120th Anniversary of the Birth of Igor Kurchatov

January 12th is the birthday of Igor Vasilyevich Kurchatov - Soviet nuclear physicist who guided the development of his country’s first atomic bomb, first practical thermonuclear bomb, and first nuclear reactor.

Igor Kurchatov

Kurchatov’s father was a surveyor and his mother a teacher. In 1912 the family moved to Simferopol in Crimea. In 1920 Kurchatov entered Simferopol State University, from which he graduated three years later with a degree in physics. In 1925 he was invited to join A.F. Ioffe’s Physico-Technical Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).

Kurchatov’s initial studies concerned what is now called ferroelectricity. In 1933 he shifted his research interests to the maturing field of nuclear physics, familiarizing himself with the literature and conducting experiments. With his colleagues, he published papers on radioactivity and supervised the construction of the first Soviet cyclotrons.

The history of MEPhI is inseparable from the history of Igor Kurchatov. It was on the initiative of Igor Kurchatov and Boris Vannikov that the Faculty of Engineering and Physics was opened at the Moscow Mechanics Institute in September 1945, focused on training personnel for the future nuclear industry. Igor Vasilyevich was a member of the Scientific Council of the Institute, and his associates came to MEPhI on his recommendation.

MEPhI will always remember Igor Kurchatov's scientific and organizational contribution - a contribution to the future of the country.