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S.A. Lebedev and the Birth of Soviet Computing

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129792D
Original Publication Date: 1994-Apr-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

GREGORY D. CROWE: AUTHOR [+3]

Abstract

In this article, we study the life and work of Sergei Alekseevich Lebedev, one of the world's pioneers in digital computing. Lebedev, working in Kiev, built the MESM, the first Soviet electronic digital stored-program computer (1947-1951). In 1950, Lebedev moved to Moscow, where he soon became the director of the newly established Institute of Precise Mechanics and Computer Technology. There he developed a long line of digital computers based on his work on the MESM. We examine in detail the first three of these machines: the BESM, the BESM-2, and the M-20. Lebedev achieved considerable success not only in the development of indigenous Soviet computers, but in the training of engineers, the founding of computer centers, and the establishment and nurturing of Soviet computing as a scientific discipline.

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Copyright ©; 1994 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

S.A. Lebedev and the Birth of Soviet Computing

GREGORY D. CROWE

SEYMOUR E. GOODMAN

In this article, we study the life and work of Sergei Alekseevich Lebedev, one of the world's pioneers in digital computing. Lebedev, working in Kiev, built the MESM, the first Soviet electronic digital stored-program computer (1947-1951). In 1950, Lebedev moved to Moscow, where he soon became the director of the newly established Institute of Precise Mechanics and Computer Technology. There he developed a long line of digital computers based on his work on the MESM. We examine in detail the first three of these machines: the BESM, the BESM-2, and the M-20. Lebedev achieved considerable success not only in the development of indigenous Soviet computers, but in the training of engineers, the founding of computer centers, and the establishment and nurturing of Soviet computing as a scientific discipline.

By the mid-1950s digital computers were being independently researched and developed by a number of Soviet scientists. This article is concerned with the work of the first and one of the most influential pioneers in Soviet computing, S.A. Lebedev. From 1947 to 1951, Lebedev designed and built the Soviet Union's first electronic digital stored- program computer in Kiev. The success of this project led Lebedev to devote the remainder of his career to high-speed electronic digital computers. Despite the fact that Lebedev s influence can be seen in many significant Soviet digital computer projects from World War 11 to the early 1970s, very little is known about him in the West. With a handful of exceptions.1-10 few English-language works in the history of computing even mention Soviet developments. This article will attempt to remedy this situation by examining the life and work of Lebedev from roughly 1947 to 1958. During this period the first Soviet electronic digital stored-program computers were built, major computer research and development centers were established, and the first widely disseminated, serially produced Soviet computers were manufactured. Despite very difficult material and financial circumstances, Lebedev successfully designed and built an entire line of digital computers (see Fable I on page 6) and firmly established electronic computing as a scientific field in the USSR by the late 1950s. It is hoped that through a close examination of Lebedev's life and early work, broader insights into the birth of Soviet computing can be gained.

Sergei Alekseevich Lebedev

Sergei Alekseevich Lebedev (1902-1974) was born on November 2,1902, in the town of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. In 1921, he entered the Electrical Engineering Department of the Moscow Higher Technical School (MVTU). While there, Lebedev specialized in high-voltage technologies. His undergraduate t...