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Mikhail Alexandrovich Gavrilov

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Creator of the world famous “Gavrilov’s school of technical logic”.

In the beginning period of Soviet cybernetic researches “Scientific School of M.A. Gavrilov” played very important role and was famous for development of logical methods which were implemented in analysis and synthesis of discrete control systems. It became the first official Soviet scientific school concentrated on cybernetics.

Mikhail Alexandrovich Gavrilov

Gavrilov Mikhail Alexandrovich

All problems, connected with creation and application of technical systems, include certain logical tasks, which require implementation of both related scientific results and logical apparatus. The kind of technical logic to be used depends on the type of concrete technical system and its related logical problems. Often pure logic needs to be complemented with some special sciences, most often – mathematics. However in such field as determinate discrete systems pure logic plays leading role. Functional connections almost always have purely logical character in these systems. Sometimes they need additional usage of combinatorics, but there is no contradiction in it, since combinatory effect itself is related to logic. So, that was only natural that in the mid-1950-s, M.A. Gavrilov – world-level expert on logic-based automatic design and discrete devices for remote control systems, launched a seminar on technical logic at the Institute of Automatics and Telemechanics (remote control) of the USSR Academy of Sciences (AS USSR).

As efficiency of the work became clear it was subsequently extended and transformed into a scientific school. From 1964 on, its sessions and work-shops became regular: they were normally conducted twice a year. Creation of fundamental theoretical solutions, to be subsequently implemented in development of theoretical and practical methods of logical design, was main objective of the school's activity. Its scientific level was very high - so soon it became the world-leading organisation in that field. In the 1970-s its participants were the first to produce systems for automatic design of discrete control devices. Most of the scientists in the USSR and East Europe , who dealt with problems of automatic design, were its members. Only similar Rumanian school led by Grigore C. Moisil could be considered as more or less comparable. Although M.A. Gavrilov died in 1979, his school exists until now (though it isn't so active as before). In various times some projects of the school gave birth to new, more specific, schools most of which also exist until now. Among them are schools of A.D. Zakrevskiy, V.G. Lasarev and V.A. Gorbatov.

Mikhail Alexandrovich Gavrilov was born on the 11 th of November 1903, in Moscow . His father, Alexander Mitrophanovich Gavrilov was a ballet dancer and the mother, Elisaveta Sergeevna Gavrilova a dentist. Nobody of the family had anything common with engineering but his sister remembered that he himself demonstrated interest to technical issues from the early childhood.

In 1920 M .A. Gavrilov graduated from the secondary school – named, Moscow Labour School No 109. Being at the senior classes, he also was working in parallel with learning.

In 1920 he entered so-called Higher Railway Courses. However he did not stay long there and after the first year changed them for the Moscow Higher Technical School (MHTS - one of the Russia 's best technical universities until now). He graduated in December 1925 with diploma of engineer-electrician.

At the MHTS Gavrilov studied electrical subjects under guidance of Prof. Karl Adolfovich Krug [2], founder of the Moscow scientific and educational school of electrical science and engineering. At that time K.A. Krug was also one of the principal authors and leading scientific experts at the state priority program GOELRO [3], aimed at intensive development of power production and corresponding scientific researches in the USSR . Therefore, it is quite logical that his first steps as a scientist Gavrilov made working at “MOSENERGO” – Moscow centre for administration, researches, etc. of power production and distribution. At that time he was engaged in research and development of maintenance and operation of big electrical systems. In 1926-1928 he created one of the first systems of remote control, which was adopted and put into practical operation. During nine years (1926-1935) Gavrilov remained working for power production, beginning as dispatcher of a district power supply and subsequently growing to the chief of experimental laboratory.

Still working at “Mosenergo” M.A. Gavrilov began teaching. First he lectured at various courses for engineers for qualification up-grading and later at the Moscow Power-Engineering Institute [4] (MPEI) as a professor's assistant, later a lecturer. In 1934 he established there chair of “Automatics and remote-mechanics” and in 1935 received there a permanent position. Gavrilov became its first scientific head and held it for many years.

In 1934 Commission on Automatics and Telemechanics was established at the AS USSR. Gavrilov was invited to work there, first in parallel with his other work and from 1936 on permanent basis. In 1939 the Commission was transformed into the Institute of Automatics and Telemechanics, later into Institute of Control Problems . M.A. Gavrilov worked there until his last day.

His full-time engagement in scientific researches did not negatively affect his pedagogical activity. From 1936 until 1949 he held a chair of Automatic and Telemechanics at the Moscow Polytechnic Institute for Distant Learning, and form 1947 he received a chair of Automatic and Telemechanics at, then newly-established, All-Union Rower-Engineering Institute for Distant Learning.

M.A. Gavrilov was a recognised classical expert in the field of the telemechanics [5] and discrete automata. As early as in 1932 he created the USSR first device for remote control – namely, system for remote signal transmission for needs of power production and distribution. During several decades he was systematically publishing books and articles on problems of the telemechanics.

His first publications on the subject were dated by 1933-1935. He performed researches on the telemechanics implementation in power producing/distributing systems, studied and critically generalised available experience on remote control and measuring and performed new projects. Beginning form 1937 he created new methods of remote mechanics devices design and adjustment. Those problems of design subsequently formed basis for his famous theory of relay devices.

Those years, remote mechanics was a new unexplored issue in the field of power production. There was constant need in qualified specialists. Gavrilov was entrusted by ministerial organisation “Glavenergo” (directorate on power production) to collect, analyse and systematise scientific information from that field. He prepared analytical reviews and reports for academic commissions and institutes. For that purpose he intensively studied current state and development of industrial remote mechanics systems and remote control of production.

From 1939, with establishing of the Institute of Automatics and Tlemechanics by the AS USSR he headed there personnel of some Laboratory No 3, which was engaged in research of problems of remote control. His team performed a number of applied works on automation of various industrial production processes. Later constantly extending range of the Laboratory's researches led to forming of five new independent scientific laboratories with their own programs, within the institute's administrative structure.

In 1938 his scientific contribution was awarded with scientific degree “Candidate of Sciences” (the first degree) without submission any thesis. He had already published more than 330 scientific works on the remote mechanics. Among them there was a monograph, “Remote mechanisation of the dispatcher control in power systems” (1938). That was one of the first solid works on the subject in the USSR .

A number of new inventions and appliances were implemented in various branches of national economy. Among them there were systems and single devices of telemechanics and automatics for so-called ultra-powerful systems, for oil and gas pipelines, for irrigation, coal mines, for cranes and transport at industrial enterprises, for water supply stations, for metro and railway needs.

M.A. Gavriolov always maintained close contacts with broad circle of applied specialists. Therefore his ideas were always practical and realistic. His scientific activity made noticeable influence both on specialists and on technical policy of concerned organisations in general.

However the ways of his progressive ideas were often far from easy. Those who knew him personally remembered that he had to dispute with numerous scientific opponents, many of whom were experienced and influential experts or even academicians with their own vision of the discussed problems. The polemics mainly arose around issues of principal importance, e.g. what scientific development should receive researches on concrete engineering problems of telemechanics implementation in national economy, or what solutions should be preferred for improvement of some project's technical level (e.g. how to choose methods of increasing transmission efficiency in communication channels, what ways of signals modulation could be optimal, etc). His ideas were often proved by following practices.

Since 1948 his works more and more often dealt with combined usage of various impulse features of signals in telemechanic systems. He considered possible ways of creating appropriate instrumentation with high informational capacity of the signals and reliable protection from distortions and errors. Later that brought him to creating theory of telemechanic signals forming which was based on principles of distortion resistant coding. Analogical approach to analysis of failures in discrete devices led to theory and methods of designing devices with programmed level of reliability (resistance to failures), which was provided by means of automatic correction of signals coming from default parts of a device.

Already in the beginning of the 1940-s Gavrilov planned creation of scientific method for design of relay-switching circuits which very popular and widely used at that time. Analysing development of creative methods for relay circuits he wrote, “Among the first works aimed at finding more rational methods of relay circuits design the researches of our compatriots A. Kutty and M. Tsimbalisty (1928) should be mentioned. Some foreign specialists were mainly systematising common intuitive methods for composing of the circuits. The first essential achievements were obtained only after forming mathematical basis and complex of methods displaying relations in the circuits”. Algebra of logic became the main part of that basis.

Fundamentals of the technical logic were formed with appearance of logical calculus in development process of more general mathematical logic. Generally speaking “Algebra of logic” is a name given to Boolean algebra, which was formulated in the 19 th century. At present it is basic facility of the technical logic. Notably, its most intensive development took place in Russia where its history began in 1909, when Ivan Sleszynskiy[6], a university professor of Odessa , translated the book “Algebra of logic” by Louis Couturat[7] into Russian language. The book and the subject of logic itself soon became very popular and for many years “Algebra of Logic” remained the basic courseware in Russia .

Applicability of the algebra of logic in engineering was first suggested and proved in 1910. That discovery was made by the world famous physicist Paul Ehrenfest [8], who was teaching at the University of St. Petersburg . For a research item P. Ehrenfest analysed operation of a telephone switching station as, “the system, where binary logic was functioning in natural way”. P. Ehrenfest also produced famous review on the “Algebra of Logic” where he emphasised its ability to provide authentic recording of complicated structures of statements and predicates and simplify their transformations. His brilliant pro-vision was perfectly realised later, when in 1936-1938, Vladimir I. Shestakov in the USSR and Claude Shannon in the USA (1938) and Nakasima and Handzava of Tokyo, all more or less simultaneously but independently, provided rigorous proves of possibility to use calculus of statements“ (algebra of logic) for description of relay switching circuits. V.I. Shestakov himself knew about ideas of P. Ehrenfest's and made references to them in his publications[9].

Developing those researches M.A. Gavrilov created a well-balanced theory of analysis and synthesis of single- and multiple-contacts relay switching circuits, which became an important component of the applied theory of automata and discrete devices. His first serious work on that subject was published in 1943, and soon after it was followed by number of other articles. Later they formed basis of his doctoral dissertation thesis. He successfully submitted it in 1946 and was awarded degree “doctor of technical sciences”.

His first researches (and publications) were focused on theory of multi-cycle serial circuits – relay devices with memory, on their description and creation. Gavrilov also proposed “language of switching charts”. They could enable composition of structural formulae for multi-cycle circuits. He worked out methods of conversion not only for parallel-serial but also for “bridge” circuits (so-called – class N circuits), which incorporated both common relay-switching components and special components – selectors, amplitude comparison relays, polarized relays, etc. All those results were systematised and published as monograph, “Theory of Relay Switching Circuits” in 1950, by publishing house of the AS USSR.

Academician V.S. Kulebakin[10] thor I am far from being sure that this work provides fulfilling solution of the main problems of the relay switching circuits theory. However, even in the present volume this theory brings essential effect, as it was proved by its practical implementations at some scientific research and design centres. Its efficiency manifests itself both in reduction of time, necessary for devising new circuits, and in obtaining more progressive solutions. Broad practical implementation of the theory will undoubtedly generate new problems and therefore necessity of its further development”.

Publication of the monograph attracted attention of broad scientific and engineering circles to the problems of presented theory and thus became an impulse for its further development. The book itself was translated into several foreign languages.

In the middle of the 1950-s M.A. Gavrilov created methods of optimal minimisation of the switching and valve-switching bridge circuits, as well as minimisation method for Boolean functions, now known as “M.A. Gavrilov's probing method”. As the minimisation methods proved to be very time/labour-consuming Gavrilov turned to methods of approximate minimisation, applicable for practical tasks. He presented a general approach to creation of synthesis method of such kind which was named, “objective-oriented search of minimal realisations”. His work on development of the theory, methods of calculations and principles of the relay switching circuits design was awarded by the Presidium of the AS USSR with “P.N. Yablochkov premium[11]”, in 1958. In 1963 M .A. Gavrilov was elected to the AS USSR as corresponding member of the “Theory of control” department.

In the 1960-1970-s Gavrilov's works were chiefly focused on method of objective oriented searches related to complex basic parts of logical components that is, to elements with random structure, threshold elements, majoritary components, homogenous agents, etc. He also succeeded in applying that method to complicated forms of large discrete devices descriptions – interval and parentheses forms.

Some other important contributions to the discrete automata theory consisted in Gavrilov's definition and formalisation of the problem of relay devices behaviour comprehensive and non-contradictive description, also in memory components minimisation methods and block method of the automata description and synthesis. The block method consists in representation of automata with structure or network of blocks where each one is described with its own table of transitions. He implemented composition operations for mathematical manipulations with the tables, what enabled describing of various automata interactions and representing (modelling) some cluster of interconnected automata with a single, equivalent one. It was important that rate of the equivalency could be defined with satisfactory precession. Gavrilov researched dependence of the automat number of states upon the number of states of the blocks composing that automat. That series of researches was performed with varying types of the blocks intercommunication. Those works made decisive impact on further progress of researches in the field of automata composition and de-composition methods.

The idea to implement the codes, which enabled discovering, locating and correcting of errors – failures in operation of single relay components or their whole circuits, in automata control systems fully proved its efficiency. The codes themselves had been developed with progress of the information transmission theory. Implementation of the codes in its turn gave birth to new domain in theory of discrete automata – sequential automata synthesis of higher reliability. Development of the discrete devices theory was always an issue of M.A. Gavrilov's great concern.

In his last years Gavrilov created method for synthesis of large multi-output combination devices described by Boolean functions. That method developed and generalised his accumulated experience on applications of the objective-oriented search ideas.

Gavrilov himself often stressed importance of not only thoroughful detailed description of the proposed synthesis methods but equally of their ultimate bringing to practical realisation. That was the reason why he paid so much attention to automation of the discrete devices design during his last twenty years. For that purpose he initially created series of special logical devices – designed as machinery for analysis and synthesis of relay devices. Their development subsequently grew into creation of appropriate single software pieces and still later into full-scale development of integrated systems for automatic design – human-computer systems operating in dialogue mode.

Till his last days Gavrilov also headed scientific researches on algorithmising of automated logical design. The automated dialog system of discrete devices and systems logical design became the result of his labour. He personally organised numerous projects on automation of design. Thus in 1977 he succeeded in establishing of new State Standard: “Automated Design. Terminology and Definitions. (GOST 22487-77)[12]”. He also actively participated in work on so –called, “General-purpose directive methodical materials on creation of automated design systems (Russ. abr. SAPR)”.

In his last years M.A. Gavrilov also did a big work at the academic organisation, “Scientific Council on the Problem “Automation of Design””, which was subjected to the AS USSR Committee on System Analysis. He also was in charge of the academic section, “Technical Cybernetics” of the famous “Scientific council on complex problem ‘Cybernetics' ” - the first Soviet official scientific centre on cybernetic which had been established and successfully ran by academician and Admiral Axel Ivanovich Berg [13]. In both those organisations Gavrilov was actively developing systematised methodology for decision making in design and for the systems of automatic design (SAPR) in general.

The section of technical cybernetics was established in 1962, as a part of the “Scientific Council” on the cybernetics headed by A.I. Berg. M.A. Gavrilov was also a chairman of commission on the theory of relay switching devices and where he co-ordinated scientific researches in that domain[14]. His commission also performed organisational functions for all-Union conferences, international congresses, etc. including preparation of their working-programs and schedules. Thus, so-called Global Moscow Seminar on relay devices theory was actively working at the commission during more then ten years.

In the same period M.A. Gavrilov also organised special scientific school on theory of discrete devices which proved to be most efficient and resultative form of control and co-ordination over the researches. Almost all its meetings, seminars, work-shops, etc. were conducted under his guidance. The first work-shop of the School took place in university town of Tomsk ( West Siberia ) in 1964. The last meeting under his chairmanship was at the same time a jubilee – the twentieth one. That was in Moscow in 1979. “Gavrilov's schools” were so powerful scientific events that they are still regularly functioning. The School concentrated attention of researchers on the most important practical problems. At the same time it joined their efforts and provided possibility of regular presenting results of their work and therefore informing broad scientific audience.

As the School of discrete devices was M.A. Gavrilov's creation it was officially given his name.

Although Gavrilov was always a very busy one he found time for teaching and working with young people. He also supervised about 50 dissertation researches; more then ten of his post graduates were later promoted to doctorate.

M.A. Gavrilov considered contacts with foreign colleagues equally important. He lectured at many scientific organisations, demonstrated Soviet scientific achievements and participated in all IFAC congresses on discrete systems. Together with many scientists from socialist countries he organised, and led, research program on “Theory of Control”. For that purpose an international team was formed which conducted researches in various fields of the control theory. Close co-operation and regular information exchange prevented parallelism what made the work more dynamic and essentially increased its efficiency. It also wouldn't be exaggeration to say, that scientific achievements of M.A. Gavrilov as well as his advanced ideas made notable impact on the progress of theory and practice of discrete control devices automated design all over the world.

During his scientific work M.A. Gavrilov published 256 articles, books, essays, etc. The first one dealt with electrical power transmission networks, it appeared in 1928. His last publications, on automation of design, were dated by 1979. He was also engaged in scientific editing of monographs, collections of articles, proceedings of congresses and conferences, numerous translations and periodical issues. Thus he was the editor of periodical collection of works, “Abstract and Structural Theory of Relay Devices”, he was a member of editing board of “Encyclopaedia of Automatics”, always participated in international journal “Problems of Control and Information Theory” as well as in many others. His colleagues noticed, that Gavrilov was generally a friendly and understanding person, however, as an editor he was analytical but rigorous.

One more contribution was made by M.A. Gavrilov in terminology of relay devices. His first article on that subject was published in “Bulletin of Committee on Technical Terminology AS USSR , in 1950. His other works also were published in the USSR , in 1953, 1960, 1961, then translated into English language and published in the USA .

His scientific and organisational activity was prized with several high awards. He was decorated with three (Soviet) orders “Red banner of Labour”, four Soviet medals, with “Medal of Romanian Republic” in 1969 (to the 25 th anniversary of the Socialist Rumania) and the medal of Academy of Sciences GDR, in 1977 (to the 20 th anniversary of the USSR – GDR scientific co-operation).


1.Original text – Gavrilov's biography in Virtual Computer Museum - a fragment of the book, „Theory of Discrete Control Devices“. A.D. Zakrevskiy, I.V. Prangishvily (Eds.). Moscow, Nauka (science). 1982.

2. See biography of Karl Adolfovich Krug at:

3. GOELRO /(rus.)„GOsudarstvennaya ELektrifikatsiya ROssii“/, “State Electrification of Russia” – the USSR global national economic project of the 1920-s, which included intensive development of all branches directly and indirectly related to development of power production.

4. More on MPEI – one of the biggest technical universities, established in 1934, see also at:

5. (scientific/engineering notion/term introduced before the World War II): telemechanics n. - “transmission of power, or control of machinery, over a distance, especially by radio”. Explanation - © From the Hutchinson Encyclopaedia. Helicon Publishing LTD 2007. All rights reserved.

6. More on Ivan Sleszynskiy -

7. Louis Couturat and his famous book under:, or in:

8. Full biography of Paul Ehrenfest in -

9. This historical fragment was originally described by Prof. G.N. Povarov – prominent expert and historian of technical logic (

10. Viktor Sergeevich Kulebakin (1891-1970), academician AN USSR, Major-general of air-force, leading expert of his time on electro-engineering, automatics and aircraft electrical equipment. V.S. Kulebakin was author of numerous scientific monographs for universities which became classical course-books. He was creator of aircraft electro-engineering theory and practice and the first prominent researcher of the aircraft electrical systems. His famous book “Electrification of Airplanes” was the only solid scientific work on that subject both in the USSR and abroad for a long time. In the 1920-s he was assistant and deputy of academician K.A. Krug (see in Virtual Computer Museum under:
Biography of V.S. Kulebakin (in Russian language) see under:

11. Pavel Nikolayevich Yablochkov (1847-1894) Russian researcher and inventor, world famous for his “Yablochkov Candle” – the first electric arc lamp (carbon) and for successful implementation of alternating current in lighting and illumination systems. The premium of his name was established in 1947; it is given once in three years for outstanding contribution to development of electro-physics or electro-engineering. and also

12. GOST 22487-77 : GOST - abbreviation for: “State All-Union STandard”, the following five numbers show registration number and the last two – the year of its official adoption.

13. More on the beginning of cybernetics in the USSR -

14. Abundance of official titles might make rather wrong impression that he paid more attention to bureaucracy than to science. Although some bureaucratic routine could take place, structuralising of work into commissions, sections, etc. in reality was more an organisational form of the academic researches, which provided leading scientists with additional administrative power, especially important in conditions of planned economy (including scientific work) and centralised state control.


  1. Biography of M.A. Gavrilov in Virtual Computer Museum (in Russian language) - a fragment of the book, “Theory of Discrete Control Devices“. A.D. Zakrevskiy, I.V. Prangishvily (Eds.). Moscow , Nauka (science). 1982.
  2. D.A. Pospelov. “Establishment of information science in Russia”. In D.A. Pospelov, Y.I. Fet “Essays on history of Computer Science in Russia”, Novosibirsk , published by: OO GGM SO Siberian department of the Academy of sciences Russia, 1998.
  3. G.N. Povarov. “Logic, Automation and Computing: Rise of Russian Technical Logic”. In, “Computing in Russia”. G. Trogemann, A.Y. Nitussov, W. Ernst (Eds.). Vieweg, Wiesbaden , 2001.

Additional materials:

Shalyto A.A., Stancovic R.S., Astola J.T., Strukov A.V. Early work in Switching Theory and Logic Design of Gavrilov School in former Soviet Union, published in pdf, 171 Kb

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