Andrei Sakharov (1921 - 1989)

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was born in Moscow on May 21, 1921. His father was a well-known teacher of physics and the author of textbooks, exercise books and works of popular science. He was raised in a large communal apartment where most of the rooms were occupied by his family and relatives. In 1938, he entered Moscow State University, studying at the Faculty of Physics. Having been evacuated in 1941 during the "Great Patriotic War," he graduated in Ashkhabad (today's Turkmenistan) in 1942 and was assigned laboratory work in Ulyanovsk. He returned to Moscow in 1945 to study at the Theoretical Department of FIAN (they Physical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences), receiving his Ph.D. in 1947.

A year later, Sakharov conducted research, along with fellow Soviet physicist Igor Tamm, in controlled nuclear fusion. This work, conducted between the years 1948-56, eventually led to the creation of the first Soviet hydrogen bomb. The first Soviet device was tested on August 12, 1953. That same year, Sakharov received his D.Sc. degree, was elected a full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences and was awarded the first of his three Hero of Socialist Labor titles. He continued to work at Sarov, helping on the first genuine Soviet H-bombs, tested in 1955, and the 50MT Tsar Bomba of October 1961, the most powerful device ever exploded.

Politically active during the 1960s, Sakharov was against nuclear proliferation and protested against atmospheric testing of the hydrogen bomb in 1961. 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.

In 1968, Sakharov authored an essay calling for drastic reductions in nuclear arms. In 1970, he founded the Committee for Human Rights. In 1972, he married fellow human-rights activist Yelena Bonner. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, but Soviet authorities would not permit him to travel to Norway to accept the award. By 1980, for his unrelenting criticism of Soviet policies, including the invasion of Afghanistan, Sakharov was sentenced to internal exile in Gorki.

In December 1986, Sakharov was allowed to return to Moscow, and he was eventually elected to the new Soviet Legislature, holding one of 12 new posts reserved for members of the Academy of Sciences. He remained a tireless advocate for political reform and human rights for the rest of his life. Sakharov died of a heart attack on December 14, 1989, and was interred in the Vostryakovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.