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The Making of a Soviet Scientist: My Adventures in Nuclear Fusion and Space From Stalin to Star Wars 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471020318
ISBN-10: 0471020311
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sagdeev, a physicist who directed the former Soviet Union's Space Research Institute from 1973 to 1990, played a crucial role in restraining a Soviet counteroffensive to the U.S. "Star Wars" program, thereby helping to forestall an acceleration of the nuclear arms race in space. This modest, anecdotal memoir provides a rare, valuable insider's look at the Soviet military-industrial machine. Working on the U.S.S.R.'s abortive controlled-fusion program in the 1950s, Sagdeev witnessed Stalin's destructive interference with the scientific community. Providing close-ups of Brezhnev, Gorbachev and physicist/dissident Andrei Sakharov, his narrative shows how space projects of real scientific value were hobbled while top priority was given to costly, prestige-oriented feats meant to rival those of NASA. Sagdeev is now a physics professor at the University of Maryland; his wife, Susan Eisenhower, the book's editor, is Ike's granddaughter, adding a twist to this Cold War account.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

World-class scientist Sagdeev, currently distinguished professor of physics and director of the East-West Center for Space Science at the University of Maryland, has written an autobiography of his professional career. (The work has been edited by his wife, the granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.) While the reader learns little of his personal life, this account offers great insight into the politics of Soviet science and the impact of the Cold War in shaping scientific research-East and West. As director of the Space Research Institute for the Soviet Union, Sagdeev practiced perestroika before the term came into usage; he eventually served as summit adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev and his science adviser. With its clear and easy-to-read style, absence of technical jargon, and wit and charm-even the footnotes are enjoyable-this book is highly recommended.
Elizabeth Fielder Olson, Archer & Greiner, Haddonfield, N.J.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 339 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1st edition (April 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471020311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471020318
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,350,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Pichierri Fabio on July 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Roald Sagdeev has written a very interesting and entertaining book about his personal scientific experience, first as a physics student and then as a professional scientist (in the fields of plasma physics and space science), in the former Soviet Union. Many interesting anecdotes about eminent physicists and bureaucrats are recounted throughout the book. Among them, the most interesting for me are those about the great theoretical physicist Lev Landau, the experimental physicist and Nobel laureate Pyotr Kapitsa, and the rocket engineers (chief designers) Sergei Korolev and Valentin Glushko. Dr. Sagdeev also explains about the complexity of the relations between scientists/engineers and the various levels of power that operated in the formal USSR. The book is a joy reading and is highly recommended to those that are interested in the social and historical aspects of modern physics and technology.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sagdeev's autobiography is a warm, enjoyable and surprising window into the history of Soviet science, and indirectly of the Soviet Union itself. Viewing this history from the perspective of a scientist provides an accessibility to the material, and Sagdeev's dry humor keeps it alive.

Most interesting were the chapters on the Soviet (scientific) space program, whose "issues" are remarkably similar to those of the US civil space program, both past and present. Whether in the interplay between aerospace industry and national space policy (and programs), competition between human and robotic spaceflight, the role of civil space in international diplomacy, the crushing micromanagement of programs by bureaucracies at the top, the development of large programs before the identification of mission requirements, or the nepotistic promotion of technological "miracle cures" which lack technical credibility or community endorsement to senior officials, Sagdeev's Soviet civil space program will sound hauntingly familiar to those familiar with the U.S. program.

Sagdeev's balancing act as "forward and alternative thinker", yet not full blown Sakharov dissident, also provides a unique vantage into exactly how far the Soviet system could be challenged from within.

The only weakness of this book is that it draws to a somewhat hurried conclusion which disrupts an otherwise strong and fairly linear narrative through most decades of the 20th century. The final chapters cover interesting material but lose focus and flow, regrettable as they cover critical periods in the 1980s as the Soviet Union drew to a close.

Overall, I found this book to be a surprising and welcome "find" which should be of interest to for either scientifically or historically minded readers.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been really enjoying my recent journey into the Soviet scientific history. The authors have been most engaging telling their stories. It is too bad that the Soviet government was so brutal, their scientists seem brilliant but sadly limited by the government.

Anyway the book is interesting to read and there is a side of Soviet life that needs to be told and this book does a good job in telling it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was a NASA engineer who worked at the time of the space race between the U.S. and Russia. This book was especially interesting to me, and give me a clearer perspective on the Russian mentality during the time of the Space Race. Good for anyone who wants to gain a clearer understanding of what is behind the way Russian people think and act.
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