Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Censorship

Krawtchouk's Mind 260

Posted by Hemos
from the piecing-together-the-beginning-of-computers dept.
A reader writes: "Central Europe Review is running an article on a gulag-condemned Soviet scientist whose contribution to the first computer is virtually unknown because of the Cold War mentality that infected much of society on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The story tells of how in 1937, American digital computer pioneer John Atanasoff came across a Myhailo Krawtchouk paper on a new method for finding approximate solutions to differential equations. Atanasoff tried sending a letter to him, but received no response. Krawtchouk had been attainted for giving a favorable review of the work of "enemies of the people" and shipped to Siberia for 20 years of gold mining, where he died four years later. Krawtchouk's biography gives a more detailed account of how Krawtchouk was labeled a "Polish spy" and "Ukrainian nationalist," stripped of his Academy of Sciences membership, and forced to sign a confession -- that he later retracted -- under torture and threats upon his family. "
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Krawtchouk's Mind

Comments Filter:
  • First Computer? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by archetypeone (599370)
    What about Colossus [bletchleypark.org.uk]?
  • by TopShelf (92521) on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:37AM (#5824231) Homepage Journal
    It could use a little more meat, however - exactly how was Krawtchouk's work influential? Anybody care to dig a little further (I would, but work has a bad habit of getting in the way sometimes)?
  • err... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:37AM (#5824234) Homepage Journal
    ..the Cold War mentality that infected much of society on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The story tells of how in 1937...

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Cold War and the Iron Curtain didn't begin until after WWII, in the late 1940's.
    • Re:err... (Score:5, Informative)

      by LizardKing (5245) on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:46AM (#5824278)

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Cold War and the Iron Curtain didn't begin until after WWII

      Correct, Churchill gave the Iron Curtain speech after World War II. However, a "cold war" did exist between the Soviet Union and leading western states ever since the October Revolution. Until the Axis invasion of 1941, the Soviet Union was seen as much of a bogeyman as Hitler's Germany. In fact, Britain had toyed with the idea of declaring war on the USSR in the Winter of 1939 - under the pretext of aiding Finland which was being invaded by Stalin at the time, but really as an excuse to occupy ore-rich Sweden.

      Chris

      • by gosand (234100) on Monday April 28, 2003 @10:45AM (#5824681)
        In fact, Britain had toyed with the idea of declaring war on the USSR in the Winter of 1939 - under the pretext of aiding Finland which was being invaded by Stalin at the time, but really as an excuse to occupy ore-rich Sweden.

        What you say? One country invading another for natural resources under the pretext of liberation and justice?

        Why, that is so far-fetched it's incomprehensible-flaven-goyven. With the oil, and the grudges, and cowboy hats, and the terrrism, and the nuculur threat, and the weapons of mass destruuuuuuuction.

      • Re:err... (Score:4, Informative)

        by crawling_chaos (23007) on Monday April 28, 2003 @11:27AM (#5825000) Homepage
        Of course, ore-rich Sweden was shipping as much iron ore as possible to Nazi Germany because they were afraid that if they didn't, Hitler would invade and take it anyway. The Brits and the French tried to convince the Swedes not to do this, but the supposedly neutral Sweden continued to ship ore to the Germans until it became obvious that Germany had lost the war. At that point, faced with an invasion threat from the Soviets, they chose to stop shipments. Many of the tanks and U-Boats that the Allies faced in the war were built with Swedish iron.

        So, you see, Churchill's plan to invade Sweden was designed to distrupt the German war effort, not simply a land-grab.

    • Re:err... (Score:2, Informative)

      by pkunzipper (652520)
      True, but it was in 1937 that this scientist made his "discovery", but the information was not spread until after the Cold War. In the 1930s, Lenin was in power in Russia and he started the gulag camps in Russia, which after only a few years grew to some 4800 camps throughout the USSR, enslaingmillions of "traitors". This scenario was followed by Stalin, who upheld the gulags under his regime, as well as severe control over the flow of information.

      We should thankful that this piece of scientific history
      • Re:err... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mister Black (265849) on Monday April 28, 2003 @10:04AM (#5824392)
        In the 1930s, Lenin was in power in Russia and he started the gulag camps in Russia, which after only a few years grew to some 4800 camps throughout the USSR, enslaingmillions of "traitors".

        Wow, that's quite an accomplishment for a guy that died in 1924 [marxists.org]. Must have been all the borsch and vodka.

        From '22 to '53 it was all Joe
    • Re:err... (Score:3, Informative)

      by sql*kitten (1359)
      Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Cold War and the Iron Curtain didn't begin until after WWII, in the late 1940's.

      You are correct, Winston Churchill coined the phrase "Iron Curtain" on March 5, 1946, while accepting an honorary degree in the US.

      From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and S

    • Cold Wars (Score:4, Informative)

      by hughk (248126) on Monday April 28, 2003 @10:47AM (#5824694) Journal
      You are absolutely correct, but Stalin in the thirties was already feeling insecure and taking desparate measures to keep the USSR from fragmenting and the resistance to his land reform program (which caused the death of millions from starvation). He was less concerned about western influences after the twenties as it was already difficult to enter the USSR uninvited or to travel outside. Krawtchouk being a nationalist Ukrainian, was extremly lucky not to be immediately shot. In any case, Stalin disliked intellectuals, hence the Doctor's "plot" in 1953 [cyberussr.com], and killing off the officer corps [trussel.com] which almost led to the defeat of the Russian Army in the Winter War against Finland [winterwar.com].

      Churchill's famous speech referred to the effective extension of Soviet borders to that of the European countries under their influence after the war.

      • Re:Cold Wars (Score:3, Informative)

        by LizardKing (5245)

        ... killing off the officer corps which almost led to the defeat of the Russian Army in the Winter War against Finland ...

        The loss of a good proportion of the officer corps contributed to the Red Army's lousy performance throughout the Winter War, but there were other reasons why an invasion was going to be difficult. It was the coldest winter in living memory, and the Soviet troops were poorly clothed for it. Tanks proved ineffectual in the forest conditions above Lake Ladoga. Along with the small numbe

      • :Stalin disliked intellectuals, hence the Doctor's "plot" in 1953 [cyberussr.com], and killing off the officer corps [trussel.com] which almost led to the defeat of the Russian Army in the Winter War against Finland [winterwar.com].

        From where I come from, it is now commonly believed that the officer corps extermination was a result of German intelligence operation executed to weaken Soviet Army command. As the most capable officers came from military dynasties, they had no problem labeling them as hidden
  • Actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LeoDV (653216) on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:41AM (#5824257) Journal
    I think the first computer was invented in 1936 by a German scientist, Konrad Zuse, who later had to flee to Switzerland because of the war... At least that't About.com claims [about.com].

    You know, it's really funny how things can be invented in several places at the same time... Like the modern guitar as we know it was come up with in China, the Middle East and Spain at the exact same times (and not chronologically, implying that the invention would have traveled)... Or how Pythagores, Zarathustra, Buddha and Lao-Tse, who each pioneered philosophy in their own continent, were contemporaries.
    • Was the atanasoff-berry, There had been other computers (such as mechanical) before that time.
    • Re:Actually... (Score:2, Informative)

      by stratjakt (596332)
      Zuse's machines had no type of a branch instruction, they could only perform a sequence of calculations. Ie; no conditionals (ifs) or loops (for, while, etc).

      A lot of comp. sci folks hold that it's not a computer until it can branch and do conditional logic. Zuse's work was impressive, especially considering they were built way cheap (they used like recycled tin from soupcans and whatnot - very MacGyver) but they were really more like an automated adding machine than a computer as we know it.

      At least th
    • Probably the invention can be dated back to Babbage's analytical engine (1834). Although it wasn't completed, the designs and principles were good for a general purpose programmable calculating device. It was reckoned that the main problem preventing completion was the inability to mass produce parts of the required tolerance.
  • Geek Persecution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ArmenTanzarian (210418) on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:42AM (#5824258) Homepage Journal
    This isn't really even a communist thing. Geek persecution on both sides of the wall was rough. I mean, where's Alan Turing?
    • Re:Geek Persecution (Score:5, Informative)

      by LizardKing (5245) on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:53AM (#5824313)

      This isn't really even a communist thing. Geek persecution on both sides of the wall was rough. I mean, where's Alan Turing?

      While the establishment's treatment of Turing was a disgrace, I think it pales into insignificance compared to Stalin's terror. For an excellent introduction to life at the time of the purges, I can highly recommend Solzhenitsyn's "One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich", closely followed by his "Gulag Archipelago". It's a while since I read the latter, but I'm pretty sure it's the one that fictionalised Russian scientists working in an "intelligentsia prison".

      Chris

      • by autopr0n (534291) on Monday April 28, 2003 @10:02AM (#5824379) Homepage Journal
        Then beeing a "geek".
        • by autopr0n (534291)
          What idiot moderated me 'overrated'? Turing's homosexuality [lambda.net] is well know, and the reason for most of his problems.

          In 1952, Turing's home was burglarized by a friend of a man with whom he was having an affair. Refusing to be intimidated, he reported the crime. During the investigation, he did not hide his homosexuality from the police. He was labeled a pervert and was charged with gross indecency. He agreed to submit to hormone treatments rather than go to prison. He was injected with the female hormone
      • closely followed by his "Gulag Archipelago". It's a while since I read the latter, but I'm pretty sure it's the one that fictionalised Russian scientists working in an "intelligentsia prison".

        No, you're thinking of "The First Circle". "Gulag" is entirely non-fiction, it's more of a huge reference work detailing the whole Soviet system of repression.
  • Hrm, (Score:4, Informative)

    by autopr0n (534291) on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:48AM (#5824285) Homepage Journal
    Just to let everyone know, Atanasoff was an Iowa State professor.

    Go Cyclones! :P
  • by sphealey (2855) on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:50AM (#5824294)
    running an article on a gulag-condemned Soviet scientist whose contribution to the first computer is virtually unknown because of the Cold War mentality that infected much of society on both sides of the Iron Curtain

    Krawtchouk had been attainted for giving a favorable review of the work of "enemies of the people" and shipped to Siberia for 20 years of gold mining, where he died four years later. Krawtchouk's biography gives a more detailed account of how Krawtchouk was labeled a "Polish spy" and "Ukrainian nationalist," stripped of his Academy of Sciences membership, and forced to sign a confession -- that he later retracted -- under torture and threats upon his family.

    As a citizen of a Western power, I did not at the time and still today eo not agree with everything that the leaders of the Western nations did during the Cold War. But particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union I think there is plenty of evidence that the two side in that conflict were not just mirror-image evil twins. Facing a society where internal deportation and execution by overwork/freezing is the punishment for publishing a disfavored theory of mathematics, I think there just might be some justification for the policies of the West.

    sPh

    • Who on earth is promoting the idea that the US and USSR were "mirror image evil twins?" Let me guess, left wing revisionist wackos working in higher education right?

      When I read about the kinds of things the Soviets did it really makes me feel blessed that I live in a society where enough of the people fight to defend their rights that everyone's rights are protected.

      http://www.nra.org
      http://www.aclu.org

      Lee
      • Who on earth is promoting the idea that the US and USSR were "mirror image evil twins?" Let me guess, left wing revisionist wackos working in higher education right?

        Close. It was Mao who started it, along with the whole "non-aligned" movement. Left-wing revisionist wackos have just done their best to perpetuate the idea.
  • building bridges (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dollargonzo (519030) on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:50AM (#5824305) Homepage
    the soviets really have a bad history of blocking science from progressing in fear of spies / enemies of the ppl, etc. one of the greatest examples is a man who wanted to build a bridge. before he could start working out all the details, he order a catalog of all the ships in the world, so he could know exactly which ones might be passing under his bridge. the catalog is manufcatured outside of the iron curtain...when he received it, the pages with the russian vessels were torn out at the border.

    this is just beyond stupidity. so, apparently, the entire world can know the dimensions of soviet vessels, but not the soviets??
    • So basically, the Soviets invented the DMCA back in the 40's?
    • Re:building bridges (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LizardKing (5245) on Monday April 28, 2003 @10:06AM (#5824409)

      the entire world can know the dimensions of soviet vessels, but not the soviets

      It got worse than that - in fact the truth seems more like a Kafka novel at times. I can't remember the book I read about Soviet industrial and scientific cock ups, but some of the more absurd epsisodes have stuck in my mind.

      An attempt was made to build a permanent railroad across the Northern expanse of Siberia. Despite the protestations of engineers that building it without firm pilings and at the wrong time of year was foolhardy, the project went ahead. Unsuitable labour was used, in the form of ill-equipped and inexperienced gulag inmates. Track was lain during harsh Winter conditions. And of course, come the thaw, the lines buckled, embankments collapsed and trains toppled over. Their are still rusting remains of trains and track littering the region.

      Stalin was quite prepared to listen to crackpots and cranks, often promoting them to high academic positions. Genuine academics were either too frightened to speak out against Stalin's favourites, or sent to gulags for disagreeing with lunatic theories. Similarly, several of the Soviet Unions leading aircraft designers spent the Second World War working in prison having falling out of favour with Stalin.

      Chris

      • Similarly, several of the Soviet Unions leading aircraft designers spent the Second World War working in prison having falling out of favour with Stalin.

        True, but even Stalin wasn't a complete idiot when it came to things like this. Tupolev was sent to the gulag after falling out of favor, but it was not the typical work-till-you-die gulag - it was an intellegensia one. Tupolev may have pissed off Stalin, but Stalin still realized he was of more use alive than dead and "merely" forced him to continue doin
    • the soviets really have a bad history of blocking science from progressing in fear of spies / enemies of the ppl

      Much worse was the endorsement of bogus science that was supposed to be in accordance with Marxism, and the supression and destruction of real science. For example, Lysenkoism [skepdic.com] instead of real genetics.

      JP

      • Much worse was the endorsement of bogus science that was supposed to be in accordance with Marxism, and the supression and destruction of real science. For example, Lysenkoism [skepdic.com] instead of real genetics

        Yes, that's very bad. What could be WORSE AND MORE STUPID than that? Ummm... what oh what could be so absolutely ridiculous to outweight that one?

        I KNOW!!! Promoting CREATIONISM in State-own schools and sue the professors that require a basic degree of confidence in science to pass a recomm
        • You're the perfect example of a modern, reactionary liberal: tolerant of all beliefs except the ones you don't like.

          Here's a sad truth you'll probably never grow enough to understand: you're just as bad as those you hate.
  • Attained or detained?

  • Ripped off! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dot.Com.CEO (624226) on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:54AM (#5824318)
    From K5. Here [kuro5hin.org]. It has the EXACT wording of the k5 article...
  • surely you mean "detained"
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Monday April 28, 2003 @09:54AM (#5824323) Homepage

    Although similar persecutions continue in some countries to these days, the public opinion in many democracies would not tolerate any outside action against the oppressing governments.

    Living your life under Stalin, Kim of North Korea, Castro, Saddam Hussein is worse than war... Trade sanctions -- a modern democracies' usual "civilized" weapon against each other -- don't work against these scumbags. They pass the suffering onto their people...

    • You are absolutely correct.

      The greatest failing of international law, the UN and the entire current international structure is its demonstrated willingness to respect sovereignity more than the welfare of individuals. The world decries the evils of people like Stalin, Kim, Castro, Saddam, Mugabe, etc., but lacks the courage and will to remove them. It's excuse: We Cannot Violate The Sovereignty of Any Member of the International Community.

      This is nonsense. All totalitarians regimes are illegitimate, ha
      • It's excuse: We Cannot Violate The Sovereignty of Any Member of the International Community.

        Alas, so far it was the best thing that people came up with. Because otherwise, you just have the rule of the strongest on the international scene. This time it is you, but next time the coin can flip the other side. Last two world wars are good enough arguments against Social Darwinism.

        No, really, did you ever considered why Lynch law is outlawed? After all, there are lots of evil people who look guilty, but whos
        • It's excuse: We Cannot Violate The Sovereignty of Any Member of the International Community.

          Alas, so far it was the best thing that people came up with.

          That's true, unfortunately. What I was saying is, that the current situation is still flawed in a major way, and we should continue to look for better policies.

          No, really, did you ever consider why Lynch law is outlawed?

          Did you ever consider, why the Lynch law emerged in the first place? Depending on the number of the subjects and the level of the s

          • What I was saying is, that the current situation is still flawed in a major way, and we should continue to look for better policies.

            Sure, there is always place for improvement. I don't see the current development as an improvement though. Last time someone decided to screw the Nations, my home country lost quarter of its population in direct casualities, so pardon me my alertness.

            Even if we assume, that we should be looking for inter-sovereign principles in the domain of the inter-individual ones, we sh
        • >> ...otherwise, you just have the rule of the strongest on the international scene.

          This applies only if you believe that individual the soverieignty of individual nation is inviolate, and that the international community has no right to police itself.

          What is needed is an elected extra-national international body with the means and the authority to police the globe.
  • unless he is the "a reader" that submitted the story

    http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/4/27/5153/73626 [kuro5hin.org]

    note the word-for-word plagiarization/ lifting

    just trying to keep it honest
    • Hey, someone stole YOUR message. See here [kuro5hin.org]

      Oh wait...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'd like to hear what Hemos has to say, the editorial integrity issues need to be addressed.
      • by _xeno_ (155264) on Monday April 28, 2003 @12:53PM (#5825729) Homepage Journal
        I'd like to hear what Hemos has to say, the editorial integrity issues need to be addressed.

        But, apparently, won't be. Why was this modded down? It's not offtopic, it isn't trolling, and it isn't flamebait. (And it's hard to be overrated when starting at 0.) It's a statement of someone's opinion, and a rather reasonable one at that. Slashdot has been caught plagarizing another site. So some questions arize: Did the editors really get an anonymous submission and hense didn't know it was plagarized? Or, did the author of the original piece also post to Slashdot? Or, did the authors willingly and knowingly plagarize the article?

        A simple acknowledgement of the fact that the story in on Kuro5hin and an explanation of why would do well to calm any conspiracy theorists. Simply ignoring the issue doesn't help and just raises resentment against the editors, who really seem to have an "I don't care" attitude about a site they want us to pay to use.

  • No offense to Krawtchouk but I am sort of getting tired of everyone and their uncle claiming credit for the invention or at least some of the fundemental work that contributed to the first computers. It seems to me just about everyone is now claiming credit for having invented the first modern computers. I think the invention of the first computers was like the invention of the video game. It doesn't matter who created the first ones and what fundemental work they did, the ones who get credit are the ones w
  • by Flamesplash (469287) on Monday April 28, 2003 @10:13AM (#5824458) Homepage Journal
    This issue has come up in the Computational Complexity course I am taking.

    In particular the Cook-Levin Theorem wah proved simultaneously by Steve Cook in the US and Lenoid Levin in the USSR.

    Additionally the Immerman-Szelepcsenyi Theorem was proven by Neil Immerman (US) and Richard Szelepcsenyi (Slovakia).

    Neither were known for some time due to the lack of communication on both sides.
  • by hughk (248126) on Monday April 28, 2003 @10:25AM (#5824536) Journal
    was the one devised by Charles Babbage around 1832. It was started but never completed. However, part of the calculating section was produced in 1832. Babbage revised his design to simplify it but the second version was not produced. The Difference Engine No. 2 was produced from Babbage's plans by the Science Museum in Britain [sciencemuseum.org.uk] to verify that it would work. The team building it restricted themselves to manufacturing accuracies attainable 150 years ago. It worked after the correction of some small errors, which were felt to be deliberate (the Victorians feared espionage and frequently introduced a few deliberate mistakes into technical drawings.

    The printer [bbc.co.uk] was completed in 2000. It featured variable spacing and line wrapping. Not bad for something that is 100% mechanical.

    It should be noted that as with the machine talked about here, this was a machine for solving simple differential equations (tides) as well as more standard types of maths (i.e., logs, sines and so on) for the production of tables. It was not a general purpose computer, that term was reserved for his Analytical Engine - which was designed but never produced. However Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace wrote some programs for it, converting equations into algorithms and generating register settings which could be punched on the Jacquard cards (Babbage pinched this idea from the manufacturers of automatic-looms, a long time before Hollerith).

    If Babbage had completed the Analytical engine, we could have been in a very different world. One version would have been hypothesized in William Gibson's "The Difference Engine".

  • by reallocate (142797) on Monday April 28, 2003 @10:29AM (#5824561)
    Krawtchouk's woes can't be attributed to "the Cold War mentality that infected much of society on both sides of the Iron Curtain...".

    His obscurity, yes. But not his abuse by the Soviet Union. Hemos' casual paraphrasing of one line in the Reviews' piece serves to apportion responsibility for the Cold War equally among the Soviets and the U.S. This is wrong. Soviet totalitarianism was responsible for both Krawtchouk's abuse and his obscurity, while Soviet military occupation of one-half of Europe, the imposition of Soviet totalitarianism there and an expressed intent to eliminate democratic governments elsewhere were the causes of the Cold War.

    Some revisionist historians -- who always seem to me to be embarrassed by democracy -- will disagree, but can they truthfully imagine the Cold War happening if the Soviet Union had been a free and democratic nation with no expansionist aims?
  • by leereyno (32197) on Monday April 28, 2003 @10:30AM (#5824571) Homepage Journal
    To anyone familiar with Scientology, and especially its RPF, this story sounds eerily familiar.

    The secret Library of scientology:
    http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Library /

    Operation Clambake:
    http://www.xenu.net

    (I'm still waiting for my goldenrod)
  • Russia (Score:2, Funny)

    by EABird (554070)
    In Soviet Russia.... ...oh, never mind.
  • by sstory (538486)
    whose contribution to the first computer is virtually unknown because of the Cold War mentality that infected much of society on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

    You should do some rereading I think. I don't think it was the "mentality...on both sides" that is responsible for his anonymity.

  • by br00tus (528477) on Monday April 28, 2003 @01:10PM (#5825862)
    Wilhelm Reich, a student of Freud's, died in an American prison. He was put there due to his research into energy forms. The government also burned his research!

    Plenty of American scientists have been persecuted for political reasons, including Oppenheimer, as well as many lesser known ones. Despite being an American, I find it hypocritical that people find a desire to bash the USSR for things the US did as well. Like decry people killed in the early days of the USSR when the US wiped out most of the Indians here, as well as however many Africans were dumped overboard after being packed in like sardines on slave ships. Or remember persecuted scientists in the Soviet Union, when there were persecuted scientists in the United States. I think it would be better to focus on people in Kansas and wherever else in the US that want to burn biology books and replace them with the book of Genesis. Americans have been brainwashed by anti-Bolshevist propaganda since 1917, and had ugly incidents from their past like the Bonus March absent from the history books (except history books like A People's History of the United States), or even incidents of working class power and solidarity (like the San Francisco general strike). I'm not a Marxist-Leninist by any means, but this tendency among the right to try to revive the USSR from the dead to bash it again while trying to whitewash the American ruling classes history is lame, and I don't feel it serves working class Americans like myself.

  • by Cruciform (42896) on Monday April 28, 2003 @02:25PM (#5826649) Homepage
    I guess it's too late for a "Free Krawtchouk" website and defense fund t-shirt sales.

  • I love it. The russians shamefully admit the atrocities that the soviets unleashed on their own people, yet there are STILL ideological communists in the world. Where is your social justice now comrades? China? hah.

    I'm such a troll.

NOWPRINT. NOWPRINT. Clemclone, back to the shadows again. - The Firesign Theater

Working...