Tamm (1895-1971), Sakharov’s teacher. Tamm’s theoretical
work would win him a share of the 1958 Nobel Prize in physics.
returned to Moscow in early 1945 as a graduate student
at “FIAN,” the Physical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences.
He matured professionally and socially under the influence of Igor Tamm,
the head of FIAN’s theoretical department. Tamm was a student of Leonid
Mandelstam and maintained, even during the most difficult years of Stalin’s
rule, the Mandelstam school’s tradition of combining high professionalism
with high moral standards.
“On the morning of 7 August
I left the house for the bakery and stopped by the newspaper displayed
on the newspaper stand. I was struck by the report of Truman’s announcement:
on 6 August 1945 at 8 a.m. an atomic bomb of the enormous destructive
power of 20 thousand tons of TNT was dropped on Hiroshima. My knees buckled.
I realized that my life and the life of very many people, maybe all of
them, had suddenly changed. Something new and terrible had entered our
lives, and it had come from the side of the Grand Science – the
one that I worshipped.”
In 1949, Sakharov got
an apartment on the second floor of this house in Moscow.
Separate apartments were still a big luxury in the overcrowded Soviet
cities. During his childhood, Sakharov had lived in an apartment
family shared with others, a common practice of the
was invited to join the Soviet atomic bomb project in 1946,
and again in 1947, but he declined because he did not want to part from
fundamental science and from Tamm, his beloved mentor. Meanwhile he received
his Ph.D. in 1947 for work on particle physics. However, in June 1948,
Tamm himself was commissioned to help Yakov Zeldovich and his research
team to study the feasibility of a thermonuclear, or hydrogen, bomb. Tamm
and several of his students, including Sakharov, formed a special auxiliary
group at FIAN to work on a proposal for an H-bomb.
USSR’s highest priority at that time was to produce an atomic
bomb to counter the American nuclear power. The all-out research and
industrial effort, directed by physicist Igor Kurchatov and assisted
by atomic espionage, would be completed with the first Soviet nuclear
test on 29 August 1949. As for the H-bomb, in theory vastly more powerful
and therefore named the Super-Bomb, nobody knew whether it was possible
at all. Only a few Soviet physicists were occupied with this problem.
They began by considering a design nicknamed Truba (“tube”
in Russian), with ideas initiated by information obtained by spies from
the Manhattan Project in the United States.
Sakharov soon came to realize that
the Truba design lacked promise. He suggested a radically new scheme
which was named Sloyka, the Russian for a layered pastry. Vitaly Ginzburg,
another student of Tamm, added another key idea about the right “filling”
for this pastry – thermonuclear explosive material.
The Hydrogen Bomb, 1950-1956
The Early Years, 1921-1944