Problems of Information Transmission, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2002, pp. 166–167. Translated from Problemy Peredachi Informatsii, No. 2, 2002, pp. 77–78.
Original Russian Text Copyright
2002 by the Editorial Board.
On the 100th Anniversary since the Birth
of Andrei Nikolaevich Kolmogorov
In Nikolaev, March 5, 1962
Since February 24, as a cybernetician, I have been watching with interest the organization of
marine ships being loaded. The highest probability we had of putting to sea was on February 28,
which would help to fulﬁll the monthly plan of navigation. In accordance with this we departed from
Odessa for Nikolaev on the night of February 28 to March 1. Until this Sunday our stay in Nikolaev
was also justiﬁed by another reason. Yesterday the Odessa soccer players had beaten Nikolaev’s
“Shipbuilder” (master league B) at Nikolaev Stadium, and the presence of Odessa marines (the
more the better) was highly desirable to ensure the security of the Odessa players.
We also had a “culture trip” to see Schiller’s Maria Stuart in the local theater, an opportunity
to see a boxing match, etc. Igor Bezrodny
is coming here on March 14–15, but I have a faint hope
to be in the Indian Ocean by then.
Since, grace to your eﬀorts, I have become a cybernetician,
I am becoming more and more
involved in its basic problems, which surpass the scope of mathematics, arriving at an immodest
thought that very few study these objects in suitable breadth.
Consider, for example, the problem of teaching (say, teaching people a foreign language). It is
strange that no cybernetician (something of what follows has been already said before in a more
old-fashioned language) has come to a natural idea that a teacher (to be concrete, a teacher of
mathematics) is in the same position as a scientist entering an existing computing center with a
problem of his own. This center already has a certain set of electronic computing machines,
a supply of programs made for another purpose, even a staﬀ of programmers. His target is to
teach this sophisticated organism to fulﬁll a new task using all mechanisms, programs, and skills
That is the reason why a mathematics professor should understand well, for instance, the nature
of geometrical imagination and intuition evolved while solving practical problems of controlling
In spring 1962 Kolmogorov worked for some time in Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta. He was invited
by P.C. Mahalanobis (1893–1972), a well-known Indian specialist in mathematical statistics. It was there
that Kolmogorov wrote his famous article “On Tables of Random Numbers” published in Sankhy¯a, Indian
J. Statist., Ser. A (1963, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 369–376). According to Kolmogorov himself, the article reﬂected
a certain stage of his attempts to give sense to von Mises’s frequency interpretation of probability. The
article contained a signiﬁcant revision of von Mises’s construction (which was left on the intuitive level)
and laid the foundation of algorithmic probability theory.
A health condition did not permit Kolmogorov to ﬂy. That is why he departed to Odessa by train in
February, in order to go to India by sea. On the way he wrote me this letter. It is handwritten, with the
postmark on the envelope: Nikolaev, March 6, 1962.—Note by V.A. Uspensky.
I.S. Bezrodny was a Soviet violinist.—V.U.
Kolmogorov became a cybernetician by his own eﬀorts, and these words are no more than a politeness
with a subtle dose of irony. For further details see Section 6 “Kolmogorov and Cybernetics” of my article
“Preface for the Readers of the ‘New Literary Review’ to Semiotic Messages of A.N. Kolmogorov” published
in Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie (New Literary Review) magazine (1997, no. 24, pp. 122–215).—V.U.
2002 MAIK “Nauka/Interperiodica”