Making Waves


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Stories from My Life

Yakov Alpert

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Yakov Alpert (b. 1911) has been making waves all his life—in scientific laboratories, where his pioneering work as a radio physicist earned him world renown, and in the Soviet Union, where he defied the repressive Soviet regime, became a refusnik and a dissident, and at the age of 76 finally won permission to emigrate to the United States. Alpert tells in this gripping personal memoir what it was like to be a scientist during the entire life cycle of the Soviet Union. His account provides a uniquely revealing look inside the Soviet scientific community, a firsthand view of Soviet society from postrevolutionary days to the nation’s ultimate collapse, and a thought-provoking description of how scientists and citizens responded, some bravely and some cravenly, to the repression and anti-Semitism of the Soviet regime.

Yakov Alpert, a pioneer in several fields of radio and space plasma physics, participated in Sputnik I and many other Soviet satellite projects in the 1960s and 1970s. He hosted the officially banned refusnik scientific seminars in Moscow in the 1980s and emigrated to the United States in 1987. He is now senior scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"Touching, sometimes thrilling stories from the life of a remarkable courageous man and scientist who lived in and outlived the Soviet era. The waves he made make fascinating reading and shed new light on the everyday functioning (as compared to Solzhenytzin’s Gulag) of a basically paranoid system which yet managed occasionally to overcome its paranoia long enough to produce great technological and scientific feats."—Joel L. Lebowitz, Rutgers University

"In this wonderful memoir, Yakov Alpert relates his stirring pilgrimage of conscience from the privileged circles of the Soviet Union’s science elite to outcast status of dissident and refusnik. His inspirational story spans Soviet science from postrevolutionary Russia, through Stalin, wartime, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev. Passionate, candid, astonishingly detailed, Dr. Alpert recounts the science, and shows how Soviet repression and anti-Semitism inspired courageous men and women to challenge the monolith, speeding its demise."—Kevin Klose, President of National Public Radio, and former Moscow bureau chief for The Washington Post 

"Alpert’s book is filled with historically priceless details hitherto unknown even to his fellow scientists because of the closed nature of Soviet society. These details must not be lost."—Yuri Orlov, Cornell University 

“A gripping firsthand account of life in the Soviet scientific community from the time of the Bolshevik revolution through the collapse of the Soviet system. . . . Alpert’s lucid, thought-provoking view of Soviet physics will be of interest to a broad audience.”—American Scientist

“Alpert’s autobiography offers a scientist’s view of life in the Soviet Union. . . . This book rewards browsing and will be of great value to students and scholars interested in the history of the Soviet Union, Soviet physics, the Soviet space program, and the refusenik movement.”—Choice

“This book rewards browsing and will be of great value to students and scholars interested in the history of the Soviet Union, Soviet physics, the Soviet space program, and the refusenik movement.”—Choice

“This is a book by one who had the courage to ‘make waves’ to oppose the repressive nature of the Soviet system and managed to survive to tell the tale. I highly recommend it..”—Robert F. Benson, Eos

“For readers interested in either scientific life or the ‘refusenik’ movement in the Soviet Union, Making Waves provides a candid view into both realms.”—Anne Fitzpatrick, Isis

“His straightfoward and touching account of making it in science (radio waves in the ionosphere and magnetosphere) and life (defiance waves in the Sovietsphere) is a well-documented account by a radio and plasma physicist whose unique life path transcends the birth and death of Soviet Communism.”—Norman J. Zabusky, Physics Today

“Impressive. . . . [Alpert] has given us a present in this revealing inside story of the Soviet scientific establishment and how he made waves.”—Gene Sosin, The New Leader

“Alpert’s memoir will be of particular interest to students of Soviet science. He engages the reader in his scientific research and presents some illuminating anecdotes about the world of Soviet physics. More general readers who seek to supplement the celebrated memoirs of Andrei Sakharov and Natan Sharansky will also find Making Waves a worthwhile read.”—The Russian Review
ISBN: 9780300078213
Publication Date: September 10, 2000
280 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
75 b/w illus.