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October 1996 Sof'ya Aleksandrovna Yanovskaya
I. G. Bashmakova, S. S. Demidov, B. A. Uspenskiŭ
Mod. Log. 6(4): 357-372 (October 1996).


Sketch of the life of Sofya Aleksandrovna Yanovskaya, centering on her curriculum vitas, and a short non-technical account of her work in history and philosophy of mathematics and in mathematical logic and foundations of mathematics.

Yanovksya was born into and grew up in the milieu that also produced the Russian-Jewish writer Sholem Aleichem and the painter Marc Chagall. She was educated in the womens' program at the Novorossiisk University in Odessa, where she studied mathematics, and her teachers there included S. O. Shatunovskiĭ, who was interested in foundations of mathematics, historians of mathematics I. Yu. Timchenko and Benjamim Kagan, the latter the author of an important study of Lobachevskiĭ, and algebraic logician Evgenii Bunitskiĭ. During the Russian Revolution she was active in political work on behalf of the Bolsheviks and she was also involved in the political Red Cross; she carried out editorial work for local Bolshevik papers and worked as a political commissar during the civil war in the Red Army. After working at the Institute of Red Professors (an institution whose aim was to provide advanced education and teacher-training for "class-conscious" proletarian cadres for the new Soviet state), she joined the faculty of Moscow State University, where she taught and carried out research in history and philosophy of mathematics and history and philosophy of logic and taught and logic and foundations of mathematics with such colleagues M. Ya. Vygodskiĭ, A. A. Markov, A. N. Kolmogorov, P. S. Novikov, and I. I. Zhegalkin. Her political services to Bolshevism did not, however, shield her from the hostile charges of overzelaous dialecticians such as E. Kol'man who angrily stormed against "reactionary professors". During World War II she was evacuated along with other Moscow University faculty and students to Perm', and at Perm' University she taught courses in the Department of General Algebra, including, e.g., courses in number theory. Her students included, among others equally well known, I. G. Bashmakova, B. V. Biryukov, E. V. Dynkin, O. A. Oleinik, M. I. Postnikov, N. I. Styazhkin, E. K. Voishvillo, and A. P. Yushkevich.

Her work in history and philosophy of mathematics included preparation of a Russian edition of Marx's mathematical manuscripts and the study of Marx's philosophy of mathematics, as well as more general study of philosophy of mathematics. She was interested, for example, in the history of the concept of infinitesimals and her work along these lines included a study of Rolle's contributions. She also paid special attention to the role of Descartes, and in particular to his La Géométrie, in the development the axiomatic approach to mathematics. Her contributions to history and philosophy of logic included work on the problematics of mathematical logic, including problematics related to cybernetics. In the latter regard, an example can be found in the Russian translation of Alan Turing's essay "Can A Machine Think?", which she edited, and in whose introduction she contributed to the discussion of problems in the philosophical aspects of cybernetics through her original analysis of the comparison of the potentialities of man versus machine. She was also instrumental in acquainting Soviet logicians with the work of their Western colleagues through the translation program which she organized, that included the textbooks on mathematical logic of Hubert and Ackermann, Goodstein, Church, Kleene, and Tarski, and for which she provided important interpretive introductions. She also wrote important and massive historical-expository surveys of Soviet work in mathematical logic and foundations of mathematics.


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I. G. Bashmakova. S. S. Demidov. B. A. Uspenskiŭ. "Sof'ya Aleksandrovna Yanovskaya." Mod. Log. 6 (4) 357 - 372, October 1996.


Published: October 1996
First available in Project Euclid: 6 March 2008

zbMATH: 1011.01512
MathSciNet: MR1415809

Primary: 01A70
Secondary: 03-03

Rights: Copyright © 1996 The Review of Modern Logic

Vol.6 • No. 4 • October 1996
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