The World of Andrei Sakharov: A Russian Physicist's Path to Freedom

In This Review

The World of Andrei Sakharov: A Russian Physicist's Path to Freedom

By Gennady Gorelik with Antonina W. Bouis
Oxford University Press, 2005
464 pp. $35.00
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Although not as fetchingly written or as swift as Richard Lourie's superb 2002 biography of the dissident Russian physicist, Gorelik's book provides what is contextually a far richer account of Sakharov's career and the remarkable political transformation he underwent in the 1960s. Gorelik, a Russian historian of science and a trained physicist, does much more than just explain with great clarity the scale, nature, and trajectory of Sakharov's applied and theoretical breakthroughs. He weaves Sakharov's story into the complex politics swirling around physics (and the less fortunate discipline of biology) from the 1930s to the 1950s. His time in the archives, including with KGB files on key physicists arrested in the 1930s, and his interviews with Sakharov's circle of old associates and newer political allies allowed him to draw striking and subtle associations. Gorelik wrote the book in Russian and then turned it over to Antonina Bouis, whose personal acquaintance and work with Sakharov doubtless contributed to the sensitive translation she renders.