May 01, 2021

Andrei Sakharov

Andrei Sakharov
Sakharov in 1989. Rob Croes / ANEFO

Andrei Dmitriyevich Sakharov lived several completely different lives.

He started out as a mildly autistic child from a brainy family who was taught at home and did not attend school until seventh grade. He was a gifted student physicist, and he would grow up to be a brilliant scientist.

He was also someone who lived in the insular world of a “closed” military gorodok – a sort of hothouse designed to cultivate scientific and engineering discoveries to advance Soviet military might. In 1950, when he moved to Sarov (see Russian Life May/June 2020), how did he view the world? What was life like for one of the future developers of the hydrogen bomb? How did he reconcile his parents’ reminiscences of the family’s noble past, the horrors of the Stalinist Terror, Cold War conflicts, and his work at the forefront of Soviet nuclear physics, including amazing breakthroughs leading to a deeper understanding of the universe?

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