Lenin's Laureate: Zhores Alferov's Life in Communist Science (Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology)

Lenin's Laureate: Zhores Alferov's Life in Communist Science (Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology)

Paul R. Josephson

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0262014580

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In 2000, Russian scientist Zhores Alferov shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of the heterojunction, a semiconductor device the practical applications of which include LEDs, rapid transistors, and the microchip. The Prize was the culmination of a career in Soviet science that spanned the eras of Stalin, Khrushchev, and Gorbachev--and continues today in the postcommunist Russia of Putin and Medvedev. In Lenin's Laureate, historian Paul Josephson tells the story of Alferov's life and work and examines the bureaucratic, economic, and ideological obstacles to doing state-sponsored scientific research in the Soviet Union. Lenin and the Bolsheviks built strong institutions for scientific research, rectifying years of neglect under the Czars. Later generations of scientists, including Alferov and his colleagues, reaped the benefits, achieving important breakthroughs: the first nuclear reactor for civilian energy, an early fusion device, and, of course, the Sputnik satellite. Josephson's account of Alferov's career reveals the strengths and weaknesses of Soviet science--a schizophrenic environment of cutting-edge research and political interference. Alferov, born into a family of Communist loyalists, joined the party in 1967. He supported Gorbachev's reforms in the 1980s, but later became frustrated by the recession-plagued postcommunist state's failure to fund scientific research adequately. An elected member of the Russian parliament since 1995, he uses his prestige as a Nobel laureate to protect Russian science from further cutbacks. Drawing on extensive archival research and the author's own discussions with Alferov, Lenin's Laureate offers a unique account of Soviet science, presented against the backdrop of the USSR's turbulent history from the revolution through perestroika.

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Communist Party in 1938 and 1939 on Stalin’s orders. He had brutally pushed the Ukrainian peasants to sacrifice again and again.) The main square hardly resembled a square; not one building in the city remained unscarred and most were rubble. The bodies of German soldiers still filled the streets and courtyards. The authorities let the soldiers rest for a few days, which meant time to bring order to the rubble and to dispose of the bodies. Marx and his division then were sent immediately to the

Electronics23 Zhores Alferov made his decisions about which university to attend and what career he might pursue in the environment of recovery from war, breakneck rebuilding of heavy industry, growing scientific and philosophical controversies in the sciences, unfolding anti-Semitism, and outspoken support from leaders for scientific research and development. He briefly considered a career in journalism instead of electronics. He mentioned this possibility to the school guidance counselor, whose

production end of the research-design-production cycle. For LFTI physicists, however, the commission’s presence and conclusions might mean only greater accountability to economic planning organizations, increased bureaucratization, and less science.48 Tuchkevich and his staff examined the commission’s conclusions carefully and prepared a detailed response. They rejected the negative assessment. They pointed to a record of achievements in science and applications for the economy and for Leningrad

soon be a reality and reporting work on heterojunction lasers and other new instruments done at the LFTI. By 1972, Soviet journalists had begun to play up the promise of these instruments. One wrote: “We have become accustomed to the entry of semiconductors into our life.” From transistors, the writer continued, physicists had moved on to solar batteries, rectifiers, barrier layer cells, and thyristors of light weight, small size, and high efficiency based on the achievements of the laboratories

universities and industry can change their venue of employment. In the USSR, as Alferov and many others argued for decades, the bureaucratic and ministerial barriers between education, basic research, and applications slowed developments at nearly every step. First, a kind of gap existed between the training of students in universities, polytechnical institutes, and other higher educational institutions (often referred as Vuzy, a Russian acronym) and basic research in the sciences, which was done

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