Academician S.A. Lebedev (1902-1974)
- developer and maker of the national computers.
15 types of super electronic counting machines were created under
his guidance starting from electronic counting machines on tubes to
electronic counting machines on integral elements.
Creator the first
stored program computer in continental Europe
Alexeevich Lebedev was born on November 2, 1902 in Nizhny Novgorod
into a teacher's family. Sergei's parents strictly followed the principle:
A life of a teacher of the people must serve as an example and pattern
for pupils as well as for the children of his own family. The main
principles of his upbringing were: irreproachable uprightness, industry,
and intolerance toward any sort of slander or servility and these
early influences on Sergei and the other Lebedev children were linked
to what followed in their lives.
Having received the Diploma of Electrical Engineer in April of 1928,
Lebedev simultaneously became a teacher at MVTU and a junior research
worker at VEI. Soon he headed the research group there and later the
Laboratory of Electrical Power Networks.
In 1939, Lebedev, not being a Candidate of Science, had to defend
his doctoral thesis. The main idea of the investigation was dedicated
to the theory of artificial stability of power systems.
Almost every project in the field of power engineering developed by
the institutes scientists required elaborate computing facilities,
either to make calculations for the work itself or to include them
in the range of computing devices.
This development led Lebedev in 1945 to create the first analog computer
in the Soviet Union. By means of this machine, it was possible to
solve ordinary sets of differential equations, which is frequently
met in problems connected with power engineering.
The binary system also was not outside the scientists field
of vision. Lebedevs wife, Alisa Grigorievna, remembers the first
months of the war, in the evenings, when Moscow was plunged in darkness
her, husband went to the bathroom and worked there by the light of
a gas-burner, scribbling the 1s and 0s of binary operations,
all quite unintelligible to her.
V.V. Bardizh, Lebedev's deputy in the laboratory where the BESM was
created, asserts that if it were not for the war, the work for the
development of a computer using binary mathematics would had been
started by the scientist much earlier (this was also noted by Sergei
The fact that Lebedev's interest in digital computing facilities had
surfaced before the war is confirmed by Professor A.V. Netushil at
the Moscow Power Engineering Institute.
"As a result of my research, a Master's thesis emerged, "Analysis
of flip-flop elements of high-speed pulse counters". As it is
well known, electronic flip-flops (triggers) later became the basic
elements in computer technology. From the very beginning of this thesis
work in 1939, until its defense, Lebedev had expressed a great interest
and approval in my research. He agreed to act as an opponent of the
thesis, the defense of which took place in 1945. At that time, nobody
even suspected that Lebedev had been formulating ideas for the creation
of digital computers, which made his name immortal."
The designer's documentation and materials concerning a Counting Machine
are still kept at the National Academy of Science of the Ukraine in
Kiev. Many of the documents were prepared by Lebedev himself. Someone
marked these papers with the inscription, "To
Let us look through some of them. In a short message sent to the Coordination
Council of the Academy of Science of the USSR in the beginning of
1957, Lebedev wrote: "I began to deal with high-speed electronic
computers toward the end of 1948. From 1948-1949, I had elaborated
the basic principles of building similar computers. Taking into account
the great significance of the computer in economic development and
also the absence in the Soviet Union of any kind of experience in
the realm of computer construction and operation, I decided to create
as quickly as possible a small electronic computer, with which we
would be able to investigate the basic principles of computer building,
examine strategies for the solving of certain associated problems
and get experience in computer operation. In this connection, initially
it was planned to create a working model of the machine and then develop
it into a small electronic computer. To prevent a delay in the work,
it was necessary to make a memory bank on flip-flop cells which, however,
had limited memory capacity. The development of the basic elements
was completed in 1948. ...The general components of the machine and
the principal circuit diagrams for its units were completed by the
end of 1949 and by the end of 1950, the final adjustments on the working
model were finished. After that, it was successfully demonstrated
before a commission".
Two months after the demonstration of the model, S.A. Lebedev made
a report at a closed session of the Science Council at the Institute
of Electrical and Heat Power Engineering. The Minutes of the Session
were preserved and later published in "Control Systems and Machines"
Magazine (1992 #1/2). Considering the great importance of this document
in the history of computer technology, it
is cited without abridgment.
On January 4, 1952, the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences
heard the report by Lebedev about the operation of the small
electronic computer, MESM. The following are excerpts from the
Minutes of that Session:
In 1952 (after Lebedev had moved
to Moscow) the Institute of Electrical Engineering of the Academy
of Science of Ukraine presented the work in the Creation of the
MESM in a Competition for the State Prize. It won the Prize. Lebedev,
Dashevsky and Shkabara were included on the staff of this creative
The work, undoubtedly, deserved the prize: life itself has proved
that. The principles of computer building developed by Lebedev are
still used without serious changes in modern computer techniques.
In 1950, the model of MESM had been tested. At that time, the only
similar machines were those operating in England (the BABY designed
by Williams and Kilburn , 1948, and the EDSAK designed M.Wilks,
1949). It should be noted, however, that both the BABY and the EDSAK
employed a sequential operational arithmetic unit, while MESM worked
on parallel arithmetic units. The fruitfulness of the ideas embodied
in the creation of the MESM was evidenced clearly by the future
work of scientific teams headed by Lebedev.
In 1952 MESM was practically the only computer in the country which
was solving the most important scientific-technical problems from
the fields of thermonuclear processes (Y.B.Zeldovich), space flights
and rocket technology (M.V.Keldish, A.A.Dorodnitsyn, A.A.Liapunov),
long-distance electric transmission lines (S.A.Lebedev), mechanics
(G.N.Savin), statistical quality control (B.E.Gnedenko) and others.
The following is one of
many documents which witnesses this fact. Department of Applied Mathematics
of the Academy of Science of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
The V.A. Steklov Mathematics
November 26, 1953, N 438
To the Director of the USSR Academy of Sciences
Institute of Electric Power Engineering,
To the member-correspondent of the Academy of Science of the Ukraine
S.S.R., A.D. Nesterenko
The Board of Directors of the Department of Applied Mathematics
of the USSR Academy of Sciences V.A. Steklov Mathematics Institute
expresses great thanks to the Ukraine SSR Academy of Sciences Institute
of Electric Power Engineering for its participation in the great
and important computer-calculation work carried out from November
1952 through July 1953 on a small electronic computer designed by
academician S.A. Lebedev.
During this period the scientific group of the USSR Academy of Sciences
Mathematics Institute under the direction of academician A.A.Dorodnitsyn
and Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, A.A.Liapunov, together with
the scientific team of Laboratory N 1 of the USSR Academy of Sciences
Institute of Electric Power Engineering (supervised by academician
S.A. Lebedev) made very labour intensive calculations for three
complex programs, having performed on a computer nearly 50 million
operations. It should be noted especially the conscientious and
intensive work of such scientists as Deputy of Laboratory Director,
L.N. Dashevsky, Chief Engineer, R.Y.Cherniak; Engineers A.L. Gladish,
E.E. Dedeshko, I.P. Okulova, T.I. Petsukh and S.B. Pogrebinsky and
Technicians U.S. Mozira, S.B. Rosenzweig and A.G. Semenovsky. These
co-workers, disregarding time, directed great efforts toward guaranteeing
trouble-free and high-quality operation of the machine.
Director of the Department of Applied Mathematics of the USSR Academy
of Sciences Mathematics Institute Academician M.V. Keldish.
Laboratory was located at the
2-stored building at territory of the former monastery, Feofaniya
|Developers and makers
of Tech Science,
of Tech Science,
||the following also
have take part in MESM creation:
M.A.Belyaev, E.B.Botvinovskaya, A.A.Dashevskaya, E.E.Dedeshko,
After MESM, design work for a specialized
for the solving of sets of algebraic equations (chief designer, Z.L.
Rabinovich) began. The basic principles for the
construction of the SESM had of course already been put forward
by Lebedev. Subsequently, specialized computers for different purposes
became an important class of computers, which demonstrates once again
the farsightedness of the scientist who put forward the idea of computer
specialization from the very beginning. The SESM was Lebedevs
last project in Kiev.
Sergey Lebedev moved to Moskow and became the Director of the Institute
of Exact Mechanics and Informatics and Computer Techniques (ITM and
VT) of the Academy of Science of the USSR.
Speaking at the ASU Scientific Council of the Cybernetics Institute's
dedication to twenty-fifth anniversary of MESMs creation, Glushkov
appreciated the importance of MESM for the development of computer
technology in Ukraine and throughout the USSR. He said: "Independently
from foreign scientists, S.A.Lebedev elaborated the principles of
building a computer with a stored memory program. (Publications dealing
with computer building principles were elaborated by the Hungarian-born
American scientist John von Neumann in 1946 and appeared in the open
press of the Soviet Union in the 60's - Author's note). Under
Lebedev's supervision, the first computer in continental Europe was
created and in a short time it was solving the most important scientific
and technical problems which initiated the appearance of the Soviet
programming school. The description of the MESM became the first textbook
of computer technology in the country. MESM was a prototype of the
Big Electronic Computing Machine (BESM) and S.A. Lebedev's Laboratory
became the organizing embryo of ASU Computing Center, and then - the
Academy of Sciences Cybernetics Institute.
In Kiev, there is a
memorial plaque of Lebedev adorning the Electrical Power Engineering
Institute Building, where he was the Director. Speaking on the day
of the memorial presentation, the President of the Ukrainian Academy
of Science, Academician B.E. Paton said: "We will always be proud
of the fact that it was at the Ukrainian Academy of Science, in our
dear Kiev, where the talent of Lebedev, a distinguished scientist
in the fields of computer technique, mathematics and also, large automated
systems, flowered. He pioneered the creation of the outstanding school
of Computer Science in Kiev. His torch was taken up by V.M.Glushkov.
Today, we have the Glushkov Cybernetics Institute, one of the foremost
and largest computer institutes in the world.
...He lived and worked during a period of the vigorous development
of such branches of science as electronics, computer technology and
missile development, mastery of outer space and atomic energy. Being
a patriot of his country Sergei Alexeevich took part in the developing
of the largest projects of I.V. Kurchatov, S.P. Korolyov and V.M.Keldish
guaranteeing creation of the Shield of the Motherland**
. The role of the electronic computers created by Sergei Alexeevich
in carrying out these projects was, without exaggeration, of enormous
His outstanding work will be included in the world's treasury of science
and technology. His name must stand in the ranks of the great scientists
of the world."
After the work on the tube computers BESM-2 and M-20 was finished
the design work of the semiconductor computer, BESM-6, began. BESM-6
was a real masterpiece - the first second-generation supercomputer,
made by the scientific group of the Academy of Science of the USSR.
Lebedev's scientific school arose as a result of the enormous work
of the scientist and his fellow champions in the creation of a high-performance
universal and specialized computers - the most complex classes of
The establishment of a new scientific direction, as well as a scientific
school, is a complex creative process. The establishment of Lebedev's
scientific school can be considered a classic example.
From the very first steps of his creative activity, Lebedev brought
forward and, in the following years, consistently put into practice,
one general construction principle of computers, and that was the
process of computational paralleling. The arithmetical units in both
the MESM and BESM
were equipped with parallel operation, as were the M-20 and the M-40,
and in addition, peripheral units, each containing a processor, also
operated in parallel. The
BESM-6 used a kind of pipeline calculation method (or "plumbing"
as Lebedev called it). In the subsequent computers - the basis was
multiprocessors (here only the main stages in paralleling of the computational
process are mentioned.)
The super computers developed by Sergei Alexeevich still remain a
leading class of machines in computer technology.
Honors and awards