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Gel’fond, Aleksandr Osipovich

(1906–1968), Soviet mathematician. Born in Saint Petersburg into a family of physicians, Aleksandr Gel’fond studied at the Bauman Higher Technical School in Moscow, and later at the physics and mathematics faculty of Moscow State University. After completing his studies in 1927, he entered a postgraduate program. During his university and postgraduate years, Gel’fond worked under the guidance of Viacheslav Stepanov and Aleksandr Khinchin.

Gel’fond became a professor at Moscow State University in 1931. Subsequently, from 1933 he was a senior research fellow at the Steklov Mathematical Institute, and from 1937 he headed the department of the theory and analysis of numbers in Moscow State University’s mathematics faculty. For 30 years, Gel’fond also conducted a seminar at Moscow State University. Distinguished by its high scientific productivity, his seminar became the USSR’s center for the study of the theory of numbers. Indeed, Gel’fond’s scholarly work was devoted mainly to this topic and to the theory of functions of complex variables. He gained worldwide recognition when he solved the seventh problem on German mathematician David Hilbert’s list. Gel’fond first proposed a partial solution to this problem in 1929; in 1934, he achieved its accepted solution.

Gel’fond was invited to participate in an international congress in Oslo in 1932, but Soviet authorities refused to let him attend. Indeed, as Stalin’s regime developed, contacts between Soviet mathematicians and those in the outside world grew increasingly limited. As a result, Gel’fond was never nominated for the prizes awarded to outstanding mathematicians in international competitions. However, he was granted the degree of doctor of physical and mathematical sciences in 1935, without having to defend a dissertation, and was elected corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1939. His scholarly works received high Soviet government awards: an Order of Lenin and three Orders of the Red Banner of Labor.

Suggested Reading

Aleksandr Osipovich Gel’fond, Izbrannye trudy (Moscow, 1973); Il’ia Iosifovich Piatetskii-Shapiro and Andrei Borisovich Shidlovskii, “Aleksandr Osipovich Gel’fond, k shestidesiatiletiiu so dnia rozhdeniia,” Uspekhi matematicheskikh nauk 22.3 (1967): 247–254.



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson