Nuclear Physicist. Considered by many to be the "father of the Soviet atomic bomb", alongside Sahkarov and Flyorov, he was the first director of the Soviet atomic bomb project, starting in 1943. He was educated at the Crimea State University, where he received his Ph.D. He formed his own research team in 1931 at the Radium institute in Leningrad, which built the first Soviet cyclotron, completed in 1937, and in use in 1939. His group moved to Moscow in 1943 as part of the atomic bomb program, which was started after Soviet Intelligence obtained a copy of a British report stating the feasibility of atomic weapons. Moving to the secret "Atomic City" of Arzamas-16 (now Sarov), the team successful detonated the first Soviet atomic bomb, code named "Red Lightning, on August 29, 1949. He was also part of the successful program, started in 1953, to build the first Soviet hydrogen bomb, which was detonated later that year. In 1954, he was awarded the USSR State Prize in Physics. Among his other achievements were the first nuclear power plant in the world, in 1954, and the construction of the icebreaker Lenin, which was the world's first nuclear-powered surface ship and civilian vessel, in 1959. He became a advocate of a ban on nuclear testing late in life. He was involved in a major nuclear accident in January 1949 at Chelyabinsk-40, where he was the first to enter the main reactor building after an accident. This exposure (among others) to radiation seriously injured his health. He had a stoke in 1954 and a coronary embolism in 1960, which killed him. He was three times Hero of Socialist Labor (1949, 1951, 1954) and four times recipient of the Stalin Prize (1942, 1949, 1951, 1954) and was also awarded five Orders of Lenin and two Orders of the Red Banner. He also was a 1957 recipient of the Lenin Prize. In 1960, the USSR Academy of Science established the Kurchatov Gold Medal, awarded for outstanding achievements in nuclear energy and physics. In 1964, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna suggested the name kurchatovium for Element 104, though in 1997, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry chose rutherfordium as the final name for this element.
Bio by: Kenneth Gilbert