Boris N. Petrov

Boris N. Petrov


Tuesday, March 11, 1913

Passed away: 

Saturday, August 23, 1980

Boris Petrov, in full Boris Nikolaevich Petrov, was born in Smolensk. His father was an accountant; his mother, a doctor. She died in 1919 after contracting typhus in the selfless struggle with the epidemic. His father died in 1929. Petrov graduated from a high school in 1930 and then entered the factory apprenticeship school at the Ordzhonikidze Moscow Machine-Tool Plant. After working for one year as a turner, in 1933, he entered the Moscow Power Engineering Institute, graduating with honors in 1939. Academician V.S. Kulebakin, the scientific consultant of his graduation work, highly appreciated a talented student. Kulebakin recommended Petrov to the Committee for Automation and Remote Control of the USSR Academy of Sciences, which was later transformed into the Institute of Automation and Remote Control (IARC; nowadays, Trapeznikov Institute of Control Sciences, further called the Institute). Petrov worked in the Institute until his last days, particularly as Head during the difficult formation period (1947—1951).

In 1945, Petrov submitted his dissertation to the Institute’s Academic Council. He was conferred the degree of Dr. Sci. (Eng.), bypassing the Candidate’s degree. In the dissertation review, Academician N.N. Luzin wrote: “The submitted dissertation… has high merits and can be considered an outstanding phenomenon among other research works...” Petrov’s subsequent R&D works in control theory were distinguished by the novelty of problems under consideration, the depth of studies, outstanding results, and the boldness of judgments and recommendations. The range of his scientific interests was very wide. He developed the structural transformation method for the block diagrams (schemes) of automatic systems and a corresponding mathematical apparatus, the algebra of structural transformations. Petrov carried out profound studies of integration methods for nonlinear differential equations (the so-called Petrov phenomenon). He established the limits of applicability of Academician Chaplygin’s method.

Petrov is a founder of the theory of invariant control systems. He formulated a physical implementability criterion for invariance conditions, well-known as Petrov’s two-channel principle.

Multifaceted research in invariance theory led to developing new principles and structures for various types of combined systems.

Note that in 1939 and 1940, Professor G.V. Shchipanov was subjected to devastating criticism for his article on invariance. Petrov rehabilitated Shchipanov scientifically and civilly, proving himself to be a great man and an outstanding researcher.

Petrov was remarkable for his encyclopedic knowledge and interests. Actively working in the general theory of automatic control, he always selected the most relevant problems.

In the 1950s—1960s, Petrov carried out extensive research in the theory and practice of nonlinear servomechanisms. With a group of students, he developed methods for calculating and studying servomechanisms and passed the results to specialized design bureaus for subsequent implementation.

Since 1955, under Petrov’s guidance, methods were developed to construct nonlinear variable structure control systems (in particular, analysis and design methods).

In 1957, Petrov led the research in the theory, design, and development of searchless self-adaptive systems (adaptive systems with a model). Under his guidance and participation, adaptive control systems for several classes of rockets by Chief Designer I.S. Seleznev were designed and developed, for the first time in the USSR. Petrov and his students elaborated a new promising line of research: the theory of coordinate-parametric control. It was an extension of the theory of adaptive systems.

Petrov’s studies of nonstationary (time-varying) and multivariate systems, as well as his contributions to sensitivity theory and control algorithm design as an inverse dynamics problem, are widely known.

All his creative life as a scientist and engineer, Petrov paid close attention to propulsion control problems for ballistic missiles.

In the 1950s, Petrov began working with Academician S.P. Korolev on the research and development of control systems for the first intercontinental ballistic missile R-7. He often participated in the meetings of the famous Council of Chief Designers headed by S.P. Korolev. The first constructive results on the dynamics of liquid-propellant missile engines (LPMEs), including their electronic analog modeling, were obtained by Petrov and his colleagues in 1950 and 1951.

In 1954, the Institute was entrusted by a government decree to lead R&D works on a propulsion control system for the intercontinental ballistic missile developed by S.P. Korolev. Petrov took responsibility for the ideology of a fundamentally new class of systems—terminal fuel control systems for LPMEs—that significantly increased the missile’s power output by sharply reducing the guaranteed fuel reserves. He was the scientific supervisor and a major participant in developing the theory, design principles, and control algorithms for this class of systems for all large liquid-propellant missiles (Korolev’s R-7 and all subsequent combat missiles and launch vehicles).

Petrov put much effort into designing the main blocks of terminal control systems: onboard fuel level meters, a high-precision onboard pressure sensor for the combustion chamber of LPMEs, throttles for a propellant feed system and a fuel control system, and servomechanisms of these systems.

Petrov made a significant scientific contribution to: developing preliminary damping systems for gravitationally stabilized Earth satellites, control systems for communication satellites, and direct broadcasting systems in the geostationary orbit; designing several multi-seated spacecraft and carrying out their launches; implementing the world’s first human spacewalk; developing automatic stations; delivering the first artificial moon satellite in a near-moon orbit.

As the first Chairman of the Intercosmos Council at the USSR Academy of Sciences, Petrov was actively engaged in organizing international space programs. Among them, note the Soyuz-Apollo project involving researchers, engineers, and designers from the USSR and the USA. Petrov personally contributed to solving numerous organizational, scientific, and technical problems of the project.

Throughout his creative life, Petrov was in close contact with leading figures of the Soviet rocket and space science and technology: S.P. Korolev, V.P. Glushko, M.K. Yangel’, V.N. Chelomei, V.F. Utkin, M.F. Reshetnev, V.P. Mishin, N.A. Pilyugin and other pioneers of domestic rocket engineering and cosmonautics. He was rightfully included in the cohort of national cosmonautics founders. Petrov participated in most of the launches at Kapustin Yar and Baikonur during the formation and first works of S.P. Korolev in space exploration. He worked in the State Commission on Launches. For many years, there was creative contact between Petrov and M.V. Keldysh. Petrov took part in developing and discussing space programs in the USSR. During the development of the domestic shuttle space system, he actively contributed to the image of the Buran spacecraft.

Petrov wrote about 200 journalistic and popular science articles on major scientific problems in automation, computer engineering, experiment automation, and program management of space research. He supported everything new and promising in science and repeatedly emphasized the importance of developing a mathematical or abstract systems theory. As he said, this theory extends the horizons of control science.

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

Petrov was not only a great researcher but also an outstanding scientific organizer. Since 1963, he was the Academician-Secretary of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Control Processes (the USSR Academy of Sciences); in 1979, he was elected Vice-President of the USSR Academy of Sciences. For many years, Petrov was the Editor-in-Chief of Proceedings of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Engineering Cybernetics (nowadays, Journal of Computer and Systems Sciences International) and a member of the editorial boards of many other journals.

Petrov was a talented teacher. He began tutoring at the Ordzhonikidze Moscow Aviation Institute in 1944, at the Department of Aircraft Automatic Control and Stabilization. From 1950 to the last days of his life, he headed the Department, reorganizing it into the Department of Automatic Control Systems for Aircraft. Petrov’s lectures were always popular with students. Due to his persistent and painstaking work, the Department developed a highly-qualified scientific and pedagogical staff, and its education program became a model for many universities in the USSR.

Under Petrov’s guidance, large professional teams grew up. His scientific school successfully develops topical problems of modern control theory. His followers were elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences; many defended their dissertations and became famous researchers and engineers. Now they are the heads of university departments and various research institutes and industrial enterprises.

Petrov was entitled the Hero of Socialist Labor. He was awarded the Order of Lenin (5 times), the Order of the October Revolution, the Labor Red Banner Order, the Red Star Order, as well as the USSR Lenin and State Prizes.

Petrov’s activities were widely recognized in other countries. He was Full Member of the International Academy of Astronautics and Foreign Member of the Czechoslovak, Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Polish Academies of Sciences. Moreover, he was awarded several foreign orders and the Gold Medal of the French National Center for Space Research.

In August 1980, an untimely death took Petrov away, full of creative energy.

In November 1980, the Government issued a decree on perpetuating Petrov’s memory. The Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences established the Petrov Gold Medal (since 1993, the Petrov Prize), awarded for outstanding research in the theory and systems of automatic control and experimental research in space exploration. One Moscow square and one RAS ship were named after Academician B.N. Petrov. His memorial plaques were installed at Trapeznikov Institute of Control Sciences and Moscow Aviation Institute.

Petrov’s main books are as follows:

  1. Sistemy avtomaticheskogo upravleniya ob"ektami s peremennymi parametrami (Automatic Control Systems for Variable Parameter Objects), Moscow: Mashinostroenie, 1986. — 256 p. (coauthors N.I. Sokolov, A.V. Lipatov, L.A. Nosov, F.R. Sadykov, G.V. Serpionov, P.A. Frolov, and Sh.G. Altshuler);
  2. Navigatsionnoe obespechenie poleta orbital’nogo kompleksa “Salyut-6” — “Soyuz” — “Progress” (Navigational Flight Support for the Salyut-6—Soyuz—Progress Orbital Complex), Moscow: Nauka, 1985. — 375 p. (coauthors I.K. Bazhinov, V.P. Gavrilov, V.D. Yastrebov, et al.);
  3. Izbrannye trudy. Teoriya avtomaticheskogo upravleniya (Selected Proceedings. Theory of Automatic Control), Moscow: Nauka, 1983. — 432 p.
  4. Izbrannye trudy. Upravlenie aviatsionnymi i kosmicheskimi apparatami (Selected Proceedings. Control of Aerospace Vehicles), Moscow: Nauka, 1983. — 328 p.;
  5. Bortovye terminal’nye sistemy upravleniya: Printsipy postroeniya i elementy teorii (Onboard Terminal Control Systems: Design Principles and Elements of the Theory), Moscow: Mashinostroenie, 1983. — 200 p. (coauthors Yu.P. Portnov-Sokolov, A.Ya. Andrienko, and V.P. Ivanov);
  6. Problemy upravleniya relyativistskimi i kvantovymi dinamicheskimi sistemami (Control Problems for Relativistic and Quantum Dynamical Systems), Moscow: Nauka, 1982. — 523 p. (coauthors I.I. Goldenblat, G.M. Ulanov, and S.V. Ul’yanov);
  7. Adaptivnoe koordinatno-parametricheskoe upravlenie nestatsionarnymi ob"ektami (Adaptive Coordinate-Parametric Control of Nonstationary Objects), Moscow: Nauka, 1980. — 244 p. (coauthors V.Yu. Rutkovskii and S.D. Zemlyakov);
  8. Mnogorezhimnye i nestatsionarnye sistemy avtomaticheskogo upravleniya (Multimode and Nonstationary Automatic Control Systems), Moscow: Mashinostroenie, 1978. — 240 p. (coauthors A.D. Alexandrov, V.P. Andreev, et al.);
  9. Teoriya modelei v protsessakh upravleniya (Theory of Models in Control Processes), Moscow: Nauka, 1978. — 223 p. (coauthors G.M. Ulanov, I.I. Goldenblat, and S.V. Ul’yanov);
  10. Informatsionno-semanticheskie problemy v protsessakh upravleniya i organizatsii (Informational and Semantic Problems in Control and Organization Processes), Moscow: Nauka, 1977. — 450 p. (coauthors G.M. Ulanov, S.V. Ul’yanov, and E.M. Khazen);
  11. Printsip invariantnosti v izmeritel’noi tekhnike (The Invariance Principle in Measuring Equipment) Moscow: Nauka, 1976. — 243 p. (V.A. Viktorov, B.V. Lunkin, and A.S. Sovlukov);
  12. Tekhnicheskaya kibernetika (Engineering Cybernetics), Moscow: VINITI, 1975. — 395 p. (coauthors V.V. Petrov, V.M. Ageev, A.V. Zaporozhets, A.S. Uskov, I.N. Polyakov, G.M. Ulanov, S.V. Ul’yanov, and E.M. Khazen);
  13. Printsipy postroeniya i proektirovaniya samonastraivayushchikhsya sistem upravleniya (Design Principles for Self-Adaptive Control Systems), Moscow: Mashinostroenie, 1972. — 260 p. (V.Yu. Rutkovskii, I.N. Krutova, and S.D. Zemlyakov);
  14. Avtomaticheskii kontrol’ lineinykh razmerov izdelii (Automatic Check of Linear Product Dimensions), Moscow: Oborongiz, 1947. — 432 p. (coauthors V.A. Trapeznikov, I.E. Gorodetskii, and A.A. Feldbaum).

For a rather complete list of Petrov’s publications, see the following links:

Many inventions by Petrov are available at:

Articles about B.N. Petrov

1. V. Yu. Rutkovskii, Vice-President of the USSR Academy of Sciences Academician Boris Petrov (on the 100th Anniversary of Birth)Probl. Upr., 2013, no. 1, 79—82.
2. Yu. P. Portnov-Sokolov, V. Yu. Rutkovskii, Boris Nikolaevich Petrov (on the 90th Anniversary of Birth)Probl. Upr., 2003, no. 1, 68—74.
3. V. Yu. Rutkovskii, The 90th Birthday of Academician Boris Nikolaevich PetrovAvtomat. i Telemekh., 2003, no. 3, 3—7; Autom. Remote Control64:3 (2003), 345—349.
4. Boris Nikolaevich Petrov (obituary)Probl. Peredachi Inf.17:2 (1981), 107—110.
5. Petrov B. N. (obituary)Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1980, no. 12, 179—180.
6. Boris Nikolayevitch Petrov — Hero of Socialist LabourAvtomat. i Telemekh., 1969, no. 7, 5—6.

Also, see the Wikipedia page devoted to Petrov:Петров,_Борис_Николаевич_(учёный)

Scopus Author ID: 7102325716