The 90th birth jubilee of one of our greats, Academician Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989), we marked in May of 2011. An outstanding physicist also prominent in politics, he is still an enigma to many. He is known as the "father" of the hydrogen bomb, the most devastating weapon in the history of human civilization. In 1975 Sakharov merited a Nobel Peace Prize as a civil rights champion. The Kremlin policymakers valued him as a scientist of extraordinary talents and awarded top national honors to him: the title of Hero of Socialist Labor (1954, 1956, 1962), Lenin (1956) and State (1953) Prizes for his signal contribution in nuclear physics and the hydrogen bomb project in particular. But the nuclear physicist rubbed the authorities the wrong way for his overt political opposition. In 1980, for his strident condemnation of the Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan, Andrei Sakharov was banished to Gorky (Nizhni Novgorod) without due process of law and stripped of the top awards conferred previously. Entitled to all perks of the ruling elite, the recalcitrant physicist chose to renounce them rather than give in. Some people regarded Sakharov as a "prophet" and "martyr", while others saw a nation's great citizen in him. But all are at one in that he was a great physicist... Dr. Boris Altschuler, a senior research scientist of the Lebedev Physics Institute (FIAN), who had been closely in touch with Sakharov for as long as twenty years (as of 1968), had something interesting to tell in his interview for the FIAN-INFORM Agency, namely about Sakharov's involvement in the Soviet hydrogen bomb project.
Right after the end of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, in 1945, Sakharov got enrolled in the FIAN postgraduate course, where as early as 1957 he validated the idea of u-meson catalysis of a nuclear reaction in deuterium. This became the basis of his M. Sc. dissertation. The results of his inquiry were classified and came out only in a secret report (although Dr. Hans ... Read more