Alexander F. Shorin

Alexander F. Shorin


Friday, December 5, 1890

Passed away: 

Tuesday, October 21, 1941

Fans of Soviet sound movies of the 1930s—1940s (The Seven Brave, Chapaev, Merry Fellows, and others) may remember the running titles: “The sound was recorded using the system of Engineer (Professor) Shorin.” Yes, that was Alexander F. Shorin, in full Alexander Fedorovich Shorin, an officer, a talented inventor, a qualified engineer, a brilliant organizer, a born scientist, and a teacher. We remember him as Director of the Institute of Automation and Remote Control (IARC) in the second year of its existence.

He was born in a peasant family in St. Petersburg, where his father, Fedor G. Shorin, served at a forest warehouse of the Warsaw Railroad.

In 1908—1911, Alexander worked at the North-Western Railway Power Plant as a machinist and a senior technician. In 1911, he passed exams for the school-leaving certificate without attending classes and entered the Electrotechnical Institute (EI) in St. Petersburg. Shorin graduated from the Institute in 1922 with honors.

From 1911 to 1922, there were two revolutions and World War I, in which Shorin took part in the army. (He was drafted after entering EI.) At the end of 1914, Shorin, shell-shocked and wounded, was hospitalized. By that time, he had already been awarded the Imperial Order of Saint Anna, 4th degree, for his courage. Early in 1915, he was sent to Tsarskoe Selo and appointed the deputy chief of a radio station of the Military Department. After the February Revolution (1917), Shorin was elected the station’s chief. He informed the world about the Bolsheviks’ victory by a radiogram from Tsarskoye Selo and supervised radio station dismantling due to the threat of being captured by the Yudenich troops.

In 1919, Shorin was appointed Director of the Nizhny Novgorod radio laboratory. He left the laboratory in 1922 for EI to defend his graduation work in electrical engineering.

In 1923, Alexander was appointed Deputy Director for Radio at the Electrotechnical Trust of low-current plants. In the same year, Shorin designed the model of a radio-controlled device as well as amplifiers and loudspeakers for radioing Moscow’s streets and squares.

In 1926, he began his work in sound cinema. After the first successful experiments in the late 1920s—early 1930s, famous Soviet filmmakers, Eizenshtein, Dovzhenko, and Alexandrov, addressed Shorin through an open letter in the Kino newspaper (1934). Here is a quote from their address: “You, Alexander Fedorovich, can give us an excellent weapon that will greatly affect the victorious outcome of our struggle.” Shorin also invented and constructed an electric-mechanical sound recording device, further called the shorinophone.

In 1931, Shorin was appointed Head of the Department of Wire Communications at the Dzerzhinsky Military Engineering Academy of Communications. At the same time, he led the development of movie projection equipment by television methods at the Central Laboratory of Wire Communications.

In 1932, the Red Army adopted airborne control devices for torpedo boats. The devices were designed and constructed under Shorin’s supervision and direct participation. In addition, remote control equipment for the T-18 and T-26 tanks was produced.

In 1934, Shorin headed the Department of Complex Communications at EI. Together with A.I. Berg, he successfully tested a projection method for signals and commands by television methods using stencils.

In 1935, Shorin designed the first Soviet electrical cardiograph. At the same time, he supervised the development and testing of a television system with an intermediate movie.

In 1936, following his appointment as Director of the All-Union Institute of Remote Control and Communications (Research Institute No. 10), Shorin moved to Moscow.

In March 1937, Shorin was conferred the degree of Dr. Sci. (Eng.) without defending his dissertation.

In April of the same year, Shorin was nominated for Chairman of the Commission for Automation and Remote Control, the USSR Academy of Sciences. It was hard to find a better candidate at that time. Shorin possessed rich experience in managing large research and production associations; he studied well the foreign level of industrial mechanization and automation during 8 long-lasting business trips to Western Europe and the USA. He was also a talented inventor and had a flair for technical creativity. Shorin headed the Commission from 1937 to 1938.

In 1939, the Institute of Automation and Remote Control (IARC), the USSR Academy of Sciences, was established on the basis of the Commission with Shorin’s active assistance.

However, real life gave Shorin no chance to implement the plans. He sequentially left the prestigious positions of Chairman of the Commission (1938) and Director of Research Institute No. 10 (1939). According to Shorin’s autobiography, the motives behind those decisions were “research deepening and development.” One can only speculate about the true reason. Perhaps, it was the repressive body activities showing increased interest and suspicion towards leading experts and the managers of enterprises. His coauthors, comrades, and colleagues—V.I. Bekauri, A.I. Berg, A.L. Mints, A.I. Chibisov, and P.P. Litvinsky—disappeared for long or forever in large buildings on Lubyanka (Moscow) or Liteinyi Prospect (Leningrad).

Despite all difficulties, in 1940 Shorin became Scientific Supervisor of the Department of Technical and Economic Studies at IARC. On April 3, 1941, he was appointed Deputy Director of IARC.

On April 14, 1941, Shorin was awarded the Stalin Prize, 1st degree, for his method and equipment for mechanical sound recording.

On June 22, 1941, the most terrible and bloody war in the history of our country began. Viktor S. Kulebakin, Director of IARC, was appointed to supervise works of the USSR Academy of Sciences on scientific and technical aid and assistance to the front and the industry. In addition, he became a member of the Commission for the Mobilization of the Urals Resources.

Some researchers went to the front. The wartime orders informed sparingly but accurately about those events. But even at that time, the Government and the Academy were deciding on IARC’s future.

On August 1, 1941, Shorin was appointed Director of IARC by the telegram of O. Yu. Shmidt, the President of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In August, preparations were underway for the evacuation; on September 25, the Institute was evacuated and began to function in Ulyanovsk.

The Institute’s Laboratories were located on the premises of a cartridge factory.

The team led by Shorin, Stalin Prize Laureate and holder of many orders, had to develop and improve the Red Army’s radio communications equipment.

Shorin underwent a capital operation in the spring of 1941. The responsibility for organizing the Institute’s work in evacuation and the severe wartime conditions finally undermined his health; on October 21, 1941, Shorin passed away.

His grave with a tombstone is near the church in the old city cemetery of Ulyanovsk.

Shorin had a daughter and two sons.

His eldest son—Igor—went to the front and perished in 1941.

His daughter Anastasia moved to Ulyanovsk in the spring of 1942 from blockade Leningrad, and Valentin I. Kovalenkov, Director of the Institute, employed her. Anastasia worked as a typist and handed out ration cards until her return to Moscow. Her education and knowledge of several languages were in great demand: she worked in Soviet lend-lease organizations. In 1947, Anastasia returned to the Institute and worked in the Sector of General Automation Problems. This sector was organized at the Commission for Automation and Remote Control, the USSR Academy of Sciences, in 1938. In 1993, it was transformed into the Department of Scientific and Technical Information.

It is known that the youngest son—Alexander—worked in Zhukovsky and was involved in sound engineering.

Alexander F. Shorin was a truly extraordinary man.

In 1923—1925, Moscow’s central squares and many public buildings, particularly the Grand Kremlin Palace, were radioed using powerful sound amplification equipment and horn loudspeakers designed by Shorin at the Nizhny Novgorod radio laboratory.

The first movie projection equipment by television methods in the USSR was developed under Shorin’s supervision; in the summer of 1932, movies began to be broadcasted from Moscow.

It is a striking fact that Soviet troops successfully used radio-controlled landmines at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. In November 1941, such a landmine blew up a mansion in Kharkiv and destroyed the Headquarters of the 68th German Infantry Division with Lieutenant General von Braun, Head of the Garrison. A coded command to detonate the landmine was sent from the Voronezh radio center. Dozens of German tankers of the 56th Mechanized Corps were killed when the landmine exploded at Strugi Krasnye. Radio-controlled landmines destroyed bridges over the Dnieper and Istra when Hitler’s troops were moving through them. The remote control systems for the landmines were developed under Shorin’s guidance.

One journal paper by him is available at Math-Net.Ru:

1. A. F. Shorin, On Fundamental Directions in the Works of the Commission for Automation and Remote ControlAvtomat. i Telemekh., 1937, no. 2, 9—15.

Many of Shorin’s inventions can be found at:

Publications about A.F. Shorin

1. V.A. Urvalov, E.N. Shoshkov. Alexander Fedorovich Shorin, 1890—1941, Moscow: Nauka, 2008.

Also, see the Wikipedia page devoted to Shorin:Шорин,_Александр_Федорович