gorky. He lived there, hidden from the rest of the world, until 1986, when he and his wife were allowed to return to Moscow.

He continued to call for democratic changes and human rights until his death in December 1989, only months before the Communist party relinquished its monopoly on elections.

 

 

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