Lev Pontriagin

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pontriagin, Lev Semenovich


Born Aug. 21 (Sept. 3), 1908, in Moscow. Soviet mathematician. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1958; corresponding member, 1939); Hero of Socialist Labor (1969).

At the age of 14, Pontriagin lost his sight in an accident. He graduated in 1929 from Moscow University, where he became a professor in 1935. In 1939 he also became head of a department at the V. A. Steklov Institute of Mathematics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

In topology, Pontriagin discovered the general law of duality, in connection with which he constructed a theory of characters of topological groups. He obtained a number of results in homotopy theory; the Pontriagin classes, for example, were introduced by him. In the theory of oscillations, Pontriagin’s principal results deal with the asymptotic behavior of relaxation oscillations. In control theory, he is the creator of the mathematical theory of optimal processes, at whose foundation lies Pontriagin’s maximum principle, and he has obtained fundamental results on differential games. The work of Pontriagin’s school has had a great influence on the development of control theory and the calculus of variations throughout the world.

Pontriagin became an honorary member of the London Mathematical Society in 1953 and of the International Academy of Astronautics in 1966. He was vice-president of the International Mathematical Union from 1970 to 1974. In 1972 he became an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Pontriagin received the State Prize of the USSR in 1941 and the Lenin Prize in 1962. He has been awarded three Orders of Lenin, two other orders, and various medals.


Nepreryvnye gruppy, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1973.
Osnovy kombinatornoi topologii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Obyknovennye differentsial’nye uravneniia, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1970.
Matematicheskaia teoriia optimal’nykh protsessov, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1969. (With coauthors.)
“Lineinaia differentsial’naia igra ubeganiia.” In Trudy Matematicheskogo Instituta AN SSSR, 1971, vol. 112.


Uspekhi matematicheskikh nauk, 1959, vol. 14, issue 3.
Uspekhi matematicheskikh nauk, vol. 23, issue 6. (Contains a list of works.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.