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Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov Hardcover – August 13, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (August 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801447313
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801447310
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,775,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Jay Bergman's new book is a lucid history of the career of the physicist know best as the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, but it is much more than that. He approaches Sakharov from the perspective of his thinking, which permits the reader to be taken on a fascinating journey from Sakharov's family upbringing through his institutional years, to his preeminent role in the Soviet scientific community under Stalin, and finally his last years as the iconic and inspiring leader of the humane civil rights movement in the USSR. It is a tome of Tolstoyan proportions, meaning that it is both huge and also a very engaging read from the first page."—Martin A. Miller, History Book Club



"Bergman's special achievement is to have meticulously traced and chronicled Sakharov’s thinking both as a scientist and as a man of conscience, documenting from letters, interviews, official files, and diverse press and journal articles the incremental ideas that led him to brilliant physics and then to sacrificial public activism. In Bergman’s view, Sakharov personified the 'moral wholeness' that was pervasive among the Russian intelligentsia, 'the belief that the moral principles a person espouses must be applied to every aspect of his life.' . . . In this biography, we make intimate acquaintance with a rare and profound genius."—William Lanoue, Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 2010



"In this biography of Andrei Sakharov, Bergman introduces a figure who transcends Russian history. Sakharov's faith in reason, originally limited to the sphere of nuclear weapons, gradually acquired a moral sensibility stirred by the ethical implications of testing these weapons in the atmosphere, a step that led to a far more profound concern with the whole sphere of human rights. Bergman opens Sakharov's mind to the reader and illustrates how Sakharov bonded reason with ethics and applied ideas not only to an astonishing range of technical scientific subjects but also, ultimately, to matters of human freedom and world peace."—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2010



"While dwelling on the development of Sakharov's ideas, including their gradual radicalization, Bergman also pays attention to his life as a physicist of great distinction. . . . Jay Bergman has produced a fitting tribute to a scientist and political activist whose commitment to the defense of individual rights was marked by great constancy of purpose, heroic stubbornness, and true grit."—Archie Brown, Times Literary Supplement, 30 April 2010



"Bergman argues that the Soviet human rights movement, as exemplified by the life and career of the physicist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov,exerted a key role in undermining the political and moral authority of the Soviet regime. . . . Bergman tells this story well, providing an account that is far more comprehensive and insightful than an earlier biography by Richard Lourie (2002) that relied too heavily on Sakharov's own memoirs. Bergman also does a clear and credible job of explaining Sakharov’s work as a physicist and his outstanding contributions to cosmology, including theoretical studies of baryon asymmetry and proton decay. Sakharov did not emerge out of nowhere. As Bergman relates in some detail, the 'vocational autonomy he enjoyed as a physicist permitted him and his colleagues to discuss virtually anything . . . with impunity,' including George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) at a time when such works were strictly banned."—Joshua Rubenstein, American Historical Review, April 2010



"Whether it was working on the hydrogen bomb, defending human rights, thinking about arms control or trying to write a new Soviet constitution, Sakharov brought a problem-solving mind and an enduring ability to think 'outside the box' to the matter at hand. This is perhaps the central insight of Jay Bergman's magnificent study of Sakharov, a work that must rank as one of the most important biographies written about a Soviet intellectual in recent years."—Philip Boobbyer, Slavonic and East European Review (July 2011)



"Meeting the Demands of Reason is a serious, thoroughly researched account of one of Russia's intellectual giants, whose extraordinary courage and wisdom were matched by his modesty."—Richard Pipes, Professor of History, Emeritus, Harvard University



"In Meeting the Demands of Reason, Jay Bergman treats Andrei Sakharov not just as a scientist and activist, but as a complex subject whose scientific and political thinking were interrelated. Bergman is a fine writer and has an amazing grasp of Sakharov's scientific, philosophical, and political work. His well-researched biography reminds us that Sakharov was an extraordinary physicist, a thought-provoking political essayist, a devoted defender of human rights, and a concerned citizen of a troubled nation."—Kathleen E. Smith, author of Remembering Stalin's Victims and Mythmaking in the New Russia



"In this superb intellectual history, Jay Bergman illuminates the rise of the public citizen in the USSR, from Stalin to Gorbachev, explaining how physicist Andrei Sakharov moved from unquestioningly developing nuclear weapons for the Soviet state to raising questions about universal human rights and even the legitimacy of the USSR. Sakharov, by a combination of introspection, reason, and force of personality, determined to fight the arbitrary and capricious regime. These traits allowed Sakharov to survive when the Party leadership labeled him a traitor and spy in several public campaigns and eventually exiled him to Gorky, and to engage Mikhail Gorbachev—and Soviet society —in debates about perestroika. Bergman explores the evolution of Sakharov's views of arms control, nuclear power, dissidence, and human rights through a careful reading of Sakharov's extensive opus. Meeting the Demands of Reason is an important contribution to Soviet social, political, and cultural history—and to the history of science in its analysis of scientists' claims to have privilege about some kind of universal truth."—Paul R. Josephson, Colby College

From the Back Cover

"Meeting the Demands of Reason is a serious, thoroughly researched account of one of Russia's intellectual giants, whose extraordinary courage and wisdom were matched by his modesty."--Richard Pipes, Professor of History, Emeritus, Harvard University

"In Meeting the Demands of Reason, Jay Bergman treats Andrei Sakharov not just as a scientist and activist, but as a complex subject whose scientific and political thinking were interrelated. Bergman is a fine writer and has an amazing grasp of Sakharov's scientific, philosophical, and political work. His well-researched biography reminds us that Sakharov was an extraordinary physicist, a thought-provoking political essayist, a devoted defender of human rights, and a concerned citizen of a troubled nation."--Kathleen E. Smith, author of Remembering Stalin's Victims and Mythmaking in the New Russia

"In this superb intellectual history, Jay Bergman illuminates the rise of the public citizen in the USSR, from Stalin to Gorbachev, explaining how physicist Andrei Sakharov moved from unquestioningly developing nuclear weapons for the Soviet state to raising questions about universal human rights and even the legitimacy of the USSR. Sakharov, by a combination of introspection, reason, and force of personality, determined to fight the arbitrary and capricious regime. These traits allowed Sakharov to survive when the Party leadership labeled him a traitor and spy in several public campaigns and eventually exiled him to Gorky, and to engage Mikhail Gorbachev--and Soviet society --in debates about perestroika. Bergman explores the evolution of Sakharov's views of arms control, nuclear power, dissidence, and human rights through a careful reading of Sakharov's extensive opus. Meeting the Demands of Reason is an important contribution to Soviet social, political, and cultural history--and to the history of science in its analysis of scientists' claims to have privilege about some kind of universal truth."--Paul R. Josephson, Colby College


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gregg A. Cerosky on August 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Bergman clearly demonstrates a thorough grasp of the subject matter. He offers a sensitive and poignant view of Andrei Sakharov's cathartic transition from a true "Soviet" to a "conscientious objector" of the dangers of nuclear proliferation. The book is both a historiographical analysis of Sakharov's life through the lens of world events and a glimpse into the personal side of his tremendous intellect and his realization that the world was bigger than ideology and politics. This is a must read for anyone who wants to get a differing view of the "Soviet" perspective during the Cold War.
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