August 30, 2015
Translated by Kristina Rus
Peter Astashenkov: “Kurchatov”
Published by “Molodaya Gvardiya”, 1968
From the translator: You can read Russian news every day and not understand Russia, or you can read a book spanning a lifetime from the Russian Empire to 1960 and get a glimpse into the formula behind one of the greatest Soviet, Russian and personal achievements.
This book has not been translated into English before, and FR will publish it as a series of daily installments. This book is provided to you free of charge, but if you enjoy it and wish to thank FR, your donation will be greatly appreciated!
“I am happy I was born in Russia and dedicated my entire life to nuclear science of the great Soviet Country.” – Igor Kurchatov
Many of our scientists have immortalized their names by great contributions in establishing the framework and further development of the Soviet atomic science and technology. A worthy place among them takes Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov, who led the development of the Soviet production methods of atomic energy, creation of nuclear weapons, immeasurably increasing the power of the beloved homeland.
Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov embodied the best traits of the scientist of our country – burning patriotism, collectivism, broad scientific knowledge, highly developed sense of the new, leadership talent. The life of I. V. Kurchatov – is a continuous working and academic achievement. His life reflected all the main stages of the struggle of our science for the conquest of the atom.
The Soviet school of the atomic nucleus was born not in 1943, when work on the release of nuclear energy was underway, but much earlier, in the early 30-ies. Among the first researchers of the nucleus was I. V. Kurchatov, then head of a division of General physics of the Leningrad Physico-Technical Institute (LPTI). The results of scientific works of employees of LPTI and other researchers of the atom, who worked in Moscow, Leningrad, Kharkov, were regularly reported at the all-Union conferences and meetings on the nucleus.
Especially fruitful were the conferences of 1933, 1937 and 1940. They all took place with participation of prominent foreign scientists and received a wide response in the world press. At the conference of 1940 I. V. Kurchatov, in his report on the fission of heavy nuclei came close to the problems of practical implementation of the nuclear chain reaction in uranium as with a moderator, and without it, which meant the theoretical justification of the possibility of creating nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. Interestingly, he himself with the group of closest disciples had to practically prove the reality of his scientific predictions.
In all the periods of the storming of the atomic nucleus Igor Vasilyevich was at the critical posts. In the USSR at the same time with leading foreign research centers of the atomic nucleus developed an authentic and very active school of nuclear science. As a result, by the beginning of the Great Patriotic war all theoretical prerequisites for realizing a controlled chain reaction and the reaction of the explosive type were created. The treacherous attack of the Nazis on our Motherland, unfortunately, pushed back the practical implementation of the idea of Soviet atom-scientists by several years.
In this book the readers will learn the details of the storming of the nucleus, which was undertaken by a huge team of our scientists, engineers and workers at the call of their dear party. The author is right by not smoothing out the difficulties that stood in the path to ambitious goal, focusing on how these difficulties were overcome, what heroism and bravery was shown by all the fighters of the nuclear front and the commander, Igor Kurchatov.
Launch of the first Soviet reactor, creation of industrial installations for the production of fissile materials, first tests of uranium, and then hydrogen bombs, the commissioning of the first nuclear power plant in the world, the grandiose start of research of controlled thermonuclear reactions – all this is contained in a space of little over a decade. You can imagine what great fulfillment and energy marked the different activities of Igor Kurchatov, who was solving a variety of problems almost simultaneously. How much effort and energy, desire and inspiration!
In his book Peter Astashenkov recreated the environment of the early studies of the nucleus and the period of rapid onset on the problem of atomic energy. It is hoped that the book about Igor Kurchatov will interest a wide range of our readers. It will be useful to mature professionals and youths just starting their life. We can all learn from Kurchatov about pursuing life goals, inexhaustible desire to be useful to the Motherland, self-discipline, integrity and modesty.
Member-correspondent of the USSR Academy of Sciences,
Lenin prize laureate, G. N. Flerov