Viktor Mikhailovich Glushkov

Viktor Glushkov was the founder of the Institute of Cybernetics in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine.

Viktor Mikhailovich Glushkov was born on August 24, 1923 in Rostov-on-Don in Russia. His father, Mikhail Glushkov, was a mining engineer in the south of Ukraine. Later the family moved to Shakhty in South-East Ukraine. Father Mikhail was also an amateur radio designer which gave the young Viktor an early taste in engineering and he built his own radio set at the age of twelve. As a youngster he suffered from shortsightedness which made playing sports rather difficult for him. He often spent his time reading books, be it adventure novels or mathematical works. He was a voracious reader which worried his parents a bit as he was physically not that strong and suffered from poor health. Before completing high school he already had read Goethe, Schiller, some Russian poets, but also Hegel’s History of Philosophy. When World War II broke out he tried to enter the College of Artillery but was turned down because of his health. After spending some time at the Industrial Institute in Novocherkassk where he qualified as an electrician and plumber, he decided to attend the Rostov University in Roston-on-Don from where he graduated in 1948.

After his graduation both Glushkov and his new wife Valentina were appointed to a nuclear research centre in East Russia, where they found a home in Sverdlovsk. Here he became interested in the Hilbert’s Problems – this famous German mathematician had set the mathematical world 23 problems during the 1900 Mathematical Congress in Paris, of which only some had been solved. Glushkov got interested in Hilbert’s fifth problem and struggled for three years to formulate his solution which came to 60 pages. In 1952 he succeeded and submitted it as part of his thesis to the Moscow State university.

In 1956 he started in Kiev as Director of the Computational Centre of the Academy of Science of Ukraine. He involved himself with the construction of computers and published his book Synthesis of Digital Automata. It would earn him the Lenin State Prize in 1964 and resulted in him being elected as a Member of the Academy of Science of the USSR.

In the 1960s and 1970s Glushkov became interested in the building of mini and micro computers in the pursuit of his dream – the “intellectual machine”. Several personal computers, such as the PROMIN, the MIR-1 and the MIR-2, were constructed incorporating some of his ideas. His drive to intensify computerization within the USSR was not always considered acceptable as it threatened the administrative control of the apparatchiki.

In 1967 he founded the Chair of Theoretical Cybernetics and Methods of Optimal Control at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Two years later he founded the Chair of Theoretical Cybernetics at the Kiev State University. He was appointed vice president of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and also Director of the Institute for Cybernetics in Kiev.

Having suffered for some time from a rare brain tumor, Viktor Mikhailovich Glushkov died on January 30, 1982 in Moscow. He was buried in Kiev.

The only philatelic item portraying Glushkow is the Russian envelope shown above, which was issued on February 1, 1983, one year after his death.

© Wobbe Vegter, 2010

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