(1921-1989) Soviet physicist, an outspoken human-rights campaigner who with Igor Tamm (1895–1971) developed the hydrogen bomb. He later protested against Soviet nuclear tests and was a founder of the Soviet Human Rights Committee 1970, winning the Nobel Peace Prize 1975. For criticizing Soviet action in Afghanistan, he was in internal exile 1980–86.
Sakharov was elected to the Congress of the USSR People's Deputies 1989, where he emerged as leader of its radical reform grouping before his death later the same year.
Sakharov was born and educated in Moscow and did all his research at the P N Lebedev Institute of Physics. In 1948, Sakharov and Tamm outlined a principle for the magnetic isolation of high-temperature plasma, and their subsequent work led directly to the explosion of the first Soviet hydrogen bomb in 1953. But by 1950 they had also formulated the theoretical basis for controlled thermonuclear fusion—which could be used for the generation of electricity and other peaceful ends.
In the early 1960s, Sakharov was instrumental in breaking biologist Trofim Lysenko’s hold over Soviet science and in giving science some political immunity. Sakharov’s scientific papers in the 1960s concerned the structure of the universe. He also began publicly to argue for a reduction of nuclear arms by all nuclear powers, an increase in international cooperation, and the establishment of civil liberties in Russia. Such books as Sakharov Speaks 1974, My Country and the World 1975, and Alarm and Hope 1979 made him an international figure but also brought harassment from the Soviet authorities.