The World of Andrei Sakharov: A Russian Physicist's Path to Freedom

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How did Andrei Sakharov, a theoretical physicist and the acknowledged father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, become a human rights activist and the first Russian to win the Nobel Peace Prize? In his later years, Sakharov noted in his diary that he was "simply a man with an unusual fate." To understand this deceptively straightforward statement by an extraordinary man, The World of Andrei Sakharov, the first authoritative study of Andrei Sakharov as a scientist as well as a public figure, relies on previously inaccessible documents, recently declassified archives, and personal accounts by Sakharov's friends and colleagues to examine the real context of Sakharov's life.

In the course of doing so, Gennady Gorelik answers a fascinating question, whether the Soviet hydrogen bomb was really fathered by Sakharov, or whether it was based on stolen American secrets. Gorelik concludes that while espionage did initiate the Soviet effort, the Russian hydrogen bomb was invented independently. Gorelik also elucidates the reasons that brought about the seemingly sudden transformation of the top-secret physicist into a public figure in 1968, when Sakharov's famous essay "Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom" was distributed in samizdat in the USSR and smuggled out to the West. Recently declassified documents show that Sakharov's metamorphosis was caused by professional concerns, particularly regarding the development of an anti-ballistic missile defense. An insider's view of how the upper echelons of the Soviet regime functioned had led Sakharov to the conclusion that the goals of peace, progress, and human rights were inextricably linked. His free thinking and free feeling were manifested in his hope that scientific thought and religious perception would find a profound synthesis in the future.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With its wider perspectives on the institutions and realities of Sakharov's age, this book should take a rightful place...among front displays of books about science, public policy and society...Through the example of the Soviet Union and its dissident hero Andrei Sakharov, Gorelik and Bouis have made an invaluable contribution to the universal conversation about morality and science."—The Moscow Times
Foreign Affairs
Although not as fetchingly written or as swift as Richard Lourie's superb 2002 biography of the dissident Russian physicist, Gorelik's book provides what is contextually a far richer account of Sakharov's career and the remarkable political transformation he underwent in the 1960s. Gorelik, a Russian historian of science and a trained physicist, does much more than just explain with great clarity the scale, nature, and trajectory of Sakharov's applied and theoretical breakthroughs. He weaves Sakharov's story into the complex politics swirling around physics (and the less fortunate discipline of biology) from the 1930s to the 1950s. His time in the archives, including with KGB files on key physicists arrested in the 1930s, and his interviews with Sakharov's circle of old associates and newer political allies allowed him to draw striking and subtle associations. Gorelik wrote the book in Russian and then turned it over to Antonina Bouis, whose personal acquaintance and work with Sakharov doubtless contributed to the sensitive translation she renders.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195156201
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/14/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Boston University

Andrei Sakharov Foundation

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Table of Contents

Part I: From Tsarist Russia to the Tsardom of Soviet Physics
1. The Emergence of Soviet Physics and the Birth of FIAN
2. Leonid Mandelshtam: The Teacher and His School
3. The Year 1937
Part II: Intra-Atomic, Nuclear, and Thermonuclear
4. The Moral Underpinnings of the Soviet Atomic Project
5. Andrei Sakharov, Tamm's Graduate Student
6. Sergei Vavilov: The President of the Academy of Science
7. Nuclear Physics under Beria's Command
8. Russian Physics at the height of Cosmopolitanism
9. The Hydrogen Bomb at FIAN
Part III: In The Nuclear Archipelago
10. The Installation
11. The "Heroic" Work at the Installation
12. Theoretical Physicists in Soviet Practice
13. The Physics of Social Responsibility
14. From Military Physics to Peaceful Cosmology
15. World Peace and World Science
16. Reflections on Intellectual Freedom in 1968
Part IV: A humanitarian Physicist
17. Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn: The Physics and Geometry of Russian History
18. On the Other Side
19. Andrei and Lusya
20. Freedom and responsibility

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