Zhores Alferov, 88, Dies; Nobel Winner Paved Way for Laser Technology

Zhores Alferov, 88, Dies; Nobel Winner Paved Way for Laser Technology

“The sensation I felt then could not be compared to anything,” Dr. Alferov wrote of his early work at Ioffe.

He stuck with the institute all his life, winning the Lenin Prize, Soviet science’s highest honor, in 1972; becoming director of Ioffe in 1987; and heading the Leningrad-St. Petersburg branch of the Academy of Sciences in 1989. In the mid-1990s, he was obliged to accept support from his old rivals in America. The United States Strategic Defense Initiative, better known as “Star Wars,” helped finance Ioffe and a half dozen other Russian research centers for several years.

“You could tell it was hard for him to be in this position,” said Michael Stroscio, a University of Illinois professor of electrical and computer engineering who visited Ioffe to help oversee the Pentagon grant. “He was very professional, but kept his distance.”

Among his survivors is his wife, Tamara Darskaya; their daughter, Olga; and their son, Ivan. A first marriage had produced another daughter, but Dr. Alferov rarely spoke of the union.

Dr. Alferov had entered politics reluctantly, he told interviewers, his purpose being to revive domestic financing for science. He joined Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, in 1995 as a member of the party supporting the westernizing policies of President Boris Yeltsin, but he switched to the opposition Communists in the 1999 parliamentary elections, convinced that Mr. Yeltsin’s “young reformers” had brought Russia to the brink of economic ruin. (Mr. Yeltsin stunned the world when he resigned less than two weeks later, turning over the presidency to the prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin.)

Dr. Alferov served as a Communist deputy, but seldom attended Duma sessions and maintained his focus on bills affecting science and technology.

“He probably lost a bit of prestige among the intelligentsia for joining the Communists,” said Yuri Korgonyuk, a commentator at the Moscow political think tank Indem. “But everyone could see he wasn’t really a politician.”

Faith in science and its universal benefits remained Dr. Alferov’s true credo. “All that was made by human beings, in principle, was made due to science,” he said after accepting the Nobel Prize.

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