Andrei Sakharov: The Physics of Protest

Andrei Sakharov was a nuclear physicist whose secret work was instrumental in the secret development of Soviet thermonuclear weapons. Initially committed to the necessity of his contributions to the design, construction, and testing of hydrogen bombs, Sakharov began to feel the pressure of personal and professional responsibility. The testing and deployment of nuclear weapons was a moral and biological issue that Sakharov could no longer condone. And he became a dissident. He said in an essay, “Freedom of thought is the only guarantee of the feasibility of a scientific democratic approach to politics, economy, and culture.”

Sakharov’s activism extended beyond disarmament, though. He campaigned for peace and human rights, and he was exiled for his dissent. If Sakharov’s story carries any weight, major turns in thought and action are not impossible, even though they may take a while.

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