|From||France Russia Russia|
|Birth||14 February 1904, Saint Petersburg, Russia|
|Death||18 December 1996, Sarov, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia (aged 92 years)|
|Politics||Communist Party of the Soviet Union|
Yulii Borisovich Khariton (Russian: Ю́лий Бори́сович Харито́н, 27 February 1904 – 19 December 1996), also known as YuB was a Russian physicist who is widely credited as being one of the leading scientist in the Soviet Union's nuclear bomb program.
Since the initiation of the atomic bomb project by Joseph Stalin in 1943, Khariton was the "chief nuclear weapon designer" and remained associated with the Soviet program for nearly four decades. In honor of the centennial of his birthday in 2004, his image appeared on a Russian postal stamp by the Russian government.
Family, early life and education
Yulii Borisovich Khariton was born in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire to an ethnic middle class Russian Jewish family, on 27 February 1904. His father, Boris Osipovich Khariton, was a political journalist, an editor, and a publisher, who had attained a law degree from Kiev University in Ukraine. His father worked for the newspaper Rech, the main organ of the Constitutional Democratic Party, and was a well known figure in the political circles of Russia. After the Russian revolution dismantled the Tsarist autocracy in 1917, Boris Khariton had clashes with the Bolsheviks as he was at odds with Vladimir Lenin's Soviet ideology. His father was exiled to Baltic states from Russia in 1922 at the age of forty six along with professors and journalists on one of the so-called Philosophers' ships, subsequently working for an emigrant newspaper in Latvia.
His father, Boris Khariton, remained there until Latvia's annexation by the Soviet Union in 1940 and, at the age of sixty-four, was then arrested by the NKVD and sentenced to seven years of work labor in a Gulag where he died.
Yulii's mother, Mirra Yakovlevna Burovskaya, was a theatre actress who performed at the Moscow Art Theatre. She left Russia in 1910 due to an illness that had to be treated at the European resort. Yulii was six years old when his mother left him and was taken care by an Estonian woman, hired by his father while in exile in Latvia. Yulii's mother never returned to Russia and divorced his father, only to marry her psychiatrist, Dr. Max Eitingon.
Having lived in Germany, Mirra moved to Tel aviv in Palestine in 1933 where she remained until her death.. She is buried in Jerusalem.
Yulii was forbidden to contact his parents after he had started classified work in the Soviet Union. His travels were highly restricted by the Soviet Union and later by Russia.
Yulii was home schooled by his Estonian housekeeper, hired by his father, who taught him German. At the age of eleven, he began attending regular school. In Saint Petersburg, he went to attend a trade school which he completed at the age of fifteen and found work at a local mechanical workshop where he learned how to operate various machinery.
In 1920, he enrolled in the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute to study mechanical engineering but later chose to study physics, which he found to be more stimulating. He studied physics under Russian physicists, Abram Ioffe, Nikolay Semyonov, and Alexander Friedmann. Khariton was particularly fascinated with the work of Semenov whose research used the techniques of physics in chemistry, which Semenov called "chemical physics.". Khariton's talent was recognized by Semenov who supported his research project in investigations of the light-emitting ability of phosphorus combined with oxygen, and reported the results in both German and Russian languages. In 1926, Khariton completed his degree in physics from the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute and ended his research project as he prepared for his first foreign trip to England.
Before departing, he was introduced to Pyotr Kapitsa by Semenov who asked the latter to help Yulii secure a fellowship at the Cavendish Laboratory in England. In England, Khariton attended the University of Cambridge to do his doctoral in physics under Ernest Rutherford in 1926. At Cambridge, he worked with James Chadwick on investigating the sensitivity of the eye with respect to weak light impulses and alpha radiation. Khariton earned his PhD in 1928 from Cambridge University.
Soviet atomic bomb project
In 1928, Khariton decided to take up the residence in Germany to be near his mother, but was appalled and frightened by the political propaganda of the Nazi Party in Germany; therefore returning to Soviet Union while his mother left for Palestine.
In 1931, he joined the Institute of Chemical Physics and eventually headed the explosion laboratory until 1946, working closely with another Russian physicist Yakov Borisovich Zel'dovich, on exothermic chemical chain reactions..
In 1935 he received his doctorate in physical and mathematical sciences. During this period, Khariton and Zel'dovich conducted experiments regarding chain reactions of uranium. He was elected as a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1946, and as a full member in 1953.
He received the following honours:
- Three times Hero of Socialist Labor (1949, 1951, 1954)
- Six Orders of Lenin (1949, 1956, 1962, 1964, 1974, 1984)
- Order of the October Revolution (1971)
- Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1945)
- Order of the Red Star (1944)
He also received a Lenin Prize (1956), three Stalin Prizes (1949, 1951, 1953), a Gold Medal of I.V.Kurchatov (1974), and a Great Gold Medal of M.V.Lomonosov (1982).