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Outstanding Personalities of Russian Nuclear Industry

Игорь Васильевич Курчатов

Igor V. Kurchatov (1903 – 1960) – the founder of Soviet nuclear industry. Born in Sim Village in the Urals (at present Chelyabinsk Region) in the family of a land surveyor. Spent his childhood in Simferopol, where the family moved. In 1920 Kurchatov graduated from Simferopol gymnasium with a golden medal and immediately entered the physics and mathematics department of Tavrichesky (Crimea) University. Instead of four years, he completed the university course of education in three years. In 1923 Kurchatov entered the shipbuilding department of Petrograd Polytechnic University as a third-year student.

Since 1925 started working as a research specialist at the Leningrad Physics and Technology Institute. His first scientific publications were dedicated to a new phenomenon – ferroelectricity. And since 1932 Kurchatov became one of the first people in Russia to begin studying the physics of atomic nucleus. In 1934 he observed branching of nuclear reactions occurring after neutron irradiation of substances, then researched induced radioactivity, discovered nuclear isomerism – decay of identical atoms with different speeds. In 1940 Kurchatov, together with G.N.Flyorov and K.A.Petrzhack, discovered spontaneous fission of uranium.

During the Second World War, Kurchatov headed the development of protection for Black Sea fleet ships from the enemy’s magnetic mines, and since 1943 he started working on the project of creating nuclear weapons at Laboratory No. 2 of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now – RNTs Kurchatov Institute). By the Resolution of USSR State Defense Committee dated August 20, 1945, Kurchatov was included into the Special Committee and its Technical Council and became the actual head of the nuclear project. Under his direction the first Soviet nuclear bomb, and later the first hydrogen bomb was created. The construction of the world’s first nuclear power plant in Obninsk, which started generating power in 1954, is also associated with the name of Kurchatov. In his later years Kurchatov worked on the problems of controlled fusion reaction…

I.V.Kurchatov was honored with the title of Hero of Socialist Labor three times, awarded with 5 Orders of Lenin. Kurchatov’s name has been assigned to Beloyarsk NPP and two cities (in Kursk Region and in Kazakhstan). In 1964 the 104th element of the periodic system was named ‘kurchatovium’ after him.

 

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