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Ivan Georgievich Petrovsky

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18 Jan 1901

Sevsk, Orlov guberniya, Russia

15 Jan 1973

Moscow, USSR

Ivan Petrovsky was a student of Egorov at the University of Moscow. From this time he began to build up his collection of books, described by P S Aleksandrov and O A Oleinik in :

From his student days onwards, he was always buying books. His personal library contained over thirty thousand books ... It is remarkable that Petrowsky did not have a catalogue but knew his way round the library very well and was able to find his favourite books quickly.

Petrovsky taught at Moscow University and, from 1943, at the Steklov Institute. He became rector of Moscow University and Vice-Director of the Steklov Institute. P S Aleksandrov and O A Oleinik write in :

It can be said without exaggeration that among the Rectors of Russian Universities two have a special and prominent place : [ Lobachevsky and Petrovsky]. Both of them lived the life of the universities of which they were head, took part in all aspects of this life, and tried to steer it along the best possible path.

Petrovsky's main mathematical work was on the theory of partial differential equations , the topology of algebraic curves and surfaces, and probability . Petrovsky also worked on the boundary value problem for the heat equation and this was applied to both probability theory and work of Kolmogorov .

P S Aleksandrov and O A Oleinik write in :

Petrowsky is one of the few mathematicians whose work shapes the face of modern mathematics. However, he regarded his rectorship as the most important thing in his life, even more important than his mathematical research.

His career is summed up in as follows:

Petrovsky's knowledge was encyclopaedic. He had a thorough understanding of modern science and all its interconnections, was perspicacious and far-sighted, was able to discern long-term trends, and always emphasised them. He also showed a wide general culture, knowledge of diverse branches of science, a deep understanding of state problems in many outstanding public and state activities.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland