Theoretical physicist Isaak Markovich Khalatnikov, the last of the participants in the development of the first Soviet atomic bomb died on 9 January at the age of 101 years. He was the oldest academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Khalatnikov took part in the Soviet atomic bomb project led by Lev Davidovich Landau, the winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physics. Khalatnikov was engaged in the calculation of the processes occurring within a millionth of a second during the explosion of an atomic charge. It was about direct calculation of the power of an atomic bomb.
In his autobiography, now translated into English ‘From the Atomic Bomb to the Landau Institute’, He writes that to calculate the efficiency of an atomic bomb, it was necessary to link its main parameters, including the properties of plutonium and the design of the charge. Prior to that, no one had solved such a problem. It was possible to calculate the parameters of the atomic bomb by simplifying the equations derived by theorists. But even these simplified equations required a lot of work, because they were calculated manually.
The first Soviet atomic bomb was successfully tested on August 29, 1949. And in 1952, Khalatnikov’s work was awarded the State Stalin Prize of the second degree.
Later, Khalatnikov took part in the calculation of the first Soviet thermonuclear charge. Calculating for a hydrogen bomb turned out to be a task of a magnitude more difficult than an atomic one. Khalatnikov called the solving the problem manually a miracle. He termed it as a revolution in computational methods for solving mathematical problems. The first Soviet thermonuclear bomb was successfully tested on August 12, 1953. Later, in 1961, the Soviets tested theormonuclear bomb RDS-220, also known as the Tsar Bomba, over a remote island north of the Arctic Circle for test.
From 1965 to 1992, Khalatnikov headed the LD Landau Institute of Theoretical Physics of the USSR Academy of Sciences, then was its honorary director. He taught at Moskovskiy Fiziko-Tekhnicheskiy Institut or the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) for many years.
He was engaged in the theory of quantum liquids, superconductivity, quantum electrodynamics, quantum field theory, relativistic hydrodynamics, quantum mechanics. He worked in the field of general relativity and cosmology. The Belinsky – Khalatnikov – Lifshitz singularity model of evolution of Universe is widely known.
Isaac Khalatnikov was born on October 17, 1919 in Ekaterinoslav (modern Dnipro in Ukraine). In 1941 he graduated from the the Dnipropetrovsk State University with a degree in theoretical physics. During his studies he was noticed by LD Landau and offered him to become his graduate student.
During the war, Khalatnikov was sent to Moscow, where he completed a course in one of the military academies, and then served in the Moscow air defense regiment.
In 1944, Khalatnikov entered the graduate school of the Institute of Physical Problems of the USSR Academy of Sciences, and in 1946 began his scientific career as a junior researcher.