Guri Ivanovich Marchuk

Quick Info

8 June 1925
Petro-Khersonets, Grachevka district, Orenburg, Russia
24 March 2013
Moscow, Russia

Guri Marchuk was a Russian mathematician who worked in the fields of computational mathematics and the physics of the atmosphere.


Guri Ivanovich Marchuk was the son of Ivan Petrovich Marchuk and Elizaveta Afanasevna Tsibulskaya who were school teachers in the village school. The family moved from the village of Petro-Khersonets to Dukhovnitskoye in the Dukhovnitsky district of the Saratov region. Dukhovnitskoye is a village on the Volga river. In his last year at the High School in Dukhovnitskoye, 1941-42, Guri worked as an assistant to the combine operator. He graduated from the High School in 1942 and in the same year enrolled in the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics of Leningrad State University.

World War II broke out on 1 September 1939 when German troops entered Poland. On 22 September, Russian troops entered Poland occupying Bialystok and five days later Warsaw fell to the Germans and, following the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, Poland was partitioned between these two powers. The Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact meant that the initial years of the World War II had little effect on life in Russia and, in particular, none on Marchuk. Things changed dramatically on 22 June 1941 when Germany broke the non-aggression pact and invaded the Soviet Union. By September 1941 Leningrad was under siege from the German army and, in March 1942, some faculties of Leningrad university evacuated to Saratov where classes for students were resumed. It was there that Marchuk began his studies but in 1943 he was drafted into the army and sent to the Artillery Military Intelligence school. He served in the army until the war ended and he was demobbed in 1945. Only then was he able to take up his studies again at Leningrad State University which, by this time, had returned to being called Leningrad.

After graduating from Leningrad State University in 1949, Marchuk entered graduate school, showing a deep interest in the problems of atmospheric physics, undertaking research at the Geophysical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. He was advised by Ivan Afanasevich Kibel who is famed as the creator of the first mathematical model of weather forecasting. His first paper On Lamb's problem for a half-space (Russian), written jointly with Georgii Ivanovich Petrashen and K I Ogurtsov, was published in 1950. W Jardetzky writes in a review:-
The "method of an incomplete separation of variables" seems to be appropriate for the solution of the Lamb's problem and related problems. In the two-dimensional case of a pulse due to stresses concentrated in a part of the boundary the solution is built up from double integrals and the relationship of this method to the method of complex solutions is shown. The use is made of Fourier and Mellin integrals and Laplace transforms but the single quoted investigation from the world literature is that of Rayleigh (1885).
Marchuk married Olga Nikolaevna (born 1927), a chemist who taught in secondary schools. They had three sons, Alexander (born 1951), Andrei (born 1954) and Nikolai (born 1955), who all became mathematicians.

In 1952 Marchuk defended his Candidate's thesis (equivalent to a Ph.D.) titled "Dynamics of large-scale fields of meteorological elements in a baroclinic atmosphere" (Russian). G S Golitsyn writes in [6]:-
In 1997, Guri Ivanovich Marchuk told me how, in 1951 as a brand new Candidate of Science, he was visited at his home by two people in a car, who told him he had a half hour to get his things together, he shouldn't worry about his family, everything would be fine. They didn't answer his questions during the subsequent two-hour car trip. It was only on the following day that he learned that the director at the 'object' was Dmitrii Ivanovich Blokhintsev (1908-1979), and that he would be working in the department of Evgraf Sergeevich Kuznetsov (1901-1966); both these names were well known to him. The 'object' then came to be called the Physics Energy Institute; three years later, the world's first reactor providing five megawatts of electrical energy was put into operation there, and the city came to be known as Obninsk of the Kaluga Region.
Marchuk worked at the Physics Energy Institute at Obninsk from 1952 and, from 1953 to 1962, he was head of the Department of Mathematics at the Institute. At the same time he was the head of the Department of Higher Mathematics at the Obninsk Branch of the Moscow Institute of Engineering and Physics. Marchuk said [14]:-
From 1953 to 1956, I was engaged on the hydrogen bomb. One project was undertaken by the team of Academician Vladimir Anatol'evich Dorodnitsyn, another was done by the scientists of Arzamas-16 [the nuclear weapons facility in Sarov], and they were helped by Academician Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh, and we conducted the third project. When all the options were ready, the Arzamas project turned out to be the best. The most interesting, it seems to me, was our option, tritium-deuterium. But tritium has a very short half-life, it needs to be updated and updated all the time ...
The authors of [1] write:-
As head of the department of higher mathematics at the Obninsk branch of the Moscow Institute of Engineering and Physics, Marchuk was able to attract a large group of talented young people into science during those years. In a short period he built up a strong staff of applied mathematicians in the field of nuclear energy and took part in the planning of the world's first nuclear power station. Marchuk proposed new methods for nuclear reactor calculations and even nowadays these form the basis of mathematical modelling and imitative calculations.
In 1956 Marchuk submitted his doctoral thesis Numerical methods for nuclear reactor calculations (Russian). We should note that the Russian doctorate was essentially equivalent in standard to the habilitation or the D.Sc. Two years later he published a monograph which was essentially his doctoral thesis and had the same title. It was the first of around 50 books and monographs which he published. Marchuk writes in the Preface:-
... the book is an attempt at a more or less systematic exposition of numerical methods for the calculation of thermal, intermediate, and fast neutron reactors. Particular attention is devoted to the problems of critical mass, the space-energy neutron flux distribution, and the neutron importance.
In 1959 an English translation was published; Elizabeth Cuthill writes in the review [4]:-
The book is clearly not addressed to mathematicians. A familiarity with nuclear reactor theory is assumed; terms such as "cross section" are used without definition. ... Emphasis throughout the book is on the derivation of equations and the mechanics of their solution. The stability of a number of the numerical methods against the exponential growth of round-off errors is considered. Problems related to the existence of solutions and the accuracy with which solutions of the various approximate equations represent the desired solutions are mentioned only occasionally. In the foreword the author mentions that the numerical methods were "first tested on a large quantity of theoretical and experimental data and were later used in operation." It is unfortunate that the results of some of these calculations were not included in the book. Results of specific calculations are not given. ... This book is a very useful addition to our literature. It is hoped that its presence and imperfections will act as a stimulus for the publication of another book in the area of numerical methods for nuclear reactor calculations which will give a more satisfying mathematical treatment of this subject ...
This book led to Marchuk becoming a leading scientist being recognised for his achievements both in the Soviet Union and internationally. In 1961 he was awarded the Lenin Prize and, in the same year, was elected a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

After his work on the hydrogen bomb, Marchuk switched to creating a new class of submarines with liquid metal coolant for reactors, which had no analogue in the world so far. He said [14]:-
Our submarines became the fastest, they were called 'hunters'. At the same time, we took part in the calculations of the first nuclear power plant (and this I am proud of!), Then of other reactors. I wrote two books, they are published in the USA, China, and other countries.
In 1962 Marchuk began a new phase in his career when he was asked by Mikhail Alekseevich Lavrentev and Sergei Lvovich Sobolev to set up a Computing Centre for the Institute of Mathematics in the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He was appointed as deputy director of the Institute of Mathematics of the Siberian Branch and moved to Novosibirsk. In 1963 the Computing Centre began operating with Marchuk as its first director [1]:-
Under Marchuk's leadership at the Computing Centre, intensive research developed on real trends in computational mathematics and its applications to a number of important problems in science and technology - the physics of the atmosphere, the theory of radiation transfer, geophysics, mechanics of a continuous medium, and also work on computer technology and programming security. Marchuk continually organized working scientific seminars, thematic conferences, and symposia on these topics. Soon the group headed by Marchuk became the foremost academic centre in Siberia for research in computational mathematics and one of the most important in our country and abroad.
In 1966 the International Congress of Mathematicians was held in Moscow and Marchuk was one of the invited speakers. He delivered the half-hour talk Computational methods in transfer theory (Russian). His talk began:-
The theory of radiation transfer is primarily one of the leading problems of modern science, rapidly developing on the basis of the achievements of theoretical physics and quickly penetrating into various fields of natural science and technology. Currently, transport theory is gradually becoming a part of mathematical physics. Astrophysics played the initial leading role in the development of the theory of radiation transfer, and since the 40s this role has passed to atomic physics. It should be noted that precisely in connection with the problems of atomic physics, powerful mathematical methods have been developed for solving problems of the theory of radiation, in particular, machine methods.
Marchuk gave a plenary lecture to the International Congress of Mathematicians in Nice, France, in 1970. The title of his talk was Methods and Problems of Computational Mathematics. We give a version of Marchuk's lecture in which we have corrected the spelling of certain names (the main problem being transliteration) at THIS LINK.

M K Kerimov gives the following brief summary of Marchuk's broad and numerous contributions in [9]:-
In computational mathematics, Marchuk's well-known studies are concerned with the development and application of finite-difference schemes for classes of equations arising in nuclear reactor theory with the theory of finite-difference and variational-difference schemes for various problems in mathematical physics, etc. Marchuk contributed much to the development of splitting methods and perturbation algorithms based on adjoint equations. Much attention was given to the development and substantiation of novel numerical methods for linear algebra. In the design of nuclear reactors, on the basis of the theory of adjoint equations and perturbation algorithms, Marchuk developed the construction principles for effective multigroup models of nuclear reactors, created mathematical reactor models in various spherical harmonic approximations, and proposed numerical schemes for solving arising equations.

Marchuk contributed much to numerical weather prediction and the modelling of the atmosphere and ocean general circulation, climate, and its changes. He was awarded the A A Friedmann Prize of the USSR Academy of Sciences for his achievements in numerical weather prediction and the State Prize of the Russian Federation for his results in atmosphere and ocean physics.

Considerable contributions were made by Marchuk to the creation of the theory of mathematical modelling of optimization problems in environmental protection. He proposed algorithms for the general problem of determining an admissible area for plant location, for construction site planning with allowance for permissible pollution of economically significant zones, etc.

In many of his studies, Marchuk addressed mathematical modelling in immunology and medicine. He constructed and solved a system of nonlinear differential equations governing immune responses in humans to virus and bacterial infections.
Marchuk has written, or edited, a very large number of books. They are all originally written in Russian but some have been translated into English. More information about his work is available from the publishers of the English translations of his books and from the extracts from reviews of these English translations which we give at THIS LINK.

In 1968 Marchuk was elected a full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences; in the following year he became the Deputy Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Siberian Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences and, in 1975, he became Chairman of that Executive Committee. At the same time, that is in 1975, he was elected Vice-President of the USSR Academy of Sciences. He held these roles until 1980 when he was appointed as Head of the Department of Mathematical Modelling of Physical Processes of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. He spoke about this Institute after he had been there for many years [11]:-
When creating the Institute in 1980 in Moscow, I was guided by the experience of organizing the Computing Centre of the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences. This is a unique institution. It has no traditional departments and laboratories, all work is carried out through projects by creative teams. The project can be proposed by any employee and any member of the team can by invited to carry out the work. To prepare young scientists, we have our own department at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, where I have been teaching for many years. Every year, 6 to 8 of the best students enter our graduate school, after graduation we invite the most talented young scientists to work for us. We managed to achieve the absence of a brain drain problem - at least in our Institute. On the contrary, talented scientists from other countries - the USA, France, and Germany - often come to us under a contract.
Marchuk served as President of the USSR Academy of Sciences from 1986 to 1991 and, when his period of office ended, became an Honorary Member of the Executive Committee of the Russian Academy of Sciences. We note that after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the USSR Academy of Sciences was renamed the Russian Academy of Sciences by a Presidential Decree of 21 November 1991. Marchuk was, therefore, the last President of the USSR Academy of Sciences. For details of the problems that he faced during his period of office, see THIS LINK.

On 17 December 1991, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Marchuk said [14]:-
Soviet science showed high efficiency and amazing vitality in a very difficult domestic political and international situation because it was a holistic system. Despite weaknesses and structural defects, we had a united front of scientific research. Now the science of all sovereign states of the former USSR, including Russia, is spasmodically becoming structurally flawed. God grant that we can compensate for such a flaw by integrating into the world scientific community, building up the missing links, but this may not work out soon, even under the most favourable circumstances, which we are very far from at present. Hopes that it is possible to finance and save at least one part of it (for example, only basic science) are illusory. Science is a single living organism, not a conglomerate of autonomous mechanisms. Unfortunately, neither the politicians nor the scientific community have the concept of saving domestic science, its survival and rebirth. Real dramatic processes are obscured by new ideological myths, utopian projects and abstract judgments.
In the year 2000, Marchuk greeted the new century with a speech in which he said the 20th century was the "triumph of physics" while in the 21st century he expected outstanding breakthroughs in the life sciences. He said [14]:-
It is very difficult to predict the development of science, nevertheless, it can be argued that the 21st century will be the century of global study of the human, animal and plant genome. Now there is a massive search for ways to exclude unnecessary genomes that impede the development of flora and fauna, and how to replace them with those that are needed. I am convinced that the problem of "constructing" genomes in the 21st century will be solved.
His awards and prizes have been so numerous that we will only mention some of them. He was awarded: the Lenin Prize in Science (1961); the Order of Lenin (1967, 1971, 1975, 1985); Hero of Socialist Labour (1975); the A A Friedmann Prize (1975); "For a series of works in the field of hydrodynamic methods of weather forecasting and physics of atmospheric processes"; the USSR State Prize (1979); the M V Keldysh Gold Medal (1981); for a series of works "Development and creation of new methods of mathematical modelling"; Honorary Citizenship of Obninsk (1985); the Karpinsky International Prize No 2 (1988); Commander of the Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur (1988); the P L Chebyshev Gold Medal (1996); "for outstanding results in the field of mathematics"; the Order "For Merit to the Fatherland," IV degree (1998); the State Prize of the Russian Federation in the field of science and technology (2000); the Padma Bhushan award (2002); the M V Lomonosov Gold Medal (2004); " for his outstanding contribution to the creation of new models and methods of solving problems of nuclear-reactor physics, atmosphere and ocean physics"; the Demidov Prize (2004); and the Order "For Merit for the Fatherland," II degree (2005).

Marchuk received honorary doctorates from the University of Toulouse (1973), Charles University of Prague (1978) Dresden Technical University (1981), the Technical University of Budapest (1982), Calcutta University (1988), Tel Aviv University (1990), and Houston University (1992). In addition to the Russian Academy of Sciences, he was elected to the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (1977), the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (1977), the Academy of Sciences of the German Democratic Republic (1977), the Czech Academy of Sciences (1977), the Finnish Academy of Sciences (1985), the Indian National Academy (1987), the Polish Academy of Sciences (1988) and the French Academy of Sciences (1989).

There are other ways that Marchuk has received recognition such as a street in Dukhovnitskoye being named for him, a memorial plaque being placed on the building of the Institute of Computational Mathematics and Mathematical Geophysics in the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences on 19 June 2015, and a bust of Marchuk being installed in the park of the district of Dukhovnitsky on 2 September 2019.

References (show)

  1. N N Bogolyubov, V S Vladimirov and A N Kolmogorov, Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk (on his sixtieth birthday), Russ. Math. Surv. 40 (5) (1985), 1-21.
  2. N N Bogolyubov, V S Vladimirov and A N Kolmogorov, Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk (on his sixtieth birthday) (Russian), Uspekhi Mat. Nauk 40 (5) (1985), 3-17.
  3. D Covall, Review: Modelling and Optimization of Complex Systems, by Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk, Biometrics 37 (4) (1981), 868.
  4. E H Cuthill, Review: Numerical Methods for Nuclear Reactor Calculations, by Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk, Mathematics of Computation 15 (73) (1961), 100-103.
  5. E L Forker, Review: Mathematical Methods in Clinical Practice, by G I Marchuk and N I Nisevich, American Scientist 70 (1) (1982), 86.
  6. G S Golitsyn, Three encounters, in R A Sunyaev (ed.), Zeldovich: Reminiscences (CRC Press, 2004), 192-195.
  7. B Gustafsson, Review: Methods of numerical mathematics, by Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk, Mathematics of Computation 31 (137) (1977), 321-322.
  8. M Hendershott, Review: Ocean tides. Mathematical models and numerical experiments, by G I Marchuk and B A Kagan, Science, New Series 226 (4677) (1984), 961-962.
  9. M K Kerimov, On the 80th Birthday of Academician Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk, Computational Mathematics and Mathematical Physics 46 (1) (2006), 1-4.
  10. M K Kerimov, On the 80th Birthday of Academician Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk (Russian), Zhurnal Vychislitel'noi Matematiki i Matematicheskoi Fiziki 46 (1) (2006), 3-6.
  11. Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk (Russian), (1 January 2020).
  12. Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk (Russian), The Russian Academy of Science.
  13. Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk (Russian), Novosibirsk information and educational site.
  14. A Polyakov, "You cannot cure a person with powders and nibbles": Guri Marchuk, the last president of the USSR Academy of Sciences. has died (Russian), Gazeta (25 March 2013).
  15. V Radyuhin, Marchuk, an architect of Indo-Russian scientific collaboration, The Hindu (26 March 2013).
  16. B Schneider, Review: Mathematical models in immunology, by Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk, Biometrics 42 (4) (1986), 1003.
  17. L A Segel, Review: Mathematical modelling of immune response in infectious diseases, by Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk, SIAM Review 40 (4) (1998), 1014-1015.
  18. J Sündermann, Review: Mathematical modelling of ocean circulation, by G I Marchuk and A S Sarkisyan, GeoJournal 21 (1/2), IGU Regional Conference: Asian Pacific Countries (1990), 110-111.
  19. T P Svobodny, Review: Adjoint equations and perturbation algorithms in nonlinear problems, by Gurii I Marchuk, Valeri I Agoshkov and Victor P Shutyaev, SIAM Review 38 (2) (1996), 353-355.
  20. P D Thompson, Review: Numerical Methods in Weather Prediction, by Gurii Ivanovich Marchuk, American Scientist 63 (4) (1975), 463-464.

Additional Resources (show)

Written by J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
Last Update April 2020