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Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker


Abram Ioffe

Ioffe was born into a middle-class Jewish family in the Ukraine in 1880. He graduated from the St. Petersburg Technological Institute in 1902 and continued his studies in physics in Munich, Germany. There he worked for Roentgen, the famous discoverer of X-rays. Although he returned to Russia in 1905 after receiving his doctorate, he made frequent trips back to Munich to work in Roentgen's laboratories.

In Russia, Ioffe had a difficult time because he opposed the Tsar and because of his Jewish heritage. He converted to Lutheranism to marry his first wife, but he was always suspected as a "Cosmopolitan," a Soviet euphemism for a Jew.

Ioffe was a leading force in advancing physics in Russia, and was responsible for building research laboratories for radioactivity and nuclear physics. He saw great promise in the young Kurchatov, and placed him in charge of the Physicotechnical Institute's first nuclear laboratory.

Kaftonov offered Ioffe the job of directing the Soviet project to build the bomb, but Ioffe refused. Instead, he recommended two other candidates, including Kurchatov.



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