Alexander Ya. Lerner

Alexander Ya. Lerner


Sunday, September 7, 1913

Passed away: 

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Alexander Lerner, in full Alexander Yakovlevich Lerner, was born in Vinnytsia. From an early age, he was distinguished for his rare curiosity and ability of getting to the truth. Lerner was an avid radio amateur. He entered Vinnytsia Industrial College, graduating as an electrician. At the age of 18, Lerner moved to Moscow, where he began working at Standartgorproekt. Simultaneously, he enrolled in a higher technical school; as a third-year student, he transferred to Moscow Power Engineering Institute (MPEI). In 1940, Lerner defended his candidate’s dissertation on some problems of electric motor control at MPEI.

Soon after the Great Patriotic War, Lerner was invited to work and defend his doctoral dissertation at the Institute of Automation and Remote Control (IARC), the USSR Academy of Sciences. At IARC, his talent for scientific and organizational work brightly manifested itself.

Note that Lerner is a founder of the theory and practice of optimal control. In the early 1950s, he published the two-part article “The Improvement of the Dynamic Properties of Automatic Compensators Using Nonlinear Couplings” (Automation and Remote Control, 1952, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 134–144; no. 4, pp. 429–444). The results of this work found immediate application in increasing the performance of automatic electronic potentiometers (secondary devices for measuring many technological parameters).

In 1954, Lerner published his new fundamental research on optimal control, entitled “The Method of Isochrones for Optimal Control” (Automation and Remote Control). This paper pioneered the concept of isochrone domains in the phase space of a controlled dynamic system. The concept had an invigorating effect on the subsequent derivation and development of Bellman’s dynamic programming: isochronous domains can be considered a section of the Bellman function when solving time-optimal control problems for dynamic systems.

In 1960, together with A.G. Butkovsky, Lerner published the seminal papers in Doklady of the USSR Academy of Sciences and Automation and Remote Control, laying the foundation for a new fundamental branch of control theory: control of distributed-parameter systems.

In the mid-1960s, Lerner began to study large-scale systems control, a new area that subsequently gave rise to several promising lines of research. He organized the Department of Large-Scale Systems at IARC and became its Head. At that time, Lerner was also interested in pattern recognition. Together with V.N. Vapnik and A.Ya. Chervonenkis, he proposed a powerful pattern recognition tool, the so-called generalized portrait method.

Since 1967, among other researchers, Lerner also initiated studies of control problems for large-scale automated systems. In the late 1970s, he began to study the human role in control systems; jointly with V.N. Burkov, Lerner formulated the fair play principle in the theory of active systems.

In the early 1970s, Lerner and his family decided to immigrate to Israel. Subsequently, there was a long period of his “life in denial”: Lerner received permission to leave the Soviet Union only after 17 years. However, even during that period of his life, Lerner organized the scientific seminar of refuseniks. It was the seminar of those Soviet scientists who, for many years, did not receive permission to leave the USSR and were isolated from scientific communication with their Soviet colleagues loyal to the government. Not wanting to become “outcasts” in science, the refuseniks organized a new scientific seminar, led by Lerner.

In January 1988, Lerner was allowed to leave for Israel; upon arrival, he became Professor at the Weizmann Institute. While still in the USSR, Lerner found a new area of promising research, the creation of an artificial heart. However, later, at the Weizmann Institute, it turned out that his idea could not be implemented: the technology had not yet invented materials for Lerner’s pump.

In the last years of his life, Lerner realized another remarkable idea, i.e., moving objects “almost without friction.” Together with B. Levin, he elaborated the theory and designed a mechanical propulsor that can move along narrow curvilinear channels (like blood vessels and intestines) with low friction losses. This propulsor found successful application in medicine.

Having celebrated his 90th birthday, Lerner began to write a book about the scientific principles of building a modern state. Unfortunately, he did not manage to complete the work…

Lerner’s main monographs are as follows:

  1. Fundamentals of Cybernetics, Springer Science & Business Media, 2012. — 294 p.;
  2. Printsip otkrytogo upravleniya aktivnymi sistemami (The Fair Play Principle in Control of Active Systems), Moscow: Institute of Control Sciences, the USSR Academy of Sciences, 1971. — 28 p. (coauthor V.N. Burkov);
  3. Optimal’noe upravlenie (Optimal Control), Moscow: Energiya, 1970. — 360 p. (coauthor E.A. Rozenman);
  4. Nachala kibernetiki (Fundamentals of Cybernetics), Moscow: Nauka, 1967. — 400 p.;
  5. Tekhnicheskaya kibernetika. Teoriya avtomaticheskogo regulirovaniya. Kniga 2. Analiz i sintez lineinykh nepreryvnykh i diskretnykh sistem avtomaticheskogo regulirovaniya (Engineering Cybernetics. Theory of Automatic Control. Book 2. Analysis and Design of Linear Continuous and Discrete Automatic Control Systems), Moscow: Mashinostroenie, 1967. — 682 p. (coauthors M.A. Aizerman, G.A. Bendrikov, B.N. Petrov, and Ya.Z. Tsypkin);
  6. Printsipy postroeniya bystrodeistvuyushchikh sledyashchikh sistemi regulyatorov (Design Principles for High-Performance Tracking Systems and Controllers), Moscow: Gosenergoizdat, 1961. — 152 p.;
  7. Vvedenie v teoriyu avtomaticheskogo regulirovaniya (Introduction to the Theory of Automatic Control), Moscow: Mashgiz, 1958. — 352 p.;
  8. Avtomaticheskoe upravlenie elektroprivodami (Automatic Control of Electric Drives), Moscow: Gosenergoizdat, 1951. — 123 p. (coauthor V.I. Feigin);
  9. Naladka promyshlennykh avtomatizirovannykh elektroprivodov (Adjustment of Automated Industrial Electric Drives), Moscow: Gosenergoizdat, 1950. — 200 p. (coauthor E.A. Rozenman).

Many of them are presented in the Institute’s database:Лернер

Some journal papers by Lerner are available at Math-Net.Ru:

1. A. Ya. Lerner, S. A. Malyi, Minimization of the Oxidation of a Metal Surface When Heated, Dokl. Akad. Nauk SSSR183:6 (1968), 1278—1279.  
2. A. G. Butkovskiy, A. Ya. Lerner, S. A. Malyi, Problems Presented by the Optimum Control of the Processes Involved in the Production of Articles from a Melt by Drawing, Dokl. Akad. Nauk SSSR153:4 (1963), 772—775.  
3. A. G. Butkovskiy, A. Ya. Lerner, Optimal Control Systems with Distributed Parameters, Dokl. Akad. Nauk SSSR134:4 (1960), 778—781.

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

1. A. Ya. Lerner, Learning of Controlling by Data on Preferable Reactions, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1970:4,  108—115.
2. A. Ya. Lerner, F. Kh. Tsel’man, Concerning Heuristic Methods of Solving Certain Problems of Controlling Little Production Allocation, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1969:2,  52—59.
3. A. Ya. Lerner, Scientific Contacts, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1966:7,  199—200.
4. A. Ya. Lerner, Self-Organizing System, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1965, 26:6,  1131—1134.
5. A. Ya. Lerner, V. L. Epstein, Information Storage in Control Machine Memory, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1964, 25:10,  1493—1501.
6. F. В. Gulko, B. Ya. Kogan, A. Ya. Lerner, N. N. Mikhailov, Zh. A. Novoseltseva, Predictive Control Methods. Using High-Speed Analog Computers and Its Applications, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1964, 25:6,  896—908.
7. V. N. Vapnik, A. Ya. Lerner, Recognition of Patterns with the Help of Generalized Portraits, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1963, 24:6,  774—780.
8. A. G. Butkovskii, A. Ya. Lerner, On Optimum Control of Systems with Distributed Parameters, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1960, 21:6,  682—691.
9. O. I. Aven, S. M. Domaniczky, A. Ya. Lerner, Two-Throttle Reverse Control Scheme for Two-Phase Asynchronous Motor, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1956, 17:8,  717—721.
10. A. Ya. Lerner, On the Limit Performance of Automatic Control Systems, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1954, 15:6,  461—477.
11. A. Ya. Lerner, Improving the Dynamic Properties of Automatic Compensators by Means of Nonlinear Couplings. I, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1952, 13:2,  134—144.
12. A. Ya. Lerner, Improving the Dynamic Properties of Automatic Compensators by Means of Nonlinear Couplings. II, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1952, 13:4,  429—444.
13. V. A. Trapeznikov, A. Ya. Lerner, Automatic Controllers for a Modular System, Avtomat. i Telemekh., 1951, 12:5,  431—448.
14. 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 Lerner are available at:

Publications about A.Ya. Lerner

1. Aleksandr Yakovlevich Lerner (September 7, 1913 — April 6, 2004)Autom. Remote Control65:7 (2004), 1175—1176.

In addition, see the Wikipedia page devoted to Lerner:Лернер,_Александр_Яковлевич

Scopus Author ID: 7202948824