Rehabilitation of Cybernetics – Anatoliy Ivanovich Kitov
V.S. Korolyuk, translation by Alexander Nitusov
In the beginning of the 1950s establishing and forming of the cybernetics, as the science of controlled processes and the ways of information transmission, was in full progress. American scientist mathematician Norbert Wiener proposed the word „cybernetics“ as the term for his researches on information control and transformation. As the character of those information problems was essentially statistical, statistical methods formed foundation of the new science – Cybernetics.
In the middle of the 20th century probability theory and mathematical statistics were in progress mainly due to creative efforts of the Soviet mathematicians. First of all those were the works of academician Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov.
Both outstanding mathematicians of the 20th century – A.N. Kolmogorov and N. Wiener occupied the leading positions in development of the methods of stochastic processes theory. That was the theory which formed foundations of new problems appearing in the cybernetics, namely the problems of analysis and synthesis of the systems based on information transformation.
New computing devices (electronic computing machines) were used as such systems. Information transforming process was automatically performed in them according to the preliminarily preprogrammed algorithms. Computing and computers appeared and developed simultaneously in the United States, Soviet Union and the Great Britain.
N. Wiener anticipated significance both of computers emergence and of the scientific problems connected with their implementation. Those problems he integrated under common intriguing name „cybernetics“. Quite naturally, reaction of the Soviet mathematicians, for whom „Hollywood methods“ of the new theory promotion were more than alien, was negative. Soon, rejection of the cybernetics as „capitalist science“ became common for the entire Soviet Union. In fact, that caused indifference of governmental officials to the appearing problems of computer development. Those circumstances led to one more case of stagnation in related scientific research field, similarly to the difficulties with biology (especially with genetic researches).
That was a paradoxal situation, when mathematicians and engineers on one hand created new computers and computing devices and, on the other hand, perspectives of that computation means implementation and development were limited to the level of arithmetical problems solution. The logic of a new science's progress always provides possibilities for parallel development of its methodology and philosophy, alongside with accumulation of new scientific facts. However, in the field of cybernetics such logic was denied. Negotiation of methodological mistakes and misbeliefs about the future of the cybernetics development appeared high on the agenda of the Soviet scientists, who were concerned with the national computer progress.
One thing should be noted in the context of the management of science – traditionally the problems of military implementation of scientific and novelties are the ultimate priority for each state.
Therefore, computing and computers were not an exception. The promising perspectives for computer applications at military problems solution were obvious from the very beginning. No wonder that, besides engineers and scientists-mathematicians, some progressive-minded military people – officers and specialists (mainly the collaborators of the F. Dzerzhinskiy Moscow Artillery Academy) – merited experts who enjoyed respect from „the higher/governing circles“, also were among the advocates and propagandists of the new science – Cybernetics. Most famous and respected of the first military cyberneticists were Admiral Axel I. Berg and colonel Anatoly I. Kitow who defended dissertation „Programming of the Exterior Ballistics Problems for the Long Range Missiles“ in 1952. That was one of the first dissertations on programming computers implementation in the USSR.
From 1952 till 1954 A.I. Kitov headed one of the first computing departments – department of computers at the F. Dzerzhinskiy Artillery Academy. In 1954 he headed Computer Centre №1 of the USSR Ministry of Defence (CC №1 MD USSR), which he established himself on basis of the former department. At that time the CC №1 MD USSR was the biggest computer center in the USSR and one of the biggest in the world.
Admiral A.I. Berg was the founding director of the military scientific research institute № 108, which made researches mainly in the field of radiolocation engineering. From 1953 till 1957 he occupied position of the USSR vice-minister of defence.
I can’t say in which way combined themselves the interests of mathematician Dr. A.A. Lyapunov, mathematician-programmer Dr. M.R. Shura-Bura and lieutenant colonel Anatoliy Kitov, anyway it is known that the reports of those enthusiasts were put on the agenda of the Moscow Mathematical Society meeting in the spring of 1954. That time, being a post-graduate of academician A.N. Kolmogorov at the Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), I was eagerly waiting for the intriguing event – rehabilitation of the cybernetics as a science in the USSR.
The conference of the Moscow Mathematical Society took place in the conference hall of the MSU main building. The room was literally stuffed with people. A.I. Kitov – representative of the important organization, the Soviet Army, was the first to report. Who dare argue or contradict the man in military uniform, who was confidently speaking frоm the university chair? A.I. Kitov was an expert on the issue. His logic of skipping from concrete development problems and application of computers to methodological and philosophical problems of the cybernetics was implicit and convincing. Already after his first report it was clear that rehabilitation of the cybernetics succeeded.
Two famous mathematicians spoke after him. A.M. Lyapunov reasoned connection of automatic computers development with abstract fields of mathematics – mathematical logic and theory of algorithms. M.R. Shura-Bura passionately narrated, explaining the audience specific development problems of computer programming systems.
As the result, the Moscow Mathematic Society supported appearing of new science cybernetics, even with not quite clear field of researches. Since then, each time when I met A.I. Kitov at the Institute of Cybernetics, of the Academy of Sciences Ukrainian SSR, I always remembered with admiration his report at the MSU, at the meeting of the MMS, in the spring of 1954.
Later we used the ideas from the coursebook on computers and programming, by A.I. Kitov and N.A. Krinitskiy, „Electronic Digital Computers and Programming“ (Moscow PhysMathGiz 1959), in which we recognized didactical ideas, that we ourselves introduced at teaching of programmers at the Kiev University and Kiev Pedagogical Institute.
Our and his researches on programming were quite independent. However the logic of every science always makes the correct ways very similar.
Anatoliy Ivnovich Kitov always closely cooperated with the Kiev school of cybernetics, in particular with Ekaterina Logvinovna Yushchenko, he was official academic opponent for her dissertations, for the Candidate and Doctor degrees. He was also the opponent for Kiev cyberneticists Stogniy, Velbitskiy and many others. In my turn, in 1963, I published with E.L. Yushchenko and B.V. Gnedenko (et. al.) a monograph, „Elements of Programming“.
I am sure that A.I. Kitov's contribution to cybernetics development in our country assisted stable progress of the modern computing and its implementation in various fields.
Vladimir Semenovich Korolyuk, adviser of the Institute of Mathematics (Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences – NAS) board, academician of NAS Ukraine, awarded the title „Honoured Scientific and Engineering Worker of Ukraine“.
Note. Some adoptions of this article about influence of a situation with cybernetics in the USSR on development of computer facilities in the country are very disputable and reflect personal opinion of the author. Eduard Proydakov.