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A.P. Aleksandrov (1903-1994)

Anatolii Petrovich Aleksandrov was an academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Aleksandrov was one of the Soviet`s leading nuclear scientists of the 1940`s and the father of naval nuclear propulsion. Three times Hero of Socialist Labor, laureate of the Lenin and Stalin Prizes of the USSR. Awarded eleven Orders of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, the Order of the October Revolution, the Lomonosov Big Gold Medal of the AS USSR, the Kurchatov Gold Medal of the AS USSR, other orders and medals. Laureate of the Ioffe AS USSR Prize. Member of several foreign academies of sciences.

Member of the CPSU since 1961. MP of the Union of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR sessions 5-6 (1958 - 1966) and sessions 10-11 (1979 - 1989) convocations of the city of Moscow. In 1966-1989 he was a member of the Central Committee of the CPSU.

He is not to be confused with the Bulgarian pilot-cosmonaut A.P. Alexandrov, or with the Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Pavlovich Aleksandrov (born 1943). Nor shold be be confused with the A.P.Alexandrov who was appointed commander and military Commissar of the Cruiser "Aurora" in April 1931, or Aleksandr Danilovich Aleksandrov (1912-1999), the Russian mathematician and physicist.

Anatoliy Petrovich Alexandrov belonged to the wonderful galaxy of stars of Russian science and technology, whose scale of activity is impossible to overestimate. A tremendous contribution made by Anatoliy Alexandrov to the development of the scientific and technical potential, reinforcing the country’s economy and defense, became possible thanks to the unique combination of talents of physical scientist and science organizer with best human qualities — deep integrity, unselfishness, strong sense of responsibility. He was a happy and modest person, unexceptionally strict to himself and his colleagues, who truly loved his country.

On 17 December 1958, the first nuclear submarine K-3 was given to USSR Naval Forces (later in 1962 named «Leninsky komsomol»). A.P. Alexandrov was Project research manager, N.A. Dollezhal was chief designer of nuclear unit, V.N.Peregudov was submarine chief designer. The program of building the first nuclear submarine became national task and 135 enterprises and organizations took part in it.

Alexandrov was born on February 13, 1903, in the city Tarascha of the Kiev Province (Ukraine). In 1906, the family moved to Kiev, where Anatoliy graduated from secondary school in 1919. In 1919–1920, during the Civil War, is the biggest mystery of his life. He served in the Wrangel army. During the evacuation of the remnants of the White Guard army from the Crimea Alexandrov had the opportunity to sit down with the others on the ship sailing to Turkey, but preferred to stay at home. As a result, he was captured and sentenced to death, but he narrowly escaped.

He later worked as an assistant at the Kiev Mining Institute, as an electrician and electrical engineer at the Kiev Physics and Chemistry Association, as a middle school teacher in the village Belki of the Kiev Province. For several years, the academician-to-be combined his education at the Department of Physics and Mathematics at the Kiev State University (1924-1930) with teaching physics and chemistry at the Kiev school of labor #79.

While still a student, Alexandrov started independent research work at the Kiev X-ray Institute under scientific supervision of Professor V.K. Roshe. This research drew attention of academician Abram Federovich Ioffe, who invited the young scientist to the Leningrad Institute of Physics and Technology (LIPT). Anatoliy Alexandrov started his scientific activity at LIPT in 1930 with researching electric strength of dielectrics. His precision experiments demonstrated that the isolation films’ electric strength is independent of their width and forced to abandon the avalanche theory of collision ionization that was being developed back then. In 1937, the young scientist successfully defended his master’s thesis titled “Breakdown of Solid Dielectrics.

During the Great Patriotic War years, Anatoliy Alexandrov took charge of operations in protecting ships from magnetic mines. The scientific foundation of the defense method was laid under his supervision back in the pre-war years. The scientist’s cooperation with navy mariners started in 1932, when he created an arc cutter against antisubmarine network barriers and gave it the name “Catfish.” Among the participants of the antimine ship defense project there were many associates of the Institute of Physics and Technology, including I.V. Kurchatov.

Early in the war academicians Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov and Anatoliy Petrovich Aleksandrov worked primarily on the protection of ships against magnetic mines at the Leningrad Physics-Technical Institute, subsequently, Kurchatov sent to Sevastopol and Aleksandrov to the Northern Fleet to work in the mine countermeasures area. Late in 1942 in 1942, however, they were reassigned to the development of nuclear weapons - at the time the Soviets were well aware to nuclear development in the US-the Manhattan Project, and Germany.

Atomic research was underway in several countries before WW-II including the Soviet Union, where scientists are known to have been conducting research in this field as early as 1932. In 1942, the Soviet Union began the “uranium problem” operations — building the atomic weapon. In the end of the war, already being a famous scientist and corresponding member of the AS USSR (since 1943), Anatoliy Alexandrov, on Kurchatov’s invitation, got actively involved in this project and soon became one of its leading participants. On the Decree of Council of Ministers of the USSR dated August 17, 1946, A.P. Alexandrov was appointed director of the Institute of Physical Problems (IPP). His entire laboratory, including personnel, equipment and materials, was transferred from LIPT to Moscow.

The implementation of the atomic project required urgent mobilization of scientists from the Institute of Physical Problems, including its theoretical department, which was one of the strongest in the country. Theoreticians headed by Lev Davidovich Landau got involved in calculation procedures on the atomic weapon, while experimenters, on Kurchatov’s request, studied nuclear constants for bomb materials. A range of extremely complicated operations was completed under Alexandrov’s supervision, including research on thermal-diffusion isotope separation, as well as obtaining deuterium and tritium.

The US Navy had initiated a submarine nuclear propulsion program in 1939, which was dormant during World War II and resurrected in 1945. The traditional desire for underwater propulsion independent of oxygen combustion, coupled with the knowledge of atomic energy gained in the atomic bomb projects led to development of submarine nuclear propulsion in the US. A contract was awarded in 1951 for the construction of the world`s first nuclear-propelled submarine, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571). The submarine went on nuclear power for the first time on January 17th, 1955.

Soviet sources indicate that the initial work on nuclear propulsion began shortly after WW-II but, according to Soviet scientist Aleksandrov, "in 1945 it was Beria who imposed a ban on the idea of atomic ships: First the bomb, all else later. You see, back then we at the institute had begun an atomic plant for ships."

In 1947, B.M.Malinin, the dean of Soviet submarine designers, would write, "A submarine must become an underwater boat in the full meaning of the word. This means that it must spend the grater and overwhelming time of its life underwater, appearing on the surface of the sea only in exceptional circumstances." Malinin, however, did not live to see the realization of an atomic submarine. One of his assistants Enginer Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Nikolayevich Peregudov, became the chief designer of the first Soviet nuclear submarine.

In 1948, Alexandrov introduced into the Special Committee headed by Beriya a proposal to start operations on designing submarines with nuclear power units, but it was then declared untimely, because it distracted from creating the atomic bomb. In August 1952, a memorandum was sent to the government, signed by I.V. Kurchatov, A.P. Alexandrov, and N.A. Dollezhal, that substantiated the necessity and the possibility of building the nuclear-powered submarine (NPS). This proposal was accepted, and on September 9, Stalin signed a decree that appointed Alexandrov to be the scientific supervisor for developing the project of the NPS and its power unit. Scientists, with the exception of A.P. Aleksandrov, had no concept of submarines.

With Stalin`s death in 1953 the ban on open discussion of nuclear issues was lifted. Three more years of debates passed until the ruling presidium (politburo) approved new naval programs including the nuclear propulsion. Several submarine projects started in the mid 1950`s. The first Soviet nuclear-propelled submarine was Project 627, given the NATO code November. The first November SSN was completed in 1958-thus lagged about four years behind her US counterpart.

The first Soviet nuclear submarine, Leninskiy Komsomol, was set afloat in August 1957, and on January 17, 1959, it became part of the navy. But still more advanced projects followed. The three generations of nuclear submarines created under Alexandrov’s supervision and surface ships with nuclear power units became one of the most important components of the strategic parity between the two superpowers.

Anatoliy Alexandrov remained the scientific supervisor for crucial fields of operations in creating nuclear reactors for various purposes. In the 1950’s, while persistently working on the atomic f leet, Anatoliy Alexandrov took active part in preparing essential decisions in developing reactors for nuclear power plants. A decree by the Council of Ministers of the USSR dated March 15, 1956 provided for building and launching several nuclear power plants with reactors of different types.

In 1960, Kurchatov died, and academician Alexandrov took charge of the Institute of Atomic Energy. Alexandrov also headed several important science councils at the USSR Academy of Sciences, whose presidium he entered back in 1960. In addition, Alexandrov was a part of many interdepartmental scientific councils and committees.

The election of A.P. Alexandrov in November 1975 as president of the USSR Academy of Sciences confirmed his high authority among specialists in various areas of science. The choice was a good one, because in addition to his broad erudition, deep sanity and sensibility to everything new and progressive, Alexandrov was able to introduce the “Alexandrov style” in various fields of research.

As the president of the Academy of Sciences, he demonstrated openness and accessibility to people. He was easily outgoing, gladly went to a place where something new appeared or there was an opportunity to learn something previously unknown and find an application for it. There is hardly a place in the Soviet Union that he didn’t visit. And virtually every visit of his ended in specific decisions, new research programs, serious discussions of development prospects for an institute, an engineering bureau, a factory, or a university.

Being an intelligent, democratic, communicable person with a well developed sense of humor, Alexandrov was very easy with everyone he dealt with — from lab assistants to top leaders of the Communist Party. Most of them called him just “A.P.”.

The illness and death his wife — Marianna Alexandrovna - coincided with the Chernobyl disaster. Anatoliy Alexandrov courageously handled both tragedies. He left the positions of the president of the Academy of Sciences and the IAE director on his own will, even though he was quite distressed, for he could not imagine himself without the big and important work. Alexandrov perceived the Chernobyl disaster as a personal tragedy, but it did not break him. The Chernobyl accident, in a way, was not just a technological catastrophe, but a catastrophe of the entire Soviet system, the ideological bomb for the USSR, extremely ‘convenient’ for promoting the image of an out-of-control state that posed a threat to the entire world.

Up to the last days of his life (academician Alexandrov died on February 3, 1994), still occupying the position of honorary director of the Kurchatov Institute, the scientist did not part with the labor of love. The light in his office stayed on until late at night. He was buried at Mitino cemetery in Moscow.

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