Aleksandr Danilovich Aleksandrov

From Academic Kids

Aleksandr Danilovich Aleksandrov (Russian: Александр Данилович Александров, alternative transliterations: Alexandr or Alexander (first name), and Alexandrov (last name)) (August 41912July 271999), was a Soviet/Russian mathematician, physicist, philosopher and mountaineer.

Missing image
A.D. Aleksandrov, 1950s

Scientific career

A.D. graduated from the Department of Physics of the Leningrad State University. His advisors there were Vladimir Fok, a physicist, and Boris Delaunay, a mathematician. In 1933 A.D. worked at the State Optical Institute (GOI) and at the same time gave lectures at the Department of Mathematics and Mechanics of the University. He completed his Ph.D. in 1935 at the University and later in 1937 — a D.Sc. dissertation. He became a professor at the University, while also working at LOMI, the Leningrad branch of the Steklov Institute of Mathematics. Appointed a rector of the university in 1952, A.D. remained in this position until 1964. In 1946 he became an associate member, and in 1964 — a full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Since 1975 he was also a member of the Italian National Academy.

Since 1964 and until 1986 A.D. lived in Novosibirsk, heading the Laboratory of Geometry of the Institute of Mathematics of the Siberian branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences, teaching at the Novosibirsk State University. In 1986 he returned to Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), to head the geometry laboratory at the LOMI (now PDMI, Petersburg Department of the Mathematical Institute).


Partial list of the awards, medals, and prizes of A.D.:

One of many orders that he was awarded was given to him in 1990 for his active defence of genetics during the period when it was declared a pseudoscience in the Soviet union and fought against (see Lysenkoism).

Works by A.D.

A.D. has written a multitude of books, scientific papers, textbooks for various levels (schools to universities). He also wrote non-mathematical papers, memoirs about famous scientists, and philosophical essays dealing with the moral values of science.

A full bibliography is available in [1].

Students of A.D.

  • I. Liberman, S. Olovyanishnikov, P. Kostelyanetz — all the three of them perished on the battlefields of the Great patriotic war
  • A. Pogorelov — from Kharkov
  • A. Yusupov — from Bukhara
  • Students from the A.D.'s Leningrad period (ordered by the time of joining the seminars): Yu. Borisov, V. Zalgaller, Yu. Reshetnyak, I. Bakelman, Yu. Volkov, A. Zamorzaev, S. Bogacheva (who later married A.D.), Yu. Borovskii, R. Pimenov
  • Sobchuk and Starokhozyayev — from Ukraine
  • G. Rusiyeshvili — from Georgia (country)
  • B. Frank and H. Frank — from Germany
  • Yu. Burago, V. Kreinovich
  • Moved from Alma-Ata after A.D.'s lecture tour there: M. Kvachko, V. Ovchinnikova, E. Sen'kin
  • Stayed in Alma-Ata: A. Zilberberg, V. Strel'cov, D. Yusupov
  • Novosibirsk students: A. Guc, A. Kuz'minykh, A. Levichev, A. Shaydenko

Both in St.Petersburg and in Novosobirsk A.D. was doing joint research also with some of his students' students. Several of them became his co-authors: V. Berestovskii, A. Verner, V. Gol'dshtein, S. Krushkal', S. Kutateladze, N. Necvetaev, I. Nikolaev, V. Ryzhik.

His last (doctoral) student was Grigori Perelman, who later in 2002 is thought to have proved the Thurston problem, thus as a special case proving the famous Poincar conjecture: If a closed 3-dimensional manifold is singly connected, then it is homeomorphic to the surface of a 4-dimensional ball.


A.D. became attracted to alpinism under the influence of his advisor B.N. Delaunay. In the summer of 1937, after defending his D.Sc.,

together with I. Chashnikov he makes a first climb to the Chotchi summit, and with K. Piskaryov performs a climb of Bu-Ul'gen via the western wall (one of the first wall climbs in the history of the Soviet alpinism).
[] In 1940  he participates in a record-making traversal[] He manages, almost by a miracle, to stop the fall of A. Gromov, who had fallen along with a snow shelf. It was with this traversal that A.D. Aleksandrov completed the alpinist sports master requirements. The Great Patriotic war postponed awarding him this honorary title until 1949.
(See A.D. Aleksandrov in the mountains (an alpinist biography), Savvon S.M., [1], p.182–183)

During his rectorship, A.D. also advanced the mountaineering sport activities in the university, actively participating in the climbs.

The fiftieth birthday was celebrated by A.D. in the mountains with his friends. On that day he made a solo first climb of an

unnamed peak 6222 m (Shakhdarinsk ridge, Pamir), that as he suggested was then named "The peak of the Leningrad university."

During later years A.D. didn't undertake climbs due to health problems, yet he never ceased dreaming of climbs. Finally, in 1982, the year of his seventieth birthday, he, together with K. Tolstov, performs in Tian Shan his last climb, of the Panfilov peak

(same source)


  1. (in Russian) "Akademik Aleksandr Danilovich Aleksandrov. Vospominanija. Publikacii. Materialy." Editors: G.M. Idlis and O.A. Ladyzhenskaya. Moscow, Nauka publishing house, 2002.
  2. Yu.F. Borisov, "On the 90th anniversary of the birth of A.D. Aleksandrov (1912–1999) (", Russ. Math. Surv., 2002, 57 (5), 1017–1031.
  3. Yu.F. Borisov, V.A. Zalgaller, S.S. Kutateladze, O.A. Ladyzhenskaya, A.V. Pogorelov, Yu.G. Reshetnyak, "К 90-летию со дня рождения А.Д. Александрова (1912–1999) (", Uspekhi Mat. Nauk, 2002, 57 (5), 169–181.
    (Original Russian version of [2])

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