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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previously taboo topics, even criticizing Soviet institutions and their legendary bureaucratization. In February of 1956, in a special session on the last day of the Twentieth Communist Party Congress, Khrushchev read out a litany of details of Stalin’s crimes against the nation before stunned Party members. In the so-called Secret Speech, he condemned the excesses of Stalinism, its “cult of personality,” and the suffering of millions of citizens. He revealed that Stalin had ordered the murder of

Introduction 1 1 Childhood 15 2 Heroes and Hero Projects 3 Research and Reforms 4 From Transistors to Heterojunctions 5 Perestroika and Politics 6 Scholar, Laureate, and Statesman Afterword and Acknowledgments Notes 271 Index 301 57 109 153 177 267 215 Introduction When you look at the lights on your alarm clock or stop at a traffic signal, more than likely you see light-emitting diodes in action. LEDs consume 80 or 90 percent less energy than incandescent lights, and they

1830s, Michael Faraday had established that the resistances of many substances decreased with temperature. In the 1870s and the 1880s, Ferdinand Braun discovered rectification (the process of conversion of alternating to direct current). In 1878, Edward Hall demonstrated the deflection 158 Chapter 4 of charge carriers in a solid by a magnetic field. In the early 1900s, G. W. Pickard showed that silicon was a good detector material for radio waves. The term semiconductor was introduced in the

materials every eighteen months or so. Integrated circuits developed along two lines: silicon monolithic circuits and thin-film circuits. The integrated circuit grew out of transistors and developed rapidly owing to the favorable properties of silicon, on which the epitaxial planar process is based. Additionally, the oxide of silicon could be grown on the surface to a determined thickness to serve as a passivation layer (that is, to make it passive in relation to another material), as an

in the study of the separation of 6Lithium for the hydrogen bomb, for which the group won a Lenin Prize. While some physicists were skeptical of Alferov’s small heterostructure group, Gaev made sure he had an office, rooms, and assistants. When Alferov asked him why he could rely on Gaev’s support, Gaev replied “I don’t understand what, precisely, you are doing, but I understand what you did earlier and I am certain this won’t turn out to be nonsense.”35 Alferov told me several reasons for his

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