Viatcheslav Mukhanov was born in 1956 in Kanash, a town about 400 miles east of Moscow. In 1972 he moved to Moscow, where he studied at the Physical-Technical Institute, eventually receiving his doctorate in 1982. During his time there he and a colleague, G. V. Chibisov (deceased), developed a theory that in an expanding and evolving universe, the present structure on the largest scale is the result of quantum fluctuations in the earliest moments of the universe’s existence.
He then joined the Institute for Nuclear Research, also in Moscow. From 1982 to 1991 he served as a researcher there, and then spent a year as a professor.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Mukhanov moved abroad. From 1992 to 1997 he was a lecturer at ETH Zurich (in English, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). In December 1997 he joined the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich as a full professor of physics as well as the head of the Astroparticle Physics Division, posts he holds to this day.
Mukhanov was the first scientist from Germany to receive the Blaise Pascal Chair from the French government. He has also received the Gold Medal of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, the Klein Medal of the Stockholm University, and, both with Alexei Starobinsky, the Tomalla Prize of the Tomalla Foundation for Gravity Research in Switzerland and the Amaldi Medal from the Italian Society for General Relativity and Gravitational Physics.