Mstislav Keldysh was the elected president of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences on May 19, 1961. Professor Mstislav Keldysh is a distinguished physicist and mathematician and a professor at the University of Moscow. He is recognized in the Soviet Union as a leading authority on space mathematics and aerodynamics.
Early in his career, he directed research at a major Russian aircraft development center, concentrating on such design problems as the dynamic properties of wings, vibration, and landing year. As head of directed research institute during the 1940’s he took a leading role in spurring Soviet rocket development. Mstislav Keldysh has a reputation for his theoretical studies in such fields as the calculus of variations and boundary-value problems.
Moreover, as a director of several major research institutes concentrating on mathematics and mechanics, he has proved himself to be a brilliant scientific organizer. Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh was born into an intellectually prominent family on February 10, 1911, in Riga, a major seaport on the Baltic and the capital of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.
His sister was a mathematician and his father, V. M. Keldysh,( Vsevolod Mikhailovich Keldysh 1878-1965) a military construction engineer with the Kuibyshev Military Engineering Academy. His father had graduated from the Polytechnic Institute in Riga. The Academy of Construction and Architectural Sciences of the U.S.S.R. is noted for his work in the development of reinforced concrete.
After completing his lower school education, Mstislav Keldysh studied in the department of physics and mathematics at Moscow State University. Following his graduation completed in 1931, he joined the staff of the Central Aero-Hydrodynamics Research Institute (CAHI), the major aircraft development center in the Soviet Union. During the early 1930’s Keldysh did work on the wave-motion theory, water impact theory, and the theory of elastic oscillation in an air stream.
He indicated the course of his future research in his early studies on the unsteady motion of bodies in fluid and the aerodynamics of compressible air. While he was occupied with his work at CAHI, Keldysh continued his graduate studies in the evening at the Stcklov Institute of Mathematics. In 1938 he received a doctor’s degree in advanced physics and mathematics.
After he completed his dissertation Keldysh was appointed head of a research unit engaged in investigating the dynamic strength and vibration of aircraft. He completed an analysis of vibrations in all parts of an airplane, the wings, empennage (the tail assembly of an airplane comprising stabilizer, elevator, vertical fin, and rudder), and landing gear. Dr. Keldysh formulated several theories that provided the basis for developing methods to eliminate serious malfunctions in aircraft.
He attributed the origin of sudden vibrations in wings and empennage to aerodynamic forces known as flutter, a phenomenon that is now almost completely under control. As a result of his research on sustained vibrations in pneumatic wheels, which he presented in a monograph entitled “Shimmy in the Forward Wheel of the Tricycle Landing Gear,” designers developed methods for eliminating these tremors from the front wheel of a three-wheel landing gear.
Dr. Keldysh was the first to discover some vibrations of the airfoil (any surface of a plane. Such as a wing or a stabilizer, designed to help in lifting or controlling the aircraft and making use of the air currents through which it moves) produce thrust rather than drag. In a similar area of research related to the development of hydrofoil boats, Dr. Keldysh studied bodies striking water and investigated hydrofoils moving at a shallow depth in water.
Sometime during 1943, Dr. Mstislav Keldysh was selected to head the top-secret “Russian Institute, Number 1” of the Ministry of Aircraft Industry. During the early years of the 1940s, he concentrated on studies in the field of aerothermodynamics, which deals with the forces in and motions of liquids, air, and other gases. Professor Keldysh made some important discoveries about fluid flow properties and was responsible for some significant research in rocket development.
Therefore, his studies provided the foundation on which the U.S.S.R built its rocket and missile programs, achieving brilliant success with the satellite Sputnik in December 1957. Of particular significance also are Professor Keldysh’s theoretical studies on the effect of fluid compressibility on the lift.
In this work, he completed the original theories elaborated by N. E. Zhukovsky, a pioneer in Russian aviation science. In addition to his being recognized in aviation science, Dr. Keldysh is regarded in the Soviet Union as a mathematician of the front rank. Moreover, numerous mathematical methods that he devised have proved their practical implication when applied to problems in physics and engineering.
He has conducted fundamental research into the theory of functions of a complex variable and has worked on the potential theory. Also, the approximate integral solution of differential equations, the degenerated elliptic equations under boundary conditions, and the theory of non-self-adjoint operators.
In a more practical area, Dr. Keldysh has taken the lead in introducing into the Soviet Union the concepts of computer mathematics, computer engineering, and some aspects of automatic control. Since the 1950s, Dr. Keldysh has acted as a director of several major research institutes. These assignments have placed him in administrative work rather than in theoretical research and have provided him with experience for his present position.
The development centers under his supervision concentrated on studies in mathematics and mechanics and were responsible for solving important development problems in the area of special technology. At a general meeting of the Soviet Academy of Sciences on May 19, 1961, Dr. Mstislav Keldysh was elected to the presidency by the unanimous choice of the delegates.
In this policy position, Keldysh will have a powerful voice in determining the future course of Russian scientific activity since his organization virtually controls all the research institutes, laboratories, observatories, museums, and scientific committees in the U.S.S.R. One of Dr. Keldysh’s first official functions was to greet an all-union conference of scientific workers to disclose future scientific plans.
He emphasized that full electrification, the main goal of The Soviet Union, commands a higher priority than rocket research. He told the space researchers that interplanetary travel and direct study of close planets had become a practical certainty.
Most important, Keldysh stressed that through the work of the Academy, which has been reorganized as a purely theoretical scientific body, “Soviet science must emerge to first place in the world.” Dr. Keldysh succeeded Aleksandr N. Nesmeianov, a chemist, who resigned after serving in the post for two five-year terms. Although Keldysh’s election was reported in the Soviet press as a routine change at the end of a term of office, some Western authorities speculated that it was a maneuver by Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev to downgrade the Academy.
The United Press International carried a news release that interpreted Keldysh’s election as an obvious attempt to reorganize and modernize the Academy and to direct pure science toward practical results. Dr. Detlev W. Bronk, president of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, disagreed with this point of view. He saw nothing unusual in Nesmeianov’s resignation after so long a term of office and he did not think that the Russians intended to discourage pure science in favor of predetermined results.
Supporting Bronk’s opinion was Nicholas DeWitt of the Russian Research Center at Harvard University. In an article he wrote for Science (June 23, 1961), DeWitt explained that a debate over the management of all research and development programs in the Soviet Union has been raging since the 1950s.
The issue, according to DeWitt. has been the presence in the Academy of several specialized research institutes, which tended to divert the Academy’s attention away from its original function of conducting pure research to problems of technology and application. Part of Keldysh’s job will be to implement the reorganization so that the direction of science and technology will be the responsibility of the newly established State Committee for Coordinating Scientific Research.
Dr. Keldysh will direct the Academy to concentrate on “the most important long-run problems of science undergoing rapid development.” In addition to his being both a research scientist and academician, Dr. Keldysh has taught on the mathematics faculty of Moscow University as assistant professor (1932-49) and full professor (1949-61).
He has been credited with organizing major schools of scientific research, and many of his students (who have become leading scientists in their own right) are now continuing his investigations. A prominent scientific personality in the Soviet Union, Dr. Keldysh lectures frequently at conferences and university gatherings. His numerous articles and monographs have been published almost exclusively in the Soviet Union.
He has written many papers on the vibrations of wings with suspended attachments in air currents (1938). And on the solvability and stability of the Dirikhle problem (1940); and on the representation of functions of a complex variable by series of polynomials in a closed domain (1945). Dr. Keldysh was an active member of several scientific and technological societies in the Soviet Union.
He was elected a corresponding member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1943 and a full member three years later. He sat on the presidium (the ruling body) of the Academy from 1953 to 1960 when he was elected vice-president of the organization. Dr. Keldysh is also active on the presidium of the Committee for Lenin Prizes.
Stalin prizes were bestowed on Professor Keldysh in 1942 and 1946 for his great work on aerodynamics and aircraft development. He holds a coveted Lenin Prize as well as five Orders of Lenin, three Orders of the Red Banner, and the title Hero of Socialist Labor. The last was conferred on him in December 1957 after the successful firing of the first Soviet satellite. Mstislav Keldysh was a member of the Communist party since 1949.
He died on 24 June 1978 at the age of 67 in Moscow, Soviet Union, and left one of the key figures behind the Soviet space program. In Latvia, a street has been named (Akadēmiķa Mstislava Keldiša iela) after Keldysh in the district of Pļavnieki in his native Rīga.
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