A Russian-born American defense leader
November 18, 1900, Kiev, Russian Empire – December 7, 1982, Cambridge Massachusetts, USA
George Kistiakowsky (Георгий Богда́нович Кистяко́вский) was born Kiev, Russian Empire in the family of a professor of law of Kiev University. He studies in a gymnasium in Moscow untill 1917 and then moved back to Kiev where he completed the last year of his high school education. He then joined the White Army in 1918 and participated in the Russian Civil War. He fled from Crimea to Turkey in 1920 and soon moved to Europe. In 1921 he joinded the University of Berlin where he earned PhD in physical chemistry under the supervision of Max Bodenstein, a world renowned authority in chemical kinetics. In 1926 Kistiakowsky moved to Princeton Universtiy where he wrote an influential monography on Photohemistry, and in 1930 joined the faculty of Harvard University. During the Word War II Kistiakowsky was the head of the National Defense Research Committee section responsible for the development of explosives, and the technical director of the Explosives Research Laboratory. Kistiakowsky oversaw the development of new explosives, and participated in Manhattan Project as a consultant. He made a considerable impact in the development of the American nuclear bomb. After the war Kistiakowsky returned to Harvard where he chaired department of chemistry, and continued consulting US Government on military and other matters. In 1959 he was appointed a special advisor to the President of the United States on science and technology. In 1968 Kistiakowsky resigned all government positions in protest against the Vietnam war. In the end of his life he was an active proponent and spokesman for disarmament. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and served its vice president. He was also recipient of the Medal for Merit, Medal of Freedom, National Medal of Science, Priestley Medal and other outstanding awards and honors.
The Atomic Heritage Foundation presented an article about Kistiakowsky’s work on Manhattan project that can be read here.
Kistiakowsky’s Interview on his work on Manhattan project (January 15, 1982, Cambridge) can be found here.
We also present a public lecture of Professor Kistiakowsky from the archives of the University of California Los Angeles department of communications.