The Kharkov Mathematical Society

Founded in 1879

The Kharkov Mathematical Society was founded in 1879 on the initiative of V G Imshenetskii who served as its first President. A charter set the aims of the Society [1]:-
[T]he goal of the mathematical society is support of development of pure scientific and pedagogical questions in the fields of mathematics.
In the year following the founding of the Society, it began to publish the journal Communications of the Kharkov Mathematical Society. At first it did not have an independent existence, being produced as a supplement to the Transactions of Kharkov University, but it progressed to become an independent publication.

Imshenetskii left Kharkov and went to St Petersburg where he succeeded in founding the St Petersburg Mathematical Society in 1890. However Aleksandr Mikhailovich Lyapunov, a former student of Chebyshev, moved from St Petersburg to Kharkov in 1885 and he remained there for 17 years. During this time he played a leading role in running the Society and presented 27 reports to the monthly meetings [1]:-
Because of Lyapunov, mathematical research and reports at Kharkov Mathematical Society meetings reached a much deeper level.
When Lyapunov left Kharkov in 1902, his former student Vladimir Andreevich Steklov became chairman of the Mathematical Society. He held this position for four years until 1906 when he moved to St Petersburg to take up the Chair of Mathematics at the University. The chairmanship of the Kharkov Mathematical Society was filled by Dmitrii M Sintsov who then held the position for forty years until 1946 [1]:-
Through Sintsov's initiative, the Kharkov Mathematical Society was deeply involved in the improvement of mathematical education in the schools of the Kharkov region. Sintsov also put considerable effort into maintaining the Kharkov Mathematical Society mathematical library which is still one of the most complete mathematical libraries in the Ukraine.
However, for a long part of Sintsov's chairmanship, he was not the most famous of the mathematicians in the Kharkov Mathematical Society, this distinction going to Sergei Bernstein. The mathematical activity of the Society was strongly influenced by Bernstein during the years from 1906 to 1933 that he spent in Kharkov. He reported many of his most celebrated results to meetings of the Society, and published them in the Communications of the Kharkov Mathematical Society.

Naum Akhiezer was encouraged by Bernstein to leave Kiev and join the Kharkov School of function theory in 1933. At around this time due to arguments between Bernstein and the Communist Party leader in Kharkov, Bernstein had little option but to leave which he did, moving to Leningrad. Akhiezer filled the position of Director of the Institute of Mathematics vacated by Bernstein in 1933 and after Sintsov's death in 1946 he also became Chairman of the Kharkov Mathematical Society. It was not an easy period for Akhiezer to take on the chairmanship, however, since the Government made it increasingly difficult to undertake scientific work. In 1950 the Institute of Mathematics in Kharkov was closed by the Government, but the Mathematical Society continued to survive, largely thanks to the support of the newly opened Institute for Low Temperature Physics and Engineering. Akhiezer was not able to save the Communications of the Kharkov Mathematical Society, despite all his efforts, for it was closed down by officials in the 1960s.

Despite the difficulties, mathematics flourished in Kharkov and they achieved their greatest honour when, on 21 August 1990, Vladimir Gershonovich Drinfeld was awarded a Fields medal at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Kyoto, Japan, for his work on quantum groups and on number theory.

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References (show)

  1. I V Ostrovskii, Kharkov Mathematical Society, European Mathematical Society Newsletter 34 (December, 1999), 26-27.

Last Updated August 2004