Mikhail A. Gavrilov

Mikhail A. Gavrilov


Wednesday, November 11, 1903

Passed away: 

Sunday, April 29, 1979

Mikhail Gavrilov, in full Mikhail Aleksandrovich Gavrilov, was born in Moscow. His father, Alexander M. Gavrilov, was a dancer at the Bolshoi Theatre, and his mother, Elizaveta S. Gavrilova, was a dentist. Although nobody in the family was keen on appliances, he showed such interest at the age of 2 (according to his sister Nina A. Gavrilova). He wrote about the beginning of his career: “I have been working for hire since 1918 when before graduating from vocational school, I was forced to enroll as a clerk in the Food Department of the Moscow Council of Workers’, Peasants’ and Red Army Deputies.” In 1925, Gavrilov graduated from Bauman Moscow Higher Technical School with a degree in electrical engineering.

After graduation, he worked from 1926 to 1935 in the Management Board of the Moscow Association of Public Power Plants (then the Management of Mosenergo). Gavrilov was very proud of his work at Mosenergo, where he first encountered the problems of remote control and dispatching. He was considered the best dispatcher. In the dispatcher service, Gavrilov demonstrated his ability to instantly grasp the situation, foresee the scenario of development, assess the consequences, make an appropriate decision in real time, and ensure its strict implementation. Working as a shift engineer in the dispatcher room, he realized the acute need for automation and remote control devices and demonstrated his abilities in combinatorics and logic. In 1932, he designed the first domestic remote control device (remote signaling for power systems). Gavrilov’s first publications on remote control are dated from 1928 to 1935. In 1938, Gavrilov was conferred the degree of Cand. Sci. (Eng.) for ten years of his research on remote control (without defense, based on all his publications).

Since establishing the Institute of Automation and Remote Control, the USSR Academy of Sciences (1939), he headed Laboratory No. 3. At that time, the Laboratory considered remote control issues and carried out applied research on the automation of various production processes.

Gavrilov studied remote control for over 20 years. Several new developments were implemented in various sectors of the national economy.

Later, the variety of Laboratory’s activities yielded new scientific lines with dedicated research groups. As a result, 5 independent laboratories were formed within the Institute of Automation and Remote Control. Collecting and educating talented young people, Gavrilov raised researchers throughout his life. Under his supervision, about 50 employees defended their candidate’s dissertations, and more than 10 later became Doctors of Sciences. Gavrilov’s attitude to his graduate students was amazing: being extremely strict towards them, he always defended them. With the easy hand of his numerous students, Gavrilov was called MAG (“magician,” by the first letters of his full name).

A key and even culminating moment in the life of the future MAG happened in 1938 when he attended a seminar of the Moscow Mathematical Society. At the event, V.I. Shestakov, a physicist from Moscow State University, made a report on the application of Boolean algebra to describe the structure of relay circuits. Gavrilov considered Shestakov’s research revolutionary (seemingly, the author did not understand it). Most researchers studied relay-contact circuits (RCCs) from the point of view of conductivity (even Shestakov and C. Shannon), while propositional calculus (logical algebra) was used exclusively to describe structures. But Gavrilov classified contact elements as receiving and actuating (input and output). In other words, he considered not electric current but information flows, from inputs to outputs.

In the early 1940s, Gavrilov tried developing a scientific methodology for RCC design. Logical algebra turned out to be such a tool. Based on Shestakov’s and Shannon’s research works, Gavrilov elaborated a general theory to analyze and design single- and multi-cycle RCCs. His first publication on this problem (1943) was followed by many others, the basis of his doctoral dissertation (1946). Gavrilov proposed the language of inclusion tables to obtain the structural formula of multi-cycle circuits. He developed a methodology for transforming parallel-serial circuits and bridge (H-class) circuits, with general relay-contact elements and specialized elements (selectors, polarized and amplitude relays, etc.). There are legends about the defense of Gavrilov’s doctoral dissertation. According to M.I. Karlinskaya, it lasted 8 hours; philosopher S.V. Yanovskaya and logician S.P. Novikov spoke, and there were ill-wishers, practicing engineers from Leningrad. But the scales were tipped in Gavrilov’s favor by Academician A.I. Berg, who said: “We are present at the greatest discovery of our time, which will revolutionize equipment and devices.” Gavrilov summarized the results of his studies in the classical monograph Teoriya releino-kontaknykh skhem (Theory of Relay-Contact Circuits), originally published in 1950. Subsequently, it was translated into many languages.

In 1963, Gavrilov was elected Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in the control theory.

Gavrilov’s research works of the 1960s—1970s were devoted to the directed search method with application to complex bases of logical elements (majoritarian and threshold elements, elements with arbitrary structure, homogeneous environments, etc.) and complex forms of setting discrete large-dimension devices (interval and bracketed forms). His contribution to the theory of discrete automata includes the problem of complete and consistent description of relay devices, methods for minimizing memory elements, and a block approach to automata description and design. Gavrilov introduced composition operations over transition tables to describe different types of interaction between automata and establish the equivalence of a given automaton to some automata network. Thus, he formulated a block design approach in which a complex device is represented by a system of automata each described by a transition table. Also, he investigated the dependence of the number of automaton states on the number of automaton blocks with different types of interaction between them. Gavrilov’s research on block design gave impetus to further studies of automata composition and decomposition methods.

He suggested using codes from the theory of information transmission to detect and correct errors in discrete automata (to increase their reliability). This idea was interesting and turned out fruitful, forming a new direction in the theory of discrete automata (the design of reliable discrete sequential automata).

In the last years of his life, Gavrilov proposed a method for designing multi-output combinational devices of large dimensions, described by a system of Boolean functions. This method generalized the directed search method.

Gavrilov performed many organizational and coordinating activities:

  • He was Chairman of the Technical Cybernetics Section at the Scientific Council on the Complex Problem of Cybernetics, the USSR Academy of Sciences. The Council was headed by Academician A.I. Berg.
  • He was Chairman of the Scientific Council on Computer-Aided Design at the Committee for Systems Analysis, the USSR Academy of Sciences.

Within the Technical Cybernetics Section, Gavrilov organized the Commission on Relay Devices (1962) and coordinated R&D works in the area.

The Commission also organized All-Union conferences and international seminars and formed their programs. For over 10 years, Moscow Seminar on Relay Devices was held under the auspices of the Commission.

Gavrilov organized regular events, the so-called Schools on the Theory of Discrete Devices, to coordinate and manage R&D works on the topics of the Commission. The first School was held in 1964. Gavrilov’s schools became fruitful and exist to date. They are rightfully and officially named after him.

Gavrilov’s main monographs are as follows:

  1. Izbrannye trudy. Teorii releinykh ustroistv i konechnykh avtomatov (Selected Proceedings. Theories of Relay Devices and Finite Automata), Moscow: Nauka, 1983. — 270 p.;
  2. Teoriya diskretnykh upravlyayushchikh ustroistv (Theory of Discrete Control Devices), Moscow: Nauka, 1982. — 251 p.;
  3. Logicheskoe proektirovanie diskretnykh avtomatov (Logical Design of Discrete Automata), Moscow: Nauka, 1977. — 652 p. (coauthors V.V. Devyatkov and E.I. Pupyrev);
  4. Avtomatizatsiya proizvodstvennykh protsessov v priboro- i agregatostroenii (Automation of Production Processes in Instrumentation and Aggregate Engineering), Moscow: Vysshaya Shkola, 1968. — 416 p. (coauthors P.I. Kovalev and N.N. Ushakov);
  5. Teoriya releino-kontaktnykh sistem (Theory of Relay-Contact Systems), Moscow: the USSR Academy of Sciences, 1950. — 303 p.
  6. Telemekhanizatsiya dispetcherskogo upravleniya energeticheskimi sistemami (Remote Dispatching Control of Power Systems), Moscow—Leningrad: GONTI, 1938. — 492 p.

Some of these books are presented in the Institute’s database:

Here is an incomplete list of Gavrilov’s journal papers:

1. M. A. Gavrilov, V. M. Ostianu, and A. I. Potekhin, Reliability of Discrete Systems, Itogi Nauki. Ser. Teor. Veroyatn. Mat. Stat. Teor. Kibern. 1969, 1970,  7—104.   
2. M. A. Gavrilov, V. M. Ostianu, V. N. Rodin, and B. L. Timofeev, Realization of Discrete Corrector Schemes, Dokl. Akad. Nauk SSSR123:6 (1958),  1025—1028.
3. M. A. Gavrilov, The Development of Industrial Remote Control in the USSR (A Brief Survey), Avtomat. i Telemekh.8:5 (1947),  397—403.  
4. M. A. Gavrilov, The Structural Classification of Relay-Contact Circuits, Avtomat. i Telemekh.8:4 (1947),  297—307.  
5. M. A. Gavrilov, A Method of Relay Circuit Transformation, Avtomat. i Telemekh.8:2 (1947),  89—107.  


The list of his papers in Avtomatika i Telemekhanika can be found at:

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

Many inventions by Gavrilov are available at:

Articles about M.A. Gavrilov

1. A. A. Ambartzumyan, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Gavrilov (on the 100th Anniversary of His Birth)Probl. Upr., 2003, no. 4, 67—72.
2. Mikhail Aleksandrovich Gavrilov (Obituary)Probl. Peredachi Inf., 15:3 (1979), 110—111; Problems Inform. Transmission15:3 (1979), 245—246.
3. M. A. Gavrilov (Obituary)Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1979, no. 10, 191—192.

Also, see the Wikipedia page devoted to Gavrilov: