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Some Lesser Known (to me) Russian/Soviet Logicians

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Submitted by Richard Zach on Tue, 12/09/2014 - 8:42am

I'm working on a paper that features Moses Schönfinkel, so I was reading through a manuscript of his where he rattles off a long list of important logicians.  In addition to the usual suspects, it features the names "Schatunowski, Sleschinski, Kahan, Poretski."  I spent the better part of a day trying to figure out to whom he was referring:

Samuil Osipovich Shatunovsky (1859-1929) was a mathematician working in Odessa who, so Wikipedia, "independently from Hilbert, he developed a similar axiomatic theory and applied it in geometry, algebra, Galois theory and analysis."

Ivan Vladislavovich Sleshinsky (1854-1931), or Jan Śleszyński in Polish, was an analyst who also wrote on logic who worked in Odessa, where Schönfinkel was his student, and later Krakow. He also translated Couturat's book The algebra of logic into Russian.

Platon Sergeevich Poretsky (1846-1907) worked on Boolean algebraic logic, teaching in Kazan. He's credited with being the first mathematician to teach logic in Russia.

Kahan was a little harder to track down, but apparently Kahan is an alternative transcription of Ка́ган:

Veniamin Fedorovich Kagan (1869-1953) was a geometer and expert on Lobachevsky, who studied in Odessa, Kiev, and St. Petersburg, and worked in Moscow. He grew up in the same city as Schönfinkel, Yekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk).

In the process of googling about I also happened on Sofya Aleksandrovna Yanovskaya (1896-1966). She studied in Odessa at the same time as Schönfinkel and, like him, was a student of Shatunovsky. She was active in the revolution, and earned a doctorate in 1935 from Moscow State University, where she taught from 1931. In 1943 she founded the the seminar in mathematical logic. According to some sources, she became the first chair of the newly created Department for Mathematical Logic in 1959, however, others as well as the webpage of the institute have A. A. Markov as the first chair, 1959-1979.  From this biography, in addition to her teaching and research in mathematics, she was influential in other interesting ways:

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 Hilbert 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.

A special issue of Modern Logic was devoted to her life and work on the occasion of her centenary in 1996; it includes highly interesting articles on her work as well as some smaller biographical items (all open access). Another interesting paper is here.

UPDATE: Follow-up here.