Buried Glory: Portraits of Soviet Scientists

Overview


Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery is the final resting place of some of Russia's most celebrated figures, from Khrushchev and Yeltsin to Anton Chekhov, Sergei Eisenstein, Nikolai Gogol, and Mikhail Bulgakov. Using this famed cemetery as symbolic starting point, Buried Glory profiles a dozen eminent Soviet scientists-nine of whom are buried at Novodevichy-men who illustrate both the glorious heights of Soviet research as well as the eclipse of science since the collapse of the USSR....
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Buried Glory: Portraits of Soviet Scientists

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Overview


Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery is the final resting place of some of Russia's most celebrated figures, from Khrushchev and Yeltsin to Anton Chekhov, Sergei Eisenstein, Nikolai Gogol, and Mikhail Bulgakov. Using this famed cemetery as symbolic starting point, Buried Glory profiles a dozen eminent Soviet scientists-nine of whom are buried at Novodevichy-men who illustrate both the glorious heights of Soviet research as well as the eclipse of science since the collapse of the USSR.

Drawing on extensive archival research and his own personal memories, renowned chemist Istvan Hargittai bring these figures back to life, placing their remarkable scientific achievements against the tense political backdrop of the Cold War. Among the eminent scientists profiled here are Petr L. Kapitza, one of the most brilliant representatives of the great generation of Soviet physicists, a Nobel-Prize winner who risked his career-and his life-standing up for fellow scientists against Stalin. Yulii B. Khariton, who ran the highly secretive Soviet nuclear weapons laboratory, Arzamas-16, despite being Jewish and despite the fact that his father Boris had been sent to the labor camps. And Andrei D. Sakharov, the "father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb" and a brilliant fighter for human rights, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Along the way, Hargittai shines a light on the harrowing conditions under which these brilliant researchers excelled. Indeed, in the post-war period, Stalin's anti-Semitism and ongoing anti-science measures devastated biology, damaged chemistry, and nearly destroyed physics. The latter was saved only because Stalin realized that without physics and physicists there could be no nuclear weapons.

The extraordinary scientific talent nurtured by the Soviet regime belongs almost entirely to the past. Buried Glory is both a fitting tribute to these great scientists and a fascinating account of scientific work behind the Iron Curtain.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/02/2013
Fermi, Feynman, Heisenberg, and Oppenheimer are household names, while Sakharov may ring a bell because of his human rights campaign—but who has heard of Tamm, Zeldovich, Semenov, or Landau? Nobel winners all, their discoveries place them among the world scientific elite, but they worked behind the Iron Curtain, so few except their scientific colleagues know of them or their accomplishments. Hargittai (Judging Edward Teller), professor at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences at Eotvos University, delivers biographies of 14 brilliant researchers who had the misfortune to work under the likes of Stalin and Khrushchev. All are chemists or physicists, because Stalin’s fascination with the charlatan geneticist Lysenko destroyed Soviet biology (literally: many biologists who did not fall in line with his theories were shot). These are competent, fact-filled accounts of education, careers, honors, and discoveries, mixed with often-harrowing descriptions of how each scientist either prospered or rebelled in the strange Orwellian world of the U.S.S.R. Ironically, these figures represent the golden age of Russian science, which vanished with the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

"[This] mosaic of a book conveys well the triumphs, tensions, and twists of fortune in this rarified corner of Soviet life." --Foreign Affairs

"These are competent, fact-filled accounts of education, careers, honors, and discoveries, mixed with often-harrowing descriptions of how each scientist either prospered or rebelled in the strange Orwellian world of the U.S.S.R." --Publishers Weekly

"In Buried Glory, Istvan Hargittai brings to life 14 outstanding Soviet scientists, and reveals the deadly bureaucracy and terror of the Soviet regime, with imprisonment, murder of family members, and threats being an innate element in their careers. A must-read for anyone with curiosity about our current world, and the one that might have been." --Richard Garwin, recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Enrico Fermi Award

"This amazing book is a warm, informed, intimate portrait of what it was like to be a scientist in the Soviet Union, written by an insider who knew many of the subjects. Masterfully written, with unforgettable characters and intricate plot, this book delivers all the pleasures of a Russian novel -- except that this tale is true, and had a lasting impact on the modern world." --Robert P. Crease, Chairman of the Department of Philosophy, Stony Brook University

"An honest, detailed, and breathtaking account of the deeds, ideas and fates of outstanding scientists of the former Soviet Union. I wholeheartedly recommend it to a broad readership interested in the history of human accomplishment." --Boris Ya. Zeldovich, Member of the USSR (now Russian) Academy of Sciences and Professor of Optics and Physics, University of Central Florida

"This book introduces a unique constellation of brilliant Soviet scientists, and they are described well. The heroes chosen by Istvan Hargittai were exceptional, and their appreciation was high during the cruel and autocratic Soviet period." --Alexey Semenov, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Moscow

"The biographical essays of Buried Glory provide sympathetic but not uncritical portraits of a group of leading Soviet scientists. All of them are interesting figures, as scientists and as human beings. Hargittai, who studied chemistry in the Soviet Union, conveys vividly the science they performed and the conditions under which they worked. Buried Glory throws light on a neglected but extremely important aspect of twentieth-century history. It offers a fascinating insight into science and scientific life in the Soviet Union." --David Holloway, Department of Political Science, Stanford University

"Istvan Hargittai's book about the stellar hours of Soviet science is absolutely cogent and authoritative. Thanks to this work, the broader world will be properly informed about the greatness of Soviet science behind the Iron Curtain, about its leaders, their motivations and aspirations, and their achievements in a totalitarian state." --Boris S. Gorobets, Professor of Mathematics and Professor of Mineralogy, Moscow

Featured in Physics Today.

Featured in The Russian Review

From the Publisher

"These are competent, fact-filled accounts of education, careers, honors, and discoveries, mixed with often-harrowing descriptions of how each scientist either prospered or rebelled in the strange Orwellian world of the U.S.S.R." --Publishers Weekly

"In Buried Glory, Istvan Hargittai brings to life 14 outstanding Soviet scientists, and reveals the deadly bureaucracy and terror of the Soviet regime, with imprisonment, murder of family members, and threats being an innate element in their careers. A must-read for anyone with curiosity about our current world, and the one that might have been." --Richard Garwin, recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Enrico Fermi Award

"This amazing book is a warm, informed, intimate portrait of what it was like to be a scientist in the Soviet Union, written by an insider who knew many of the subjects. Masterfully written, with unforgettable characters and intricate plot, this book delivers all the pleasures of a Russian novel -- except that this tale is true, and had a lasting impact on the modern world." --Robert P. Crease, Chairman of the Department of Philosophy, Stony Brook University

"An honest, detailed, and breathtaking account of the deeds, ideas and fates of outstanding scientists of the former Soviet Union. I wholeheartedly recommend it to a broad readership interested in the history of human accomplishment." --Boris Ya. Zeldovich, Member of the USSR (now Russian) Academy of Sciences and Professor of Optics and Physics, University of Central Florida

"This book introduces a unique constellation of brilliant Soviet scientists, and they are described well. The heroes chosen by Istvan Hargittai were exceptional, and their appreciation was high during the cruel and autocratic Soviet period." --Alexey Semenov, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Moscow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199985593
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/22/2013
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,449,210
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Istvan Hargittai is a University Professor at the Institute of General and Analytical Chemistry, Budapest Technical University. He is also a Research Professor and Head of Department at the Structural Chemistry Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences at Eötvös University, and is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Academia Europaea (London).

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction

Part I Nuclear Physicists
Chapter 1 Igor Tamm: Exemplary Consistency
Chapter 2 Yakov Zeldovich: Soviet Prometheus
Chapter 3 Andrei Sakharov: Soviet Conscience

Part II Low-temperature Physicists
Chapter 4 Petr Kapitza: Respected Centaur
Chapter 5 Lev Landau: Genius & Evgenii Lifshits: More than Landau's Pen
Chapter 6 Vitaly Ginzburg: Amateur Astronomer
Chapter 7 Alexei Abrikosov: "Unmanageable"

Part III Chemists and Chemical Physicists
Chapter 8 Nikolai Semenov: Mr. Chain Reaction
Chapter 9 Yulii Khariton: Director of "Los Arzamas"
Chapter 10 Boris Belousov & Anatol Zhabotinsky: "Impossible" Reaction
Chapter 11 Aleksandr Kitaigorodskii: Soviet Maverick
Chapter 12 Aleksandr Nesmeyanov: Brilliant Administrator and Soviet Courtier

Epilogue

Notes
Biographical Names
Some Notable Dates
Select Bibliography
Index

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