Dr. Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (Russian: Андре́й Дми́триевич Са́харов) (May 21, 1921 – December 14, 1989) was an eminent Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. Sakharov was an advocate of civil liberties and reforms in the Soviet Union.
Life and career
Sakharov was born in Moscow in 1921. His father was Dmitri Ivanovich Sakharov, a private school physics teacher and an amateur pianist. Dmitri's grandfather Ivan had been a prominent lawyer in Tsarist Russia who had displayed respect for social awareness and humanist principles (including advocating the abolition of capital punishment) that would later influence his grandson. Sakharov's mother was Ekaterina Alekseyevna Sakharova (née Sofiano and of Greek ancestry). His parents and his paternal grandmother, Maria Petrovna, largely shaped Sakharov's personality. Although his paternal great-grandfather had been a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, and his pious mother did have him baptised, his father was an atheist and religion did not play an important role in his life, though he did believe that a non-scientific "guiding principle" governed the universe and human life.
Sakharov entered Moscow State University in 1938. Following evacuation
in 1941 during the Great Patriotic War, he graduated in Aşgabat, in
today's Turkmenistan. He was then assigned laboratory work in
Ulyanovsk. During this period, in 1943, he married Klavdia Alekseyevna
Vikhireva, with whom he raised two daughters and a son before she died
in 1969. He returned to Moscow in 1945 to study at the Theoretical
Department of FIAN (the Physical Institute of the Soviet Academy of
Sciences). He received his Ph.D. in 1947.
On World War II's end, Sakharov researched cosmic rays. In mid-1948 he participated in the Soviet atomic bomb project under Igor Kurchatov. The first Soviet atomic device was tested on August 29, 1949. After moving to Sarov in 1950, Sakharov played a key role in the next stage, the development of the hydrogen bomb. The first Soviet fusion device was tested on August 12, 1953, using what was called the Sloika design. In 1953, he received his D.Sc. degree, was elected a full member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the first of his three Hero of Socialist Labor titles. Sakharov continued to work at Sarov, playing a key role in the development of the first megaton-range Soviet hydrogen bomb using a design known as "Sakharov's Third Idea" in Russia and the Teller-Ulam design in the United States. It was first tested as RDS-37 in 1955. A larger variation of the same design which Sakharov worked on was the 50MT Tsar Bomba of October 1961, which was the most powerful device ever exploded.
He also proposed an idea for a controlled nuclear fusion reactor, the tokamak, which is still the basis for the majority of work in the area. Sakharov, in association with Igor Tamm, proposed confining extremely hot ionized plasma by torus shaped magnetic fields for controlling thermonuclear fusion that led to the development of the tokamak device.
Sakharov proposed the idea of induced gravity as an alternative theory of quantum gravity.
Turn to activism
From the late-1950s Sakharov had become concerned about the moral and political implications of his work. Politically active during the 1960s, Sakharov was against nuclear proliferation. Pushing for the end of atmospheric tests, he played a role in the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, signed in Moscow. In 1965 he returned to fundamental science and began working on cosmology but continued to oppose political discrimination.
The major turn in Sakharov’s political evolution started in 1967, when anti-ballistic missile defense became a key issue in US–Soviet relations. In a secret detailed letter to the Soviet leadership of July 21, 1967, Sakharov explains the need to "take the Americans at their word" and accept their proposal "for a bilateral rejection by the USA and the Soviet Union of the development of antiballistic missile defense", because otherwise an arms race in this new technology would increase the likelihood of nuclear war. He also asked permission to publish his manuscript (which accompanied the letter) in a newspaper to explain the dangers posed by this kind of defense. The government ignored his letter and refused to let him initiate a public discussion of ABM in the Soviet press.
In May 1968 he completed an essay, Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom, where the anti-ballistic missile defense is featured as a major threat of world nuclear war. After this essay was circulated in samizdat and then published outside the Soviet Union, Sakharov was banned from all military-related research and Sakharov returned to FIAN to study fundamental theoretical physics. In 1970 he, along with Valery Chalidze and Andrei Tverdokhlebov, was one of the founders of the Moscow Human Rights Committee and came under increasing pressure from the regime. He married a fellow human rights activist, Yelena Bonner, in 1972.
In 1973 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1974 was
awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca. He was awarded the Nobel prize
in 1975, although he was not allowed to leave the Soviet Union to
collect it. His wife read his speech at the acceptance ceremony.
Sakharov's ideas on social development led him to put forward the principle of human rights as a new basis of all politics. In his works he declared that "the principle 'what is not prohibited is allowed' should be understood literally", denying the importance and validity of all moral or cultural norms not codified in the laws. He was arrested on January 22, 1980, following his public protests against the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and was sent to internal exile in the city of Gorky, now Nizhny Novgorod, a closed city that was inaccessible to foreign observers.
Between 1980 to 1986, Sakharov was kept under tight Soviet police surveillance. In his memoirs he mentions that their apartment in Gorky was repeatedly subjected to searches and heists. He remained isolated but unrepentant until December 1986 when he was allowed to return to Moscow as Mikhail Gorbachev initiated the policies of perestroika and glasnost.
In 1988 Sakharov was given the International Humanist Award by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
He helped to initiate the first independent legal political organizations and became prominent in the Soviet Union's growing political opposition. In March 1989, Sakharov was elected to the new parliament, the All-Union Congress of People's Deputies and co-led the democratic opposition.
Soon after 9:00 pm on December 14, 1989, Sakharov went to his study to take a nap before preparing an important speech he was to deliver the next day in the Congress. His wife went to wake him at 11:00 pm as he had requested but she found Sakharov dead on the floor. A sudden heart attack had taken his life at the age of 68. He was interred in the Vostryakovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.
The Sakharov Prize, established in 1988 and awarded annually by the European Parliament for people and organizations dedicated to human rights and freedoms, was named in his honor.
An Andrei Sakharov prize is also to be awarded by the American Physical Society every second year from 2006, "to recognize outstanding leadership and/or achievements of scientists in upholding human rights".
Andrei Sakharov Archives
The Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center, established at Brandeis University in 1993, are now housed at Harvard University. The documents from that archive were published by the Yale University Press in 2005. These documents are available online in English and in Russian. Most of documents of the archive are letters from the head of the KGB to the Central Committee about activity of dissidents and recommendations about the interpretation in newspapers. The letters cover the period from 1968 to 1991 (Brezhnev stagnation). The documents characterize not only the Sacharov's activity, but that of other dissidents, as well as that of highest-position communists, and the KGB. No Russian equivalent of the KGB archive is available.
Sakharov and the "Sakharov Drive" were mentioned in Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2010: Odyssey Two. The drive is not described in detail and the principles on which it is based (presumably imagined by Sakharov) are not given.
Sakharov is mentioned briefly in Kurt Vonnegut's Timequake.
One of the Enterprise-D shuttlecraft in Star Trek: The Next Generation is named for him.
During the 1980s, the block of 16th Street NW between L and M streets in front of the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. was renamed "Andrei Sakharov Place" as a form of protest against his 1980 arrest and detention.
Text: From Wikipedia