Yulii Borisovich Khariton. February 14 (27, 1904 – December 18, 1996. Soviet and Russian theoretical physicist and chemical physicist. One of the executives of the Soviet atomic bomb project.
Life and Work:
1. In 1955, a group of fellows of Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology was given a task to develop an electron accelerator, which would give a powerful short-term flash of penetrating gamma radiation. As remembered by one of the developers, the degree of secrecy of the commissioner was beyond imagination. Documents from the commissioner had the following names on them: Privolzhskaya Kontora, KB-11, Object #550, Moscow, Center-300, Arzamas-75. And the mysterious name Khariton hovered above it all. It turned out that the mysterious name was actually a surname: Yulii Borisovich Khariton.
2. A brilliant physicist, Yulii Borisovich Khariton, was born in 1904 in St. Petersburg. His father was a famous journalist, and his mother was an actress. His father, editor of the Cadet newspaper Rech, was sent out of the USSR on a “Philosopher's Ship" in 1922. When Latvia, where Boris Osipovich settled, was annexed by the USSR, Khariton Sr. was left to rot in a camp.
3. An Estonian housekeeper taught Yulii the German language. It came in very handy later: before the war, the main language of science was German.
4. In 1920, Yulii Khariton entered Petrograd Polytechnic Institute. He could not enter Technology Institute: the prodigy, who finished school at 15, was not accepted.
5. At Polytech, student Khariton met Nikolay Semenov, who taught practical classes in physics. As Khariton later told, “Semenov's phrase ‘Pass by me in the evening...’ was the most important event in my life.” That evening, Semenov told that Ioffe was organizing a Physics and Technology Institute. “My laboratory will be there. I am inviting you...” Semenov said, and thus decided Yulii Khariton's fate.
6. Yulii Khariton did his doctoral at the Cavendish Laboratory, under Ernest Rutherford and James Chadwick, the one that discovered the neutron.
7. In 1928, he was passing by Berlin on his way back home from England, and was surprised at how careless the Germans were about Hitler. Khariton realized then that it was time to work on explosives.
8. He went through with his intention. For many years, Khariton worked on explosions and, together with Yakov Zeldovich, calculated the uranium fission chain reaction for the first time in the world. A future Nobel Prize winner Igor Tamm said the following about this work, “This discovery means that a bomb can be created, which will destroy a city within the radius of ten kilometers.”
9. Tamm's words were a prophecy: it was Yulii Khariton who became the main theorist of the Soviet atomic bomb project.
10. In April 1946, Yulii Khariton and his companions arrived at a place selected near former Saratov Uspenskaya Hermitage. In a supersecret settlement, on an extremely tight schedule and under direct scientific supervision of Chief Constructor Yulii Khariton, an atomic bomb was created and tested.
11. Then a hydrogen bomb was created and tested, again by Khariton, together with Sakharov and Zeldovich. For fifty years! – since 1946 till the last days of his life, Yulii Khariton was in charge of Arzamas-16 research center.
12. Yet while he was alive, Khariton's name was given to the Russian Federal Nuclear Center, the All-Russian Research Institute for Experimental Physics.
13. Until his last days, Yulii Borisovich Khariton was defending the necessity of state support for fundamental science, so that the country could remain great.
14. The term “yubism,” derived from Khariton's initials, became widespread among his colleagues. This notion implied clarity in everything, in the first place, in paperwork, meticulousness in solving unclear issues – that is, all the things that characterized the personality of great successful Khariton.
15. A true scholar, Khariton signed the so-called Letter of Three Hundred to the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR in 1955, assessing the state of biology and the damage done to science by T.D. Lysenko. After that, Lysenko's legacy was neutralized in the country.
16. In late 40s – early 50s, Yulii Khariton was acquainted with Lavrentiy Beria, who supervised the atomic project. Khariton could plead for his father, but did not do it: according to Yaroslav Golovanov, Khariton believed that could negatively affect his work.
17. Stalin banned scientists working on the atomic project from flying on airplanes. A special car was constructed for Khariton, with an office, living room, bedroom and a compartment for guests. The car also had a kitchen with a cook.
18. A small bust of Yulii Khariton can be found in a park in front of Saratov's scientist club. Skinny and big-eared, softly refined, he looks nothing like the blacksmith that hammered his homeland's atomic shield into shape.
19. The name of the reputable scientist, academic, winner of the Lenin and three Stalin awards was for some reason not given to the Russian Nuclear Center. But yearly Khariton reads at schools gather the brightest young minds across Russia.
20. Three times Hero of Socialist Labor, Khariton was honored by a bust in his homeland.