Vadim A. Trapeznikov

Vadim A. Trapeznikov


Tuesday, November 28, 1905

Passed away: 

Saturday, October 15, 1994

Vadim Trapeznikov, in full Vadim Aleksandrovich Trapeznikov, came from a noble family with a long pedigree. By the end of the 19th century, its representatives were researchers (on the paternal line) and artists (on the maternal line), particularly jewelers. In the personnel registration form in 1941, as parental occupation before the October Revolution, he indicated “researcher” for the father and “doctor” for the mother; as parental occupation after the October Revolution, “Professor, Doctor of Engineering in aviation materials” for the farther and “doctor” for the mother. Trapeznikov started his elementary education in Moscow Gymnasium no. 1, but the October Revolution, civil war, devastation, and famine significantly affected his further education. Trapeznikov began working at the age of 13: he became an assistant at the laboratory of cooperative chemicals, then a leveler of a surveying party, and a meteorologist of Moskhoz. Simultaneously with work, he studied in a labor school, graduating in 1921. In the same year, Trapeznikov entered Moscow State University; in 1923, he transferred to Moscow Higher Technical School (nowadays, Bauman Moscow State Technical University) at the Electromechanical Department, graduating in 1928. His graduation work was devoted to the electric lighting of trains.

From 1928 to 1933, Trapeznikov worked at the All-Union Electrotechnical Institute (VEI). Those years he called a period of frantic labor enthusiasm. In 1929, he published “A Study of the Rosenberg Machine,” the first research paper. Trapeznikov’s main research area at VEI was optimal parameters of asynchronous motors, the mass product of the electrical industry. From 1930 to 1946, he published 42 papers on that problem in Electricity and Electrical Industry, Soviet scientific periodicals. In 1937, his monograph Osnovy proektirovaniya serii asinkhronnykh mashin (Fundamentals of Designing a Series of Asynchronous Machines) was published. During that period, the technical policy of the Soviet electrical industry for a series of asynchronous motors was formed. From 1934 to 1937, Trapeznikov was a member of the Expert Council for the All-Union Series of Electrical Machines. In five years at VEI, he made a career from a technician to department head.

At that time, he was also interested in automation. Historically, up to the 1950s, almost all automation experts were educated as electrical engineers: the electrical branch of automation means was developing very intensively, and VEI became the leading scientific center for automation development.

In 1933, Trapeznikov joined Orgenergo (later Orgenergostroy, the State Design/Survey and Scientific Research Institute for engineering and organization of energy construction) as a brigade engineer, becoming the chief engineer of automation workshops in 1938. He considered 1935 as the year of starting his serious studies of automation. In 1936, Trapeznikov received his first certificate of authorship no. 48911 (an automatic regulation device for temperature, pressure, and other quantities).

In 1938, he became Head of the Laboratory of Automation at the Central Research Institute of the Cotton Industry and continued studying electrical machines.

From 1930, he was engaged in education activities, first as an assistant and then as a lecturer and Professor at Moscow Power Engineering Institute (MPEI). In early 1938, he was conferred the degree of Cand. Sci. (Eng.) at MPEI without presenting the dissertation. At the end of 1938, Trapeznikov defended his doctoral dissertation on the fundamentals of the multi-field design of asynchronous machines. “Designing Electrical Machines,” Trapeznikov’s lecture course, was highly appreciated by Professor G.N. Petrov, Head of the Department of Electrical Machines (MPEI), Honored Man of Science and Technology of the USSR.

Trapeznikov’s activities in the Central Research Institute of Cotton Industry can be judged through the orders of the Institute’s Director available in the archive: in many of them, he was noted and remunerated for creating and implementing automatic devices and systems for various production processes.

Finally, on July 5, 1941, Trapeznikov moved to the Institute of Automation and Remote Control (nowadays, the Institute of Control Sciences) as a Senior Researcher. Soon, he established the Laboratory of Technical Automation Means. The Laboratory’s work in Moscow (after the evacuation, in Ulyanovsk) was noted by many orders of the Institute’s Director, Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences V.I. Kovalenkov. Among famous devices used in the defense industry, let us mention weighing automata for bulk solids (various powders) and checking automata for mass products. Trapeznikov’s work during the War was given many awards, including (1946) The Medal for Valorous Labor in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945.

In 1947, together with a group of Institute’s employees, Trapeznikov published the book Avtomaticheskii kontrol’ razmerov (Automatic Dimension Control) in Oborongiz.

In 1953, he was elected Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences; in 1960, Full Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

In 1951, Trapeznikov was appointed Director of the Institute of Automation and Remote Control. In the same year, jointly with B.Ya. Kogan, he received the Stalin Prize for creating and implementing analog electronic modeling devices.

From 1965 to 1978, being Director of the Institute, he also worked as the First Deputy Chairman of the State Committee on Science and Technology.

In 1965, Trapeznikov was entitled the Hero of Socialist Labor.

In 1981, he was awarded the Lenin Prize for the scientific supervision of automation works on the first Soviet nuclear-powered fighter submarine (Project 705).

Trapeznikov’s many-year activities were given government awards, including his first Labor Red Banner Order in 1949.

In 1987, at the age of 82, he resigned as the Institute’s Director and worked for a few months as Chief Researcher at Laboratory No. 5. Soon, Trapeznikov was appointed Honorary Director of the Institute and remained until passing away on August 15, 1994.

Trapeznikov’s activities were represented by two continuous chains of engineering-scientific and organizational affairs, events, and hobbies. Moreover, he considered organizational activity a necessary condition for successful research.

Trapeznikov’s ideas and R&D results significantly influenced the development of technical automation means and the Institute’s automation principles and methods for technical objects and organizational and economic systems.

The first stage of his scientific career in automation was connected with developing technical automation means. As mentioned above, during the Great Patriotic War, many automatic devices were created for discrete production processes of the defense industry under his supervision. In the post-war period, Trapeznikov turned to the automation of mass production processes. His Laboratory created several electro-hydraulic controllers. In the late 1940s), Trapeznikov thought over new automation principles to meet the constantly growing demand of the industry for automation means and actively pushed Institute’s employees to work in the area. Before the first publications of translated books on the systems approach, he realized many fundamental principles of constructing automation systems and means. In 1950, Trapeznikov presented the results of his reflections as a detailed report at the general meeting of the Department of Engineering of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

In the first part of the report, he put forward and comprehensively justified the modular principle of automation means (as opposed to the basic structure principle, prevailing at that time). The modular principle consists in separating same-type functions in the structure of devices (e.g., controllers) and unifying physical implementation means for such functions and their connections in the devices. The modular principle reduced the size of components and units and provided a flexible layout of ready-made devices of heterogeneous functionality. Soon, the modular principle became the basic principle for constructing automation means in the Institute and the country.

When Trapeznikov became Director of the Institute (1951), he deployed intensive research in electrical, pneumatic, and hydraulic branches of automation means.

Within the electrical branch, samples of electrical controllers and tracking systems were designed. But the main focus was on creating analog electronic modeling units (EMUs): in the late 1940s and early 1950s, they were the only computing tool to simulate the operation of aircraft control systems. (At that time, EMUs were intensively studied in the Institute under the guidance of Boris N. Petrov.) In fact, no other technical means were available to analyze the dynamics of nonlinear automatic control systems. From 1946 to 1960, ten generations of EMUs were developed.

Trapeznikov managed to create a competent and friendly team: he always appreciated such qualities of research groups. As a result, perhaps for the first time in the USSR, the team designed an operational amplifier with automatic zero drift compensation and a high gain. The leading developers were employees of Laboratory No. 9: V.A. Trapeznikov, B.Ya. Kogan, D.E. Polonnikov, and V.V. Gurov. In 1951, that joint work with the Research Institute of Computing Machines (NIISchetMash) was awarded the State Prize.

The pneumatic and hydraulic branches of automation means received no less original and constructive development under the guidance of M.A. Aizerman (at the initial stage) and then A.A. Tal. Due to cooperation with Tizpribor (Moscow), the modular unified system of pneumatic devices (MUS) and then the universal system of industrial pneumatic automation elements (USIPAE) were implemented. In 1964, M.A. Aizerman, T.K. Berends, T.K. Efremova, A.A. Tagaevskaya, and A.A. Tal were awarded the Lenin Prize for developing and implementing the USIPAE. The pneumatic branch of automation means is still active. Also, a new research area was born at the Institute, called fluidics (pneumonics), pioneered by L.A. Zalmanzon. Combined fluidic-membrane elements found their industrial application. The hydraulic branch of automation means was developing rather successfully. By the end of the 1960s, the universal system of hydraulic automation elements (USHAE) was put into production.

In the late 1950s, the wide range of R&D works on automation means and the natural need to generalize the accumulated results led to creating the State System of Industrial Automation Equipment (SSE) based on the modular principle. Trapeznikov encouraged those processes in every possible way. SSE creation was led by Boris S. Sotskov, Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, a major expert in automation elements. An important “zest” was classifying typical functions of automation means in systems and constructing a series of functionally homogeneous and easily connected elements.

The Institute’s transition to dual subordination (the USSR Academy of Sciences and the USSR Ministry of Instrumentation, Automation Means, and Control Systems) allowed effectively implementing the SSE idea. For many years, the State System of Industrial Automation Equipment underlay the technical policy of the Ministry, headed at that time by K.N. Rudnev, a talented and highly authoritative expert. With the appearance of semiconductors and ferrites at the end of the 1950s, Trapeznikov stimulated the development of a series of logic elements (by M.A. Rosenblatt and N.P. Vasilyeva) and logical control systems. In Laboratory No. 9, he organized a group of young researchers under A.F. Volkov to design a digital control computer, a future prototype for an entire class of computing machines for the defense industry. R&D works on logic elements and devices inspired further studies of discrete automation means. According to Trapeznikov’s will, three new Laboratories (research areas) were formed from Laboratory No. 3, headed by M.A. Gavrilov: technical diagnosis means and systems for different objects (headed by P.P. Parkhomenko), queuing systems, particularly the system for booking and selling Aeroflot flight tickets (headed by V.A. Zhozhikashvili), and parallel digital high-performance computing machines with reconfigurable structure (headed by I.V. Prangishvili).

In the USSR, those areas were pioneering and significantly affected the development of automation means and their applications.

Trapeznikov came to automation in the era of “hanging controllers,” with prevailing manual or remote control of technological processes using tracking systems. Manual control was supplemented by controllers only to stabilize single coordinates or change them according to a program. In the post-war period, the number of automation objects increased sharply together with their complexity (especially in chemistry, oil refining, metallurgy, cement production, and other industries). The main area of automation means was military equipment. Rich experience was accumulated in the complex automation and control of large technologically interconnected sets of objects in all possible operating modes. The Institute had no orientation to an individual sector of the national economy: it generalized the experience and developed a common methodology of integrated automation.

Therefore, in the second part of his report to the Department of Engineering of the USSR Academy of Sciences (see above), Trapeznikov presented several fundamental ideas for integrated automation.

First, it was proposed to design control systems in a single complex with technological objects. The main argument behind the proposal was that a control system and its controlled object (plant) form a new object with specific properties different from those of the system and plant considered separately. Hence, it is necessary to achieve the desired characteristics of this new (integrated) object from the very first steps of the design procedure.

Second, attention was drawn to expanding the list of controlled coordinates: common ones (temperature, pressure, displacements, levels, etc.) should be supplemented with less traditional coordinates (the quality indicators of technological processes, e.g., the concentrations of useful components in technological mixtures, specific energy consumption, etc.). It imposed new requirements for developing specific measurement systems and sensors.

Third, it was proposed to design unified control systems of technologically connected units considering all their operation modes, including pre-emergency and emergency ones.

No doubt, Trapeznikov realized in due time the significant “change of milestones” in automation at the beginning of the 1950s. As the Institute’s Director, he organized new Laboratories on complex automation headed by V.L. Lossievsky, N.N. Shumilovsky, D.I. Ageikin, M.A. Aizerman, and A.Ya. Lerner. In addition to purely theoretical, fundamental research, the new Laboratories included works on automating particular technological processes. At the Academic Councils of that time, Trapeznikov persistently advocated the harmonious combination of theoretical research with applied research, considering applications a natural way to find and formulate new fundamental problems. At the same time, he believed that the Institute’s most important task is theory elaboration. It was confirmed by thematic Academic Councils on fundamental control theory, invitations of famous theoreticians, and the organization of new theoretical Laboratories. For example, the Laboratories of A.M. Letov, Ya.Z. Tsypkin, and V.S. Pugachev were established in the 1950s. Trapeznikov insisted on bringing theoretical developments into practice, and those appeals were often heard and discussed at the Academic Councils. Once, before the Council on Implementation Problems, Letov laughingly asked Aizerman: “Tell me, Mark Aronovich, how much are integrals nowadays?”

Difficulties in adopting control theory innovations into production automation forced Trapeznikov to deal with the problem more thoroughly. He saw the main reason in the absence of economic interest in the results of automation for domestic enterprises. With strict planning of the output and even more stringent regulation of prices, staff schedules, and other planning parameters, the introduction of innovations brought nothing more but unnecessary “headaches” for the directors of industrial enterprises.

In subsequent years, Trapeznikov was purposefully searching for ways to facilitate and simplify the implementation of scientific achievements. He called it the problem of scientific and technological progress in the national economy. Trapeznikov proposed solutions, presented reports, published articles in the central press, and put every effort into a constructive approach to implementation as the First Deputy Chairman of the USSR State Committee on Science and Technologies. He summarized the accumulated experience in the field in the book Upravlenie i nauchno-tekhnicheskii progress (Management and Scientific and Technical Progress), released in 1983.

By the end of the 1950s, most of the Institute’s innovative proposals found no full-fledged practical application. The turn to applied problems was dictated by the logic of automation development as a field of knowledge and, moreover, by the living conditions of research institutes in the economic system of socialism. It was difficult for the institutes to count on material base development without theoretical research yielding direct practical benefits for the national economy.

In 1958, Academician Anatoly P. Alexandrov proposed that Trapeznikov take part in a competition of pre-design comprehensive automation projects for a new class of nuclear-powered submarines (submarine fighters and ships of potential opponents). The proposal promised many benefits.

First, it gave hope for the comprehensive automation of control, from the nuclear power plant to the combat operations of ships, with mandatory deadlines and planned financing, instead of partial implementation of common projects through persistent “pestering” to the directors of enterprises.

Second, there was a real opportunity to construct a new building for the Institute and finally gather all Laboratories scattered all over Moscow under one roof (include the corresponding decision into the Decree of the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers). Fortunately, the dream came true. In 1968, the Institute of Automation and Remote Control received a beautiful, well-equipped building on Profsoyuznaya Street. Mikhail L. Linsky, Trapeznikov’s Deputy, directly managed the construction process and devoted much physical and moral energy to the task and the Institute’s development in general. For the new building, Linsky succeeded to obtain such technical means and materials whose application in civil engineering at that time was considered something like a state crime.

Third, the personal interest of employees in those works was important for the Institute staff: participation in the project allowed formulating the topics of new dissertations, facilitated promotion, and, in case of success, allowed counting on government awards. (In that period, it was not customary to talk about personal interest: no welcome by the higher authority.)

Nevertheless, the proposal was comprehensively weighed. Trapeznikov discussed it with the leading employees of the Institute and consulted with the Directors of several sector institutes, including those supposedly involved in close cooperation. All scientific and organizational factors that could affect the works were assessed. It was easy to mistake from accepting such a responsible proposal because the question was not a jaunt. One situation is when a research team has been working in the same field for many years and growing professionally along with the increasing complexity of the problems solved. Another situation is to brainstorm a fundamentally new, complex, and large-scale problem, as the Institute was expected to do.

The Institute’s capabilities were assessed as follows. There was a general rise in control theory and automation technology in the post-war period. This conclusion becomes obvious when looking through the issues of Avtomatika i Telemekhanika, the Institute’s academic journal, for those years. Almost every issue of the journal contained papers that were later revised into entire sections of classical and modern textbooks on control theory.

Noticeable progress took place in technical means of automation as well. At the end of the 1950s, the industry began to produce rather reliable semiconductor devices, controlled phosphor information display means, logic elements, the first digital control computers, and other devices.

Were there organizational prerequisites for participating in such a complex activity as R&D works on a new submarine project? Some were, and the others had to be patiently created. First of all, the Institute had professionals in all branches and applications of control and automation theory. It was because the Institute of Automation and Remote Control had unprecedented freedom in research topics for those times. As a result, different employees and various-profile research groups found their “niches” in the general problems of control systems theory and technology. In addition, the Institute’s atmosphere of freedom, openness, and mutual goodwill stimulated the initiative and increased the sense of responsibility for all works.

Trapeznikov took the overall guidance of the project and introduced a new work organization for the Institute. The problem under consideration was divided into several subproblems, and dedicated interlaboratory groups with appointed supervisors were formed for their solution.

All those factors led to the decision to participate in the competition. The appointment of Anatoly P. Alexandrov as the scientific supervisor of the entire project, a person close to Trapeznikov by his enthusiasm, also influenced the decision. Trapeznikov made a great effort to organize the works on such a giant project at the Institute for over a year. Regular contacts were established with all organizations involved to provide all the initial information. As a result, 8 volumes of the preliminary design documentation were prepared and handed over to the customer, the Navy Technical Service of the USSR, on December 30, 1959. The customer’s commission summed up the results of the competition (tender, as called nowadays) and recognized the Institute’s proposal as the most preferable one. The main advantages of the Institute’s project were a unified concept of control systems and the deep unification of technical automation means and many other solutions.

Soon, the Decree of the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers appointed Trapeznikov as a scientific supervisor for the complex automation of nuclear-powered submarines, and the Institute was involved in scientific research to support the design work.

It is impossible to overestimate the complexity and responsibility of the works that Trapeznikov had to lead. Automation was expected to play a crucial role in achieving the required tactical and technical characteristics of the developed submarine. The submarine design used the latest scientific developments, and not only in automation and control systems. Even its construction and hull were super-original: no one had ever seen such a submarine. The new flagship of the Soviet submarine fleet was created almost in parallel to an American counterpart of the same purpose, nowadays known from the open press as the Thrasher. (However, the American submarine crashed during testing.)

Subsequently, all developments for nuclear-powered submarines (with some modifications) were transferred to a new series of nuclear icebreakers (Arktika, Sibir, and others). The Institute, headed by Trapeznikov, scientifically supervised the automation of the new icebreakers as well.

In November 1971, the first version of the fighter submarine, named the Blue Whale in the Western press, went to sea under the command of 1st rank captain A.S. Pushkin and passed the State trials. The second version (the basic one) was tested under 1st rank captain A.U. Abbasov and was taken into service in 1978.

The State trials and commissioning of a ship to the fleet is a complex, responsible, and time-consuming operation. For the basic experimental submarine, they were described in the book Podvodnaya lodka “Goluboi kit” (The Blue Whale Submarine) by Alexander S. Pushkin, Podolsk, 1996. (Interestingly, the captain of the first domestic nuclear-powered submarine of a new generation had the same name as the greatest Russian poet!) The State Commission was headed by Admiral of the Navy, Hero of the Soviet Union, Deputy Navy Commander for Combat Training Georgy M. Egorov, an experienced officer who served in the submarine fleet during the entire Great Patriotic War and the postwar years. In his memoirs Farvaterami flotskoi sluzhby (Fleet Service Fairways), Egorov noted Trapeznikov’s participation in the first deep-water submarine maneuvering tests.

As confirmed by the subsequent operation of the ships of that series, the chosen scope of automation and the entire set of technical solutions ensured the high-quality and reliable operation of the ship systems in all modes. The project had a significant impact on the future development of ship automation, not only by the level of perfection of the technical solutions but also by overcoming the eternal fear of total automation. (Before the implementation of that project, the eternal fear of total automation prevailed among the high-ranking officials responsible for the technical policy of shipbuilding in the USSR.)

Trapeznikov’s interest in the new field of automation was not limited to one unique submarine model. In 1968, he organized an initiative group to summarize the experience gained, develop automation principles common to all submarines, and select promising automation means. He engaged not only the Institute’s employees but also experts from other organizations. It was natural since over the years of R&D works on the submarine fighter, informal and well-coordinated groups of experts were formed. Trapeznikov always strived to communicate with ordinary developers, always singled out talented people, and pushed them in every way to search for new solutions. According to his words, our country was unique in the sense that the scientific and technological progress was supported by the people: it was in their “blood” to create something new. At the same time, there were few economic and monetary incentives for innovations in that time.

In 1969, Trapeznikov reported on the structure and principles of automation in advanced nuclear-powered submarines to the Navy’s top command. The report provided a detailed critical analysis of the systems in operation and put into service, including those of his design, and proposed principles for constructing advanced systems.

For thirty years, Trapeznikov influenced directly or indirectly (through the organization of exploratory research) the development of the theory and technology of automation of the domestic submarine fleet. In addition, the range of his scientific interests was naturally expanding. Solving the automation problems of ship systems, he and his staff performed significant research on the control of submarine combat operations against typical countermeasures of a potential opponent. Trapeznikov believed that as long as the Institute was able to get new results for improving domestic defense technology, the corresponding research should be continued. The country must be able to defend itself.

Trapeznikov’s interest in organizational-economic systems took shape by 1960. At the 1st Congress of the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) in 1960, he made a presentation with a rather pretentious, in the spirit of the time, title: “Automation and the Humanity.” The presentation discussed the perspectives of automation in economics, scientific research, and engineering. At the 3rd All-Union Meeting on Automatic Control (1965), his presentation was entitled “Automatic Control and Economics.” It summarized the results of investigating the economic efficiency of automation processes and related problems of improving the quality and consumer properties of industrial products. The presented methodology for calculating the efficiency of control systems arose considerable interest among experts. In subsequent years, all key publications on economic efficiency analysis, as a rule, contained references to Trapeznikov’s presentation.

Analyzing factual data on the economic efficiency of automation processes, Trapeznikov concluded that widespread automation is not only harmless but also highly useful and profitable. In particular, according to his systematized data, implemented automatic systems pay for themselves in 1.5–2 years, whereas the main technological equipment only in 7–8 years. Trapeznikov repeatedly returned to that topic later.

At the 8th All-Union Conference on Control Problems (1980), his presentation “On Some Prospects of Control Systems Development” was devoted to improving control systems for large organizational-economic complexes. It was a period of widespread use of computer-aided control systems in the nonindustrial sphere, which was often not accompanied by a proper economic efficiency analysis. Some experts even declared the inefficiency of such systems. Therefore, the presentation was especially relevant because the “grains were separated from the chaff.”

In his works, Trapeznikov paid considerable attention to the problem of embedding automation in the production and social activities of a man. Apparently, he first successfully considered psychological aspects in the introduction and operation of computer-aided control systems. Note two important features that distinguished all Trapeznikov’s reports: first, he gave many quantitative and meaningful examples; second, not being satisfied with particular examples, he always formulated generalizing conclusions arising from the particularity. It was the case as well when the conversation touched upon the problems of the country’s economy.

Trapeznikov stated the insufficient attention of government bodies to the introduction of new equipment and listed the consequences of failed plans to develop and put it into operation, including the latest control systems. His presentation was supplemented with the analysis of variations in the capital-labor ratio and capital productivity in the economy. Stunning figures: in 1958, production assets increase by 1 ruble gave 52 kopecks of national income; in 1980, only 16 kopecks.

In a very acute (verbal and written) form, Trapeznikov repeatedly stated the dangerous underestimation of the role of scientific and technological progress. According to the publications of the 1970s and 1980s, a main topic of his scientific journalism was his conclusion about the steadily declining efficiency of the administrative-command method of managing the national economy as its volume grows. (This term was introduced later by G.Kh. Popov.) He was not afraid to say that compared to the goods of economically developed countries, the products of domestic industries were totally uncompetitive. In 1963, Trapeznikov published a daring article for those days in Pravda, entitled “Quality Is the Criterion!” Fortunately, today’s young people will no longer understand the “audacity” of his ideas expressed therein. After all, he just underlined the inadmissibility of reducing the requirements for product quality. In the article, Trapeznikov proposed the efficient unit indicator for the system of assessing the activities of enterprises. It was defined as the production output multiplied by the quality coefficient.

In 1964, in the same Pravda, he published an even more courageous article: “For Flexible Economic Management of Enterprises.” Trapeznikov criticized the existing system of assessing the activities of enterprises according to the planned figures and proposed the transition to profit as the main indicator. He reasoned: “It is time to leave outdated forms of economic management based on directive norms and move to a simpler, cheaper, and more effective economic regulation of enterprises.” The low efficiency of domestic production, the rigidity and bureaucratism of management methods, and the misunderstanding of the information and technological revolution that took place in developed capitalist countries and its consequences––all these phenomena worried the Director of the Institute of Automation and Remote Control of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

At the 4th All-Union Meeting on Automatic Control (1968), Trapeznikov said: “…Scientific management organization methods have become a main factor of progress. Economic subordination based on better-organized knowledge is becoming more and more significant.” He supported his views on the role of management organization in production and the national economy with an excerpt from The American Challenge (1967), the book by J.J. Servan-Schreiber: “America today still resembles Europe... By 1980 the US will have entered another world, and if we fail to catch up, the Americans will have a monopoly on knowhow, science, and power. If Europe, like the Soviet Union, is forced out of the running, the United States will stand alone in its futuristic world. This will be unacceptable to Europe, dangerous for America and disastrous for the world... A nation holding a monopoly of power would look on imperialism as a kind of duty, and would take its own success as proof that the rest of the world should follow its example.”

Our generation is essentially reaping the harvest of past strategic mistakes of the country’s management.

In the presentation at the 4th All-Union Meeting on Automatic Control, Trapeznikov proposed an effective management formula for large socio-economic systems: “they know–they can–they want–they succeed.” Revealing the meaning of each link in the formula, he emphasized its universality and the impossibility of excluding even one link.

In the next article (Izvestiya, January 17, 1970), Trapeznikov proved that scientific and technological progress is the main growth source of social welfare. Statistical data confirmed the conclusion: the growth rates of social welfare and scientific and technological progress almost coincided. His methodology of assessing the dynamics of scientific and technological progress was of great interest.

Comparing different ways of developing the national economy in 1966–1970 (Pravda, January 18, 1976), he showed that increasing production funds gives 39 kopecks of national income per 1 ruble of expenses, whereas investing 1 ruble in R&D (including implementation) yields 1 ruble 45 kopecks of national income (more than four times more). Trapeznikov also noted that American firms invest in research 30–40% of the funds allocated for expanding their production assets. Furthermore, the highest economic efficiency of science explains the ongoing head-hunting strategy of many foreign (first of all, American) firms. (He called it “buying brains”).

Of course, in those days, Trapeznikov did not claim directly that only the market economy promotes scientific and technological progress. But one extract from his article “Impetuses to Progress” (Pravda, March 20, 1980) is enough to understand his views on this problem: “A reason, probably the most important one, is the insufficient demand for the products of research institutes and their original, progressive developments on the part of consumer enterprises.” In the article, he warned of the dire consequences of copying technologies, especially electronic and computing ones, the widespread practice of that period.

As a matter of fact, in the 1960s–1980s, Trapeznikov was the most acute and critical patriot-publicist who spoke with deep-seated pain and indignation about the scientific and technological policy conducted in the USSR and made constructive suggestions for its improvement.

The position of the Deputy Chairman of the USSR State Committee on Science and Technology did not undermine Trapeznikov’s lifework: management of the Institute of Automation and Remote Control. No doubt, Trapeznikov should be characterized as an authoritarian leader. As shown by life, such hard-nosed managers with strong will achieve organizational prosperity and create a competent and well-organized team. Despite all its attractiveness, liberal leadership under full compliance with all norms and rules formalized by laws (based on the principle of self-organization) is rather ineffective in our country. Of course, adequate laws and corresponding regulations are needed. But the existence of “good” laws and rules is clearly not enough, and an experienced leader must be able to make volitional decisions to correct the situation.

However, with a significant rigidity and ability to act, Trapeznikov considered public opinion; he listened to the advice of public organizations and respected scientists.

Perhaps, the most important trait of Trapeznikov as Director was the ability to keep the most promising research at the Institute under his permanent control. Neither organizational fluidity nor big state affairs prevented him from doing so tirelessly and consistently. Once, he noted that new ideas and solutions mature slowly and tacitly, but when there are new serious results, a director must focus on a researcher or research team moving toward success and help achieve significant final results. Trapeznikov called this leadership principle the identification of “fast growth points.” Among such growth points, he mentioned the USIPAC, pneumatic, hydraulic, and fluidic systems, R&D works on the extreme and optimal control theory, reliability theory, and parallel computing machines.

However, providing considerable organizational, psychological, and ideological support to “growth point” research, he was scrupulous in authorship. Trapeznikov co-authored only R&D works from many State and Lenin Prizes received by the Institute’s employees. But he initiated and personally supervised them, and even helped to “squeeze out” the maximum possible result from their implementation. Such a director’s attitude toward authorship guaranteed an ethical and moral atmosphere in the staff.

In general, the moral atmosphere of the Institute has always been a particular concern of the Director. At times, to maintain an adequate creative climate, Trapeznikov had to take drastic measures, including dismissing very famous experts. If a squabble arose in the Institute, or there was mutual distrust and excessive narcissism, the Director acted firmly and unflatteringly. The old generation understands that only a determined and courageous man could act like this because such stories were usually accompanied by visits of the party and state commissions to the Institute and heavy proceedings.

Trapeznikov was no less concerned about the high level of mathematical culture at the Institute. He willingly hired professional mathematicians, believing that due to their influence, the professionalism of theoreticians and applied engineers would grow. This role of mathematicians was cultivated by the first Director of the Institute, Academician Victor S. Kulebakin, who invited Academician N.N. Luzin to the Institute in 1940. Many famous mathematicians worked at the Institute, including Academicians A.A. Andronov and V.S. Pugachev, Professors M.A. Krasnosel’skii, A.M. Letov, R.Sh. Liptser, and others.

Certainly, improving the efficiency of research and the quality of scientific results was Trapeznikov’s main concern until the last day of his directorship at the Institute. In the late 1950s and the first half of the 1960s, he conducted Academic Councils devoted to research in Laboratories or in a particular subject area. In the early 1960s, he announced the “competition of ideas”: a call for comparing the results and the level of scientific developments.

In 1967, when S.V. Emelyanov became the first Deputy Director, the directorate’s efforts to control the quality of Laboratories’ studies yielded a new system for stimulating the level and efficiency of theoretical and applied research based on expert assessments. The annual expert sessions with special commissions to assess the results of theoretical and applied research put Trapeznikov’s idea of the “competition of ideas” into life. Expert assessments became not only an impetus to research but also a rostrum for a public, critical exchange of opinions and a school for young researchers. The attitude toward assessments, like any organizational mechanisms that affected people’s interests, differed but their role in strengthening the Institute as a scientific center was enormous. As life showed, no regalia saved the authors of weak R&D works from low marks; on the contrary, capable, young, and hardworking people could immediately receive public recognition.

Assessments of scientific results by special expert commissions affected the Institute’s life and changed the functions of the Academic Council. Until the beginning of the 1970s, the Academic Council was the only center of scientific life. All aspects of the Institute’s life were considered there, including the defense of dissertations. Trapeznikov, and his predecessors, succeeded to create the atmosphere of a family, a scientific brotherhood that continued and reproduced the former spirit of student unity. At the meetings of the Academic Council, serious and sometimes unpleasant discussions of scientific problems suddenly turned into scenes of general merriment: witty people have always been loved at the Institute. The veterans of the Institute will easily remember the bright jokes of B.S. Sotskov, A.M. Letov, D.I. Ageikin, Ya.Z. Tsypkin, and many other members of those old Councils. Trapeznikov appreciated the humor and the ability to tell apt and timely jokes as well. Due to the rare charm of this intelligent, educated, and friendly person, an atmosphere of joyful communication always prevailed at the meetings of the Academic Councils.

Some Councils were devoted to global scientific problems. Note the presentations of Academician L.S. Pontryagin on the maximum principle in optimal control theory, A.A. Markov on the theory of algorithms, and A.G. Aganbegyan on the economic reform peculiarities of socialist camp countries in the mid-1960s. They were discussions on the main theme set by the reporter. Sometimes, such discussions changed the research areas of the Institute. At that time, R&D works were deployed on computer programming, color music, information display means for operators, automated control and technical diagnosis, and parallel reconfigurable computers.

Trapeznikov understood the organizing role of the Institute in the country. Since 1940 the All-Union Meetings on Automatic Control and thematic conferences on different ranges of problems were held regularly. The First IFAC Congress was held under the Institute’s auspices. The Congress was an unforgettable event in its organization, representativeness, and scientific content. It was amazing: the Soviet Union gathered the flower of the world’s science on automation. N. Wiener, R. Kalman, A.N. Kolmogorov, L.S. Pontryagin, and other outstanding theorists actively worked in the Congress.

Trapeznikov met perestroika with wariness; in 1987, when it was announced that the Institute would pass from purely budgetary funding to partial self-financing, he uttered the prophetic words: “Science ends when self-financing begins.”

In the same year, 1987, Trapeznikov ended the Director’s career. He spent 36 years building the Institute, getting involved in all serious problems of the Institute. Employees respected and loved him. Many people remember the evening of November 28, 1985, when Trapeznikov’s 80th anniversary was celebrated in the Great Conference Hall of the Institute. How warmly he was congratulated, how the “hussars” joked, what a cordial atmosphere it was: an all-Institute holiday.

Due to this atmosphere and Trapeznikov, a group of “hussars” (authors and performers of New Year’s skits) was formed in the Institute in the 1970s–1980s. During the skits, the most acute problems of the Institute and the country were played up and discussed almost without any censorship. One episode was associated with Leonid Brezhnev’s “unforgettable” words in the Kremlin: “Economy must be economical.” A month later, a hussar with the sign “Science must be scientific” dangling from his neck was escorted across the stage of the Great Conference Hall.

Another remarkable example is Zina’s part from the song dialogue about the Institute of Control Sciences between the famous characters of Vladimir Vysotsky:

Oh, Van, look – what squirrels,
What vitrailed windows, what comfort...
Such little things create a mood!
And the marble in the vestibule, Van,
Is not worse than Sandunov’s baths,
And there are geraniums on the windows.
It’s beautiful, Van!

Trapeznikov authored about 100 research works, including 10 monographs and 40 inventions. His main monographs and brochures are as follows:

  1. Nauchnye osnovy progressivnoi tekhniki i tekhnologii (Scientific Foundations of Advanced Equipment and Technology), Moscow: Mashinostroenie, 1986. – 376 p. (coauthors G.I. Marchuk, I.F. Obraztsov, L.I. Sedov, and V.P. Barmin);
  2. Upravlenie i nauchno-tekhnicheskii progress (Control and Scientific and Technological Progress), Moscow: Nauka, 1983. – 219 p.;
  3. ASI - adaptivnaya sistema s identifikatorom (The ASI: An Adaptive System with an Identifier), Moscow: Institute of Control Sciences, the USSR Academy of Sciences, 1980. – 67 p. (coauthors N.S. Raibman and V.M. Chadeev);
  4. ARIUS - avtomatizatsiya razrabotki informatsionno-upravlyayushchikh sistem (nauchno-inzhenernaya kontseptsiya, modeli, yazykovye sredstva) (ARIUS: Automated Design of Management Information Systems (The Scientific and Engineering Concept, Models, and Language Means)), Moscow: Institute of Control Sciences, the USSR Academy of Sciences, 1975. – 66 p. (coauthors V.L. Epshtein and V.I. Senichkin);
  5. Tekhnicheskaya kibernetika v SSSR (Engineering Cybernetics in the USSR), Moscow: Nauka, 1968. – 270 p.;
  6. Upravlenie, ekonomika, tekhnicheskii progress (Control, Economics, and Technological Progress), Moscow: Institute of Control Sciences, the USSR Academy of Sciences, 1966. – 27 p.;
  7. Avtomaticheskii kontrol’ lineinykh razmerov izdelii (Automatic Check of Linear Product Dimensions), Moscow: Oborongiz, 1947. – 432 p. (coauthors I.E. Gorodetskii, B.N. Petrov, and A.A. Feldbaum);
  8. Osnovy proektirovaniya serii asinkhronnykh mashin (Foundations of Designing Series of Asynchronous Machines), Moscow-Leningrad, 1937. – 169 p.

They are presented in the Institute’s database:Трапезников+В.А.

Here is the list of Trapeznikov’s papers in Avtomatika i Telemekhanika:

1. V. A. Trapeznikov, Automatic Control and Impact on Society, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1983:3,  171—174.
2. V. A. Trapeznikov, On Prospects in Progress of Control Systems, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1981:2,  7—14.
3. V. A. Trapeznikov, How tо Improve MIS Efficiency? Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1979:6,  21—28.
4. V. A. Trapeznikov, A Man in a Computer System, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1972:2,  5—16.
5. V. A. Trapeznikov, The Rate of Progress in Science and Technology as Index of Economy Management Efficiency, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1971:4,  5—36.
6. V. A. Trapeznikov, Problems of Control of Economic Systems, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1969:1,  5—24.
7. V. A. Trapeznikov, Automatic Control and Economics, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1966:1,  5—22.
8. V. A. Trapeznikov, Reply to the Remark by V. M. Ginzburg to the Article “Automatic Control and Economics”, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1966:12,  155.
9. V. A. Trapeznikov, Problems of Engineering Cybernetics in the Institute of Automation and Remote Control (1939—1964), Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1964, 25:6,  747—752.
10. V. A. Trapeznikov, Cybernetics and Automatic Control, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1962, 23:3,  279—288.
11. V. V. Gurov, B. Ya. Kogan, A. D. Talantsev, V. A. Trapeznikov, New Electronic Modeling Equipment of the Institute of Automation and Remote Control (the USSR Academy of Sciences), Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1956, 17:1,  19—35.
12. V. V. Gurov, B. Ya. Kogan, A. D. Talantsev, V. A. Trapeznikov, Errata to the Paper “A Procedure to Setup and Solve Problems on Electronic Modeling Units”, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1956, 17:1,  97.
13. V. A. Trapeznikov, The Main Problems of Complex Automation of Production Processes, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1954, 15:5,  384—391.
14. V. A. Trapeznikov, B. Ya. Kogan, The Design Principles of Modeling Units for Studying Automatic Control Processes, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1952, 13:6,  650—663.
15. V. A. Trapeznikov, A. Ya. Lerner, Automatic Controllers for a Modular System, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1951, 12:5,  431—448.
16. V. A. Trapeznikov, A. Ya. Lerner, On the Modular Principle in Industrial Instrumentation, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1950, 11:4,  226—250.

For their English versions, see the microfilm collection of Automation and Remote Control:

Many inventions by Trapeznikov are available at:

Articles about V.A. Trapeznikov

1. V. L. Epstein, V. A. Trapeznikov’s Theses in the Context of Postindustrialism TheoryProbl. Upr., 2006, no. 1, 2—5.
2. V. A. Trapeznikov (to the Centenary)Probl. Upr., 2005, no. 5, 99—104.
3. The 100th Birthday of Academician Vadim Aleksandrovich TrapeznikovAvtomat. i Telemekh., 2005, no. 11, 3—11; Autom. Remote Control66:11 (2005), 1705—1712.
4. Vadim Aleksandrovich Trapeznikov (1905—1994)Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1994, no. 12, 175—178; Autom. Remote Control55:12 (1994), 1848—1849.
5. Academician V. A. Trapeznikov (the 75th Birthday)Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1980, no. 11, 5—8.
6. 60th Birthday of Academician V. A. TrapeznikovAvtomat. i Telemekh., 1966, no. 1, 190—192.
7. Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences V. A. Trapeznikov (to the 50th Birthday)Avtomat. i Telemekh.17:2 (1956), 172.

Also, see the Wikipedia page devoted to Trapeznikov:Трапезников,_Вадим_Александрович