Skoltech presents the enhanced version of VR Kolmogorov

On April 25, the 121st birthday of the great mathematician, Skoltech presented an updated version of its VR Kolmogorov exhibition unveiled a year ago. Kolmogorov’s family history is more complete now, featuring new facts obtained in collaboration with Demidov Yaroslavl State University. Also, the project team published recollections of Kolmogorov’s students on the project website and launched an English version of VR Kolmogorov. Skoltech has been working on this project in partnership with Steklov Mathematical Institute of RAS (MIAN) within the Decade of Science and Technology in Russia.

Kolmogorov is a universe,” says the MSU professor and Kolmogorov’s student Vladimir Tikhomirov. “He was neither a materialist nor an idealist [...] Life, consciousness, the animal and plant kingdoms are based on random processes, and Andrey Nikolaevich was an expert in randomness. He looked for perfection and beauty everywhere, not just in science. He shared the view that beauty is connected with truth, and truth cannot be ugly. He also looked for manifestations of beauty in the human mind, human life, and human history; he was optimistic and believed in progress. He argued that humanity was evolving and would one day reach a peaceful pinnacle of existence, despite occasional failures. These were the principles at the heart of his work.

Kolmogorov used to set a lot of interesting problems in seminars,” recalls Yakov Sinai, a student of Andrey Kolmogorov and winner of the Abel Prize (2014), “but he never said you do this, you do that. Everyone did what they wanted. Once I wrote a paper and decided to show it to Kolmogorov. He took it, and at our next meeting he said: ‘You know, I have already submitted your paper for publication.’”

The project website now features a film that another student of Andrey Kolmogorov, academician Albert Shiryaev, prepared for his professor’s 100th birthday. “Kolmogorov traveled across centuries, bringing us along to “attract the love of space, to hear the call of the future”, the narrator says in the introduction to the film. “In the new millennium, he still remains a shining beacon of light.

Another student of Kolmogorov, Leonid Bassalygo, the chief research scientist at the Kharkevich Institute for Information Transmission Problems of RAS, published Kolmogorov’s first paper on land ownership in the Novgorod country in the 15th century after his death. The paper was found by mere accident. “After the death of Andrey Nikolayevich and, it seems, after the death of [his wife] Anna Dmitrievna, Kolmogorov’s manuscript was found in their apartment,” Leonid Bassalygo recalls. “At the time, I was closely acquainted with the Novgorod archaeological expedition and the wonderful people who worked there (it was Andrey Anatolievich Zaliznyak who introduced us). I told them that Kolmogorov had this manuscript. I retyped the handwritten paper and showed it to Yanin, who highly appreciated it and wrote a preface. I prepared a comment for the Novgorod cadasters, and Fizmatgiz undertook to publish it. Kolmogorov was the first to describe the meaning of ‘people’ in the cadasters and explain the taxation system”.

VR Kolmogorov was inaugurated at Skoltech on April 25, 2023 to mark the great mathematician’s 120th birthday. A virtual tour of Kolmogorov’s house in Komarovka, the center of Moscow’s mathematical life at the time, and his family tree restored from regional archives formed the core of the exhibition. Academician Albert Shiryaev, a student of Kolmogorov and the memorial house’s curator, acted as the tour guide and scientific consultant for the project.

A large part of the exhibition is in digital format, which makes it easier to open its branches anywhere. The Kolmogorov exhibitions will be opened soon at Demidov Yaroslavl State University and the Adyghe State University.