Posts Tagged ‘Ervand Kogbetliantz’

THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)

 

Birth of Ervand Kogbetliantz
(February 21, 1888)

Ervand_Koghbetlyanc

His is not a household name, but Ervand Kogbetliantz was an accomplished mathematician and inventor who lived and taught in the United States from the 1940s-1960s.

 

Ervand George Kogbetliantz was born on February 21, 1888, in the old Armenian community of Nor Nakhichevan (Novo Nakhichevan), in the Northern Caucasus, now part of Rostov-on-the-Don (Russia). We do not know anything about his early years, but it appears that love for mathematics came to him naturally. He studied mathematics at the University of Paris (1907) and graduated from the School of Mathematics at Moscow University (1912), where he taught from 1912-1918. In 1918 he invented one of the oldest forms of three-dimensional chess. He returned to the Northern Caucasus, and taught at the Polytechnic Institute of Ekaterinodar (nowadays Krasnodar) from 1918-1920.

 

It appears that the newly-opened University of Yerevan, in the fledgling Republic of Armenia, attracted him, and he taught there for a few months. A couple of weeks after Armenia became a Soviet republic, on December 17, 1920, Commissar of Education Ashot Hovhannisian issued a decree about the restructuring of the university, and established an advisory committee presided by Kogbetliantz, which was entrusted with the task.

 

In 1921 Kogbetliantz left Armenia for France. He obtained a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Paris in 1923. He taught at the Russian High School of Paris in the 1920s and was president of the Union of Geophysicists from 1927-1933.

 

Kogbetliantz received an invitation from Reza Shah to organize the chairs of mathematics and celestial mechanics at the University of Tehran in 1933, which he also directed until 1938. His efforts were rewarded with the Elmi Order, the highest of Iran.

 

In 1939 he returned to Paris as a researcher for the National Center of Scientific Research and kept that position until 1942. As many other scholars, he left occupied France and crossed the Atlantic. He taught mathematics at Lehigh University (1942-1944) and then at the New School of Social Research (1944-1954) and Columbia University (1946-1953). Meanwhile, he was a consultant for Standard Oil (1945-1946) and then for IBM (1953-1964). He became a member of the Rockefeller Institute in 1956.

 

His mathematical work was mainly on integral equations, the theory of orthogonal polynomials, numerical analysis, gravity and magnetic theories, etcetera. He formulated an algorithm for singular value decomposition which bears his name. He authored close to one hundred scholarly articles and books, some of them in translation (Fundamentals of Mathematics from an Advanced Viewpoint, 4 volumes, 1968; Handbook of First Complex Prime Numbers, 1971, with Alice Krikorian). He also invented precision devices to measure Earth magnetism, and various analogical and gyroscopic devices. Kogbetliantz was one of the co-creators of the IBM 7030, also known as Stretch, the first transistorized supercomputer created by IBM, which was on sale from 1961-1964.

 

In 1952 Kogbetliantz’s three-dimensional chess received much media attention, and was described in several articles in Time, Newsweek, New Yorker, and Life, including pictures of his chess set. At his death, he was working with world champion Bobby Fischer on a game of chess for three people.

He retired in 1964 and moved back to Paris, where he passed away on November 5, 1974.

 

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