Victor Glushkov – Founder of Information Technologies in Former USSR

Outstanding contribution into cybernetics, mathematics, and computer technologies made by Victor Michailovich Glushkov was greatly appreciated when he was still alive. But with the time passing by, it became evident that in the process of his creative activities he managed to aim his wide knowledge at development of a new scientific branch – information technologies. Glushkov became a founder of this science in former USSR. Thanks to his efforts in 60′s and 70′s fundamental and applied studies were launched on the basis of the Institute of Cybernetics of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine, which he founded. These studies formed what we now call information technologies. Unlike Norbert Vinner, Glushkov had included into cybernetics the problem of data receiving, storing and processing and what’s more, he placed it on the first place. At the Institute of Cybernetics numerous pioneering works were launched on developing of new means of computerized technologies with built-in artificial intelligence; on computer networks; control systems of different objects, on technological processes, and complex physical experiments; on robots; technical means of speech,- image, and printed information identification, etc. In spite of variety of scientific problems Glushkov was interested in, all of them were related to one global problem – society computerization. In developing this very important problem in 60′s – 70′s of the last century, he was, undoubtedly, the most outstanding figure of the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, not all of the scientists and the people who worked with Victor M.Glushkov shared his ideas. But all of them recognized Glushkov as an extremely talented person, the one of those who can be referred to the most remarkable contemporary scientists. One would get such impression immediately after hearing his report, lecture, or while discussing some issue with him. While graduating the high school (by that time he had mastered already the basics of higher mathematics and quantum physics), he was dreaming to become a physicist- theorist. It is possible, that the launched war has deprived the science of another Saharov. After completing university math course, which took only 1 year, he became deeply interested in the most abstract, most difficult field of mathematics – topological algebra. After three years of constant and persistent brain work; he became the first mathematician who solved Gilbert’s fifth generalized problem. The obtained fundamental results immediately placed the young scientist on the same level as the first rate mathematicians of the former Soviet Union. But all of a sudden, after such breath-taking success, a new turn in his interests: from the most abstract science he switched to the very practical one – cybernetics. And this time it was a choice he made for the rest of his life. His brilliant reports at international scientific forums (Glushkov spoke German and English languages) and scientific works published overseas made him a world famous scientist. He was an honorary member of the Polish Academy of Science, the Bulgarian Academy of Science, the GDR Academy of Science, German Academy of Naturalist’s of Leopoldin (among members of the latest were Goette and Einstein). Everything achieved by the Institute of Cybernetics of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine was, perhaps, the top of an “iceberg” of those numerous works conducted under the leadership of Glushkov outside the Institute, mostly, in various institutions of many soviet ministries, where he worked as a scientific advisor of research comities and a chairman of different commissions. Titanic efforts made by Glushkov often come across the wall of indifference, misunderstanding, and even hostile attitude with the higher bodies of administrative system. Beginning since 1996 and for the next 20 years he persistently promoted the idea of computerization of the country. He succeeded in receiving approval of the Council of Ministers of the USSR for the basic principles of construction of a nationwide economics control system of (OGAS). But still remained the major barrier -Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU, which was supposed to give permission to organize State Control Committee for OGAS program. But the scientist was denied this opportunity. At the Session of Political Bureau, where this issue was considered, Glushkov predicted: “We shall have to return to the OGAS program at the end of 70s, anyway, otherwise the economy falls apart!”. After his returning back to Kiev, he was ordered to see Mr.Shelest, the first secretary of the CC of Ukrainian CP. Glushkov was told to stop propaganda of OGAS in the governmental bodies and to start working on the problem of developing computer systems for enterprises. It is hardly possible to describe in full detail everything achieved by Victor Glushkov and by the Institute of Cybernetics, which he founded in long 25 years. The research studies at the Institute and the range of Glushkov’s interests were too wide to grasp in one short article about him. Among his students were not only young scientists of the Institute, but also a lot of people outside it and even beyond Ukraine. All his life, starting from his school years, he used to set himself almost unreachable goals as an object and worked extremely hard to reach them, surprising his colleagues by his “records” in scientific researches, by his stamina and organizational talent. He remained true to himself till the end of his life and his last heroic deed – was his story-confession on his journey through the life: Glushkov’s life story was tape-recorded by his daughter Olga in January 1982, while the scientist had been delivered to reanimation ward after suffering two bad collapses, leaving him unconscious for a few weeks and when his main organs were refusing to support his dying body one after another. Provided the fate would have allowed Glushkov to write down his memoirs, they could have been more vivid and could have given much more information on the people he worked with, as well as on the problem he devoted his life to. But even that which was left to us is of enormous value for the history of science and for understanding of the scientist’s creative biography. And the main thing is that his works are important not only for the present-, but also for future generations. We can only admire the courage of this person, who being literally on the edge of non-existence had managed to say so much about the main thing of his life, without mentioning of how unbearably hard it was for him to live though those last days of his life. He was not yet 60 when he died. To give a final appraisal of Glushkov’s personality, it is best to quote Boris E.Paton, the president of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine: “Glushkov is a brilliant, truly outstanding scientist of our time who made a great contribution into development of cybernetics and information technologies not only in Ukraine and the former Soviet Union, but also in the world. As a thinker, Glushkov had a broad and deep scientific vision. In his researches he had forecasted a lot of developments which were implemented by the contemporary computerized Western society. Victor Glushkov was a man of great learning. Everyone who knew him was astonished by his erudition. Constant search for something new, urge towards the progress in science, technology and society were his characteristic features. Glushkov was a genuine science devotee, possessing of gigantic efficiency and love for working. He generously shared his ideas, experience and knowledge with others. Glushkov made a great contribution to development of the Academy of Science of Ukraine while being its vice-president since 1964. He had a significant influence upon development of scientific branches related to natural and technical sciences. Glushkov also contributed a lot into development of computer science and technology. Victor Glushkov could be treated as a state-man who devoted his whole life to servicing his country and his nation. He was famous and respected throughout the Soviet Union. He never spared any effort to spread scientific achievements for the sake of scientific and technical progress. He was in scientific cooperation with many foreign scientists. His researches and achievements of the Institute of Cybernetics under his guidance were well known overseas, where he was considered a true authority. Well aware of importance to strengthen the defensive potential of his country, Glushkov together with the institute under his guidance accomplished a lot of works for the defense industry. Even in this field he always contributed new ideas, overcoming numerous hardships and misunderstandings. He was a true patriot of his country and he devoted his whole life for its scientific progress”. Speaking at the festive meeting devoted to 40th anniversary of the Institute of Cybernetics, Boris Paton had summarized his appreciation with a single word: “The Genius”. In 1966 IEEE International Computer Society awarded Glushkov with a medal “Pioneer of computer engineering” for foundation of the first in the Soviet Union Institute of Cybernetics of the Academy of Science of Ukraine, for development of a theory of digital automatons and for his developments in the field of macro-pipeline architecture of computer systems. This medal was given to Glushkovs family.