Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (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. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.
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.
In 1950 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.
In 1951 he invented and tested the first explosively pumped flux compression generators, compressing magnetic fields by explosives. He called these devices MC or MK (for magnetocumulative) generators. The radial MK-1 produced a pulsed magnetic field of 25 megagauss (2500 teslas). The following helical MK-2 generated 100 million amperes in 1953. Sakharov then tested a MK-driven "plasma cannon" where a little aluminium ring was vaporized due to the huge eddy currents into a stable, self-confined toroidal plasmoid shot to 100 km/s. Sakharov later suggested to replace the copper coil in MK generators by a big superconductor solenoid to magnetically compress and focus underground nuclear explosions into a shaped charge effect. He theorized this could focus 1023 protons per second on a 1 mm2 surface, then envisaged to make two such beams collide. But it is not known if any experiment based on this idea has been ever achieved.
After 1965 Sakharov returned to fundamental science and began working on particle physics and cosmology.
He especially tried to explain the baryon asymmetry of the universe, being the first scientist to introduce two universes called "sheets", linked by the Big Bang. Sakharov achieved there a complete CPT symmetry since the second sheet is enantiomorph (P-symmetry), has an opposite arrow of time (T-symmetry) and is mainly populated by antimatter (C-symmetry) because of an opposite CP-violation. In this model the two universes do not interact, except via local matter accumulation whose density and pressure would become high enough to connect the two sheets through a bridge without spacetime between them, but with geodesics continuity beyond the radius limit allowing an exchange of matter. Sakharov called such singularities a collapse and an anticollapse, which are an alternative to the couple black hole and white hole in the wormhole theory. Sakharov also proposed the idea of induced gravity as an alternative theory of quantum gravity.
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 Peace Prize in 1975, although he was not allowed to leave the Soviet Union to collect it. His wife read his speech at the ceremony in Oslo, Norway.
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. There, in secret, he met and worked with Western scientists such as Eric Fawcett.
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.
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".
The Andrei Sakharov Prize For Writer's Civic Courage was established in October 1990.