Yulii Borisovich Khariton

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Yulii Borisovich Khariton
Yulii Borisovich Khariton 1924.jpg
Yulii Borisovich Khariton, 1924
Born 27 February 1904
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died December 19, 1996(1996-12-19) (aged 92)
Sarov, near Moscow, Russia
Citizenship Soviet Union
Nationality Russian
Fields Physics
Institutions Institute of Chemical Physics
Alma mater Leningrad Polytechnical Institute, Soviet Union
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Doctoral advisor Ernest Rutherford
Other academic advisors Abram Ioffe
Known for Soviet atomic bomb project
Notable awards Hero of Socialist Labor
Order of Lenin
Lomonosov Gold Medal (1982)
Khariton on a Russian stamp issued on the 100th anniversary of his birth

Yulii Borisovich Khariton (Russian: Ю́лий Бори́сович Харито́н, 27 February 1904 – 19 December 1996), also known as YuB:81[1] was a Russian physicist who is widely credited as being one of the leading scientist in the Soviet Union's nuclear bomb program.[2][3]

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.[4]


Family, early life and education[edit]

Yulii Borisovich Khariton was born in Saint Petersburg in Russian Empire to ethnic middle class Russian Jewish family, on 27 February 1904.:xii[5] 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.:xlii:xii[5][6] 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.[6] After the revolution occurred in that dismantled the Tsarist autocracy in 1917, Boris Osipovich Khariton had clashes with the Bolsheviks and constantly at odds with the Vladimir Lenin's ideology.:xlii[5] 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.[7]

His father, Boris Khariton, remained in Latvia until the annexation of Latvia by Soviet Union in 1940 and, at the age of sixty-four, was then arrested by the NKVD where he was sentenced to seven years in work labor and sent to Gulag where he passed away.:xlii[5]

Yulii's mother, Mirra Yakovlevna Burovskaya, was a theatre actress who acted in various plays in the Moscow Art Theatre but left Russia in 1910 due to illness that had to be treated at the European resort.:xlii[5] Yulii was six year old when his mother left him and was taken care by an Estonian woman when hired by his father who was in exiled in Latvia.:134[8] Yulii's mother never returned to Russia and divorced his father, only to marry her psychiatrist, Dr. Max Eitingon.:xli[5]

Having lived in Germany, she moved to Tel aviv in Palestine in 1933 where she remained until her death..:xlii[5] Yulii's mother, Mirra, is buried in Jerusalem.:xlii[5]

Yulii was forbidden to contact his parents after he had started classified work in the Soviet Union and later his travels were highly restricted by the Soviet Union and later by Russia.[9]

Yulii was homeschooled by his Estonian housekeeper, hired by his father, who taught him German language and began attending the regular school at age eleven.:xliii[5] In Saint Petersburg, he went to attend a trade school which he completed at age of fifteen and found work at a local mechanical workshop where he learned how to operate various machinery.:xlii[5]

In 1920, he joined the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute to study the mechanical engineering but later chose to study physics, which he found to be very stimulating subject.:xliii[5] He studied physics under Russian physicists, Abram Ioffe, Nikolay Semyonov, Alexander Friedmann, but was more fascinated with work of Semenov whose research work used the techniques of physics in chemistry, which Semenov called "chemical physics.".:xliii[5] His talent was recognized by Semenov who supported his research project in the investigations in light-emitting ability of phosphorus combined with oxygen, and reported the results in both German and Russian languages.:xliv[5] In 1926, he completed his degree in physics from the Leningrad Polytechnical Institute and stopped working on his project as he prepared for his first foreign trip to England. :xlv[5]

Before departing, he was introduced to Pyotr Kapitsa by Semenov who asked the latter to help Yulii to secure fellowship at the Cavendish Laboratory in England, and left to attend the University of Cambridge to do his doctoral in physics under Ernest Rutherford in 1926.:xlv[5] At Cambridge, he worked with James Chadwick on investigating the sensitive of the eye with respect to the weak light impulses and alpha radiation; he earned his PhD in 1928 from Cambridge University under Ernest Rutherford's supervision.:xlv[5]

Soviet atomic bomb project[edit]

In 1928, he decided to take up the residence in Germany to be near his mother but was appalled and frightened by the political propaganda by the Nazi Party in the Germany; therefore returning to Soviet Union while his mother left for Palestine.:xlv[5]

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..:xlvi[5]

In 1935 he received his doctorate in physical and mathematical sciences. During this period, Yulii Khariton and Yakov 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:

He also received a Lenin Prize (09.07.1956), three Stalin Prizes (29.10.1949, 12.06.1951, 21.12.1953), a Gold Medal of I.V.Kurchatov in 1974 and a Great Gold Medal of M.V.Lomonosov in 1982.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sunyaev, R. A. (2004). Zeldovich: Reminiscences. CRC Press. ISBN 9780203500163. Retrieved 9 June 2017. 
  2. ^ Sublette, Carey (19 December 1996). "Yuli Khariton". nuclearweaponarchive.org. nuclearweaponarchive. Retrieved 20 April 2017. 
  3. ^ Dalyell, Tam (23 December 1996). "Obituary: Yuli Khariton". The Independent. Independent Russia Bureau. Independent. Retrieved 20 April 2017. 
  4. ^ "Yuli B. Khariton". Atomic Heritage Foundation. Atomic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 20 April 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Hargittai, Istvan (2004). Buried Glory: Portraits of Soviet Scientists. London, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. clxxii. ISBN 9780199985616. Retrieved 20 April 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Подвиг Юлия Борисовича Харитона Archived May 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. (in Russian)
  7. ^ Человек столетия, или как создавался ядерный щит России[permanent dead link] (in Russian)
  8. ^ Hargittai, Istvan (2010). "Yulii B. Khariton". Judging Edward Teller: A Closer Look at One of the Most Influential Scientists of the Twentieth Century (google books) (1 ed.). New York: Prometheus Books. p. 495. ISBN 9781616142698. Retrieved 23 April 2017. 
  9. ^ Оппенгеймер и Харитон: параллели жизни Archived May 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. (in Russian)

External links[edit]