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What Do You Know About Oleg Lavrentiev?

  1. Dec 25, 2016 #1
    I am interested in the story of Oleg Lavrentiev. He was originally a Red Army soldier from a peasant family. He studied physics in his spare time. On one base there was a technical library and he was able to afford to subscribe to a Russian physics journal.

    Lavrentiev developed ideas for a hydrogen bomb and also for a nuclear fusion reactor. He wrote a letter to Stalin and came to the attention of Andrei Sakharov.

    Lavrentiev was not well known for most of his life, but he is now recognized as one of the fathers of nuclear fusion reactors. Eventually he was able to attend university and do some research during the Stalin era. Then there is a long gap in my information. He defended his dissertation on electrostatic traps not long before his 80th birthday.

    It's hard to find more information about him in English. I am interested in his scientific work and also how he earned his living. Apparently he was reasonably comfortable but never part of the inner circle of nuclear scientists. Maybe there is someone here from Russia who knows more about him?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 25, 2016 #2


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    Have you searched for "Polywell"?
  4. Dec 25, 2016 #3
  5. Dec 25, 2016 #4


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    I've searched for him in a different language (and hoped my findings would have led me to bilingual websites), but as you said, there doesn't seem to be a lot about him. Often I simply ended up in some listings of memberships. And the fact there are a few famous persons with his name wasn't helpful either. I just thought his Fusionor might have been a more promising approach.
  6. Dec 25, 2016 #5


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    Some apparent background here - https://www.euro-fusion.org/newsletter/the-lost-story-of-the-russian-scientist-oleg-lavrentiev/


    Thomas Dolan article in Physics Today (October 2011) - http://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/pdf/10.1063/PT.3.1306 (purchase required)

    I found a paper citing -
    Lavrent’ev O A 2012 On the history of thermonuclear synthesis in USSR, 2-nd edition (in russ.) (Kharkov, Ukraine: Kharkov Phys.-Tech. Institute (KhPhTI))

    One may search on "O. Lavrent’ev", or Lavrent’ev with terms like Tokamak, etc. I suspect his articles are mostly in Russian or Ukrainian, so may search using Cyrillic text.

    See first three references cited in
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2016
  7. Dec 28, 2016 #6
    Thanks for the links. It's interesting that he was still working on physics while beating his opponents at chess in his eighties. Also he did not earn his doctorate until 2004, which means he was in his late seventies. I think this a fascinating human interest story.
  8. Dec 28, 2016 #7


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    is a Google translation of
    (translated as "Lavrent'ev's proposal forwarded to the CPSU Central Committee on July 29, 1950"
    at this paid-journal site http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1070/PU2001v044n08ABEH001122/ )

    is applied to http://ufn.ru/en/articles/2001/8/r/similar.html
    "Role played by O A Lavrent’ev in the formulation of the problem and the initiation of research into controlled nuclear fusion in the USSR"

    This technique might help decode documents in Russian.

    points to a video (in Russian)...
    Is translation available for video yet? (Is there a new feature in Skype?)

    Using https://www.google.com/search?q=Олег+Лаврентьев&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8
    led to
    (Google Chrome makes this translation process easier)
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2016
  9. Dec 28, 2016 #8
    Thank you. Apparently this is a free archive of articles going back to 1918.

    The site is UFN (Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk) which is the same journal Lavrentiev subscribed to when he was in the army.

    This is amazing.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2016
  10. Dec 28, 2016 #9
  11. Dec 28, 2016 #10


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  12. Dec 28, 2016 #11
    Oh sorry. I got excited and missed that. My Russian is quite basic, but someone who really knows the language may like to post a translation?
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2016
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