Photo: Fred Mertz

Andrei Linde, a Russian by birth, was a boy who wanted to be a geologist. That is, until a vacation trip to the Black Sea when he was 14. He’d been given two books to entertain himself: The Earth and the Universe and The Special Theory of Relativity. By the time the family car arrived at the shore, Linde knew that he had no choice but to be a cosmologist. “It was just all too fascinating.”

Linde enrolled in and graduated from Moscow University. He received his PhD in 1975 at the P. N. Lebedev Physics Institute in Moscow, where he began researching the connection between particle physics and cosmology.

Linde’s theory of eternal chaotic inflation almost didn’t make it out of the Soviet Union. “In the autumn of 1985, I was in a state of depression,” he says. “We were living and working with our mouths shut, but that wasn’t the whole story. My wife and I could finally afford our first car, I was 38 at the time, but learning how to drive it during a Moscow winter was humiliating. I also started writing a book on inflationary cosmology, but wasn’t feeling particularly creative rehashing my old work. All in all, I was feeling awful.”

The situation changed when Linde was invited to give a series of popular lectures in Italy. Asked on short notice to send the text of his lectures ahead for translation, Linde had the chance to be completely creative, to write whatever he wanted. Under pressure, he succeeded in creating the framework for eternal chaotic inflation. As he explains it, “You know, when some force compresses you, and then compresses you even more, and even more, and then if you are still not broken and can jump up as a strongly compressed spring, you can jump very high.” By the time Linde returned from Italy, he was feeling healthy, and ) ) ) a new era in cosmology had arrived.

In 1990 Linde and his wife, Renata Kallosh, became physics professors at Stanford, where they arrived with their two sons, Dimitri and Alex. Kallosh, whose research interests are theoretical particle physics and the theory of gravity, has worked with Linde on cosmology. Linde, author of two books on inflationary cosmology, also collaborated with Dimitri, MS ’00, in writing some of his works.

Linde has been honored with numerous awards, most recently the 2004 Cosmology Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation (shared with Alan Guth), the Robinson Prize of Newcastle University, England, in 2005, and the Medal of the Institute of Astrophysics in Paris, in 2006.