Yakov Borisovich Zeldovich (Яков Борисович Зельдович; 1914-1987) was a Soviet physicist.
Zeldovich was born in Minsk. At age 17, he worked as a lab assistant at the Institute of Chemical Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (now Saint Petersburg). He never attended college and was largely self-taught. Zeldovich eventually took post-graduate classes and earned his Candidate of Sciences Degree from Leningrad State University (the equivalent of a Ph.D.) in 1936.
Zeldovich was a key member of the Soviet atomic bomb project. He was the first head of the theoretical division at Arzamas-16, a closed city which housed the principal nuclear research center. Zeldovich later went on to become a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and taught at Moscow State University. His later research included important theories on black holes and neutron stars.
Zeldovich won many awards during his career, including the Stalin Prize, Lenin Prize, and three-time Hero of Socialist Labor (the highest award for civilians). Internationally, Zeldovich was awarded an honorary membership to the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, and won the Bruce Medal from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
Yakov Zeldovich died on December 2, 1987, in Moscow.