Ivan Georgievich Petrovskii
Ivan Georgievich Petrovskii (19011973) is one of the outstanding scientists whose discoveries constitute the glory of the Soviet Mathematical School. He was one of the leaders of the first generation of Soviet mathematicians whose scientific descendents form the main body of the Russian mathematical school of our days.
Petrovskii made great contributions to 20th century mathematics, especially to partial differential equations and real algebraic geometry. He is recognized as one of the founders of the general theory of PDEs. Petrovskii made remarkable progress in the solutions of two Hilbert problems: the 19th (analyticity of solutions of variational equations), and the first half of the 16th problem (topology of real algebraic curves and surfaces, the latter investigated jointly with O. A. Oleinik). One of his most famous works, on the diffusion of waves and lacunas, is based on a combination of PDE and algebro-geometric methods. His works are classical and continue to influence the research mathematicians of today.
An even larger contribution to the development of science was made by Petrovskii as the Rector (President) of Moscow State University. Petrovskii was always ready to support any creative activity in science and education. Under his leadership, the University reached the highest international level. It was drastically enlarged, more than 80 new chairs and 200 laboratories were organized, and a new campus at the Vorobiovy (Leninskie) Gory was built. The mechanico-mathematical department became and remained in the 1960s one of the best mathematical centers in the world. Petrovskii was at the head of the International Congress of Mathematicians (Moscow, 1966), which opened Soviet mathematics to the international community after thirty years of the iron curtain.
Even more important was his humanistic position. During the entire period of his presidency at Moscow State University (195173), which occured in times of heavy political pressure, Petrovskii did his best to support talented and honest people, whatever be their race or faith. He selected the university faculty not by ideological, but by overall scientific and human criteria. He helped thousands of people, who otherwise were destined to be broken by the totalitarian system, to realize their talents. His attempts were not always successful, but it is hard to imagine that anyone else could have done better. Of all great Soviet mathematicians of his generation, he is among those whose moral principles in this tragic epoch remained irreproachable.
The scientific and humanistic traditions of I. G. Petrovskii continue to influence many people and institutions. The Independent University of Moscow highly appreciates these traditions and tries to keep up to them, and we are honoured by the possibility to devote this issue of MMJ to his memory.
V. Arnold, Yu. Ilyashenko, A. Kirillov,