Shmidt, Otto

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Shmidt, Otto Iul’evich


(also Schmidt). Born Sept. 18 (30), 1891, in Mogilev; died Sept. 7, 1956, in Moscow. Soviet mathematician, astronomer, geophysicist, and state and public figure. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1935; corresponding member, 1933) and academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR (1934). Hero of the Soviet Union (June 27,1937). Member of the CPSU from 1918.

Shmidt graduated from the University of Kiev in 1913, where he became a privatdocent in 1916. After the October Revolution of 1917, he was a board member of several people’s commissariats, including the People’s Commissariat of Food (1918–20) and the People’s Commissariat of Finance (1921–22). One of the organizers of higher education and science, he worked in the People’s Commissariat of Education, on the State Scientific Council of the Council of People’s Commissars, and in the Communist Academy. He was also one of the organizers of publishing; from 1921 to 1924 he was head of the State Publishing House, and from 1924 to 1941, editor in chief of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia. From 1923 to 1956, Shmidt was a professor at Moscow State University. During the same period, he was also director of the Arctic Institute (1930–32), head of the Main Northern Sea Route Administration (1932–39), and vice-president of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1939–42). In 1937, Shmidt helped found the Institute of Theoretical Geophysics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, of which he was director until 1949.

Shmidt’s main works in mathematics deal with algebra; his monograph Abstract Group Theory (1916; 2nd ed., 1933) exerted a considerable influence on the development of group theory. Shmidt was the founder of the Moscow school of algebra, which he headed for many years.

In the mid-1940’s, Shmidt proposed a new cosmogonic hypothesis about the formation of the earth and the planets of the solar system, the development of which he continued with a group of Soviet scientists until his death.

Shmidt was also one of the leading explorers of the Soviet arctic. In 1929–30 he headed expeditions aboard the icebreaker Georgii Sedov, which established the first scientific research station on Franz Josef Land, explored the northeastern part of the Kara Sea and the western coast of Severnaia Zemlia, and discovered a number of islands. In 1932 the expedition aboard the icebreaker Sibiriakov, headed by Shmidt, completed the first nonstop voyage from Arkhangel’sk to the Pacific Ocean. In 1933–34, Shmidt headed a sailing expedition aboard the Cheliuskin along the Northern Sea Route. In 1937 he led an air expedition to establish the drifting station Severnyi Polius-1, and in 1938 he supervised operations to remove station personnel from the iceberg.

Shmidt was a member of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR and a deputy to the first convocation of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. He was awarded three Orders of Lenin, three other orders, and several medals. A number of natural features are named in honor of Shmidt, including an island in the Kara Sea and a cape on the coast of the Chukchi Sea, as well as a raion in the Chukchi Autonomous Okrug (Magadan Oblast) and the Institute of Earth Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.


Izbr. trudy: Matematika. Moscow, 1959.
Izbr. trudy: Geograficheskie raboty. Moscow, 1960.
Izbr. trudy: Geofizika i kosmogoniia. Moscow, 1960.


Kurosh, A. G. “Otto Iul’evich Shmidt (k 60-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia).” Uspekhi matematicheskikh nauk, 1951, vol. 6, issue 5 (45).
Otto Iul’evich Shmidt: Zhizn’ i deiatel’nost’. Moscow, 1959.
Podvigina, E. P., and L. K. Vinogradov. Akademik geroi. Moscow, 1960.
Khil’mi, G. F. “Shtrikhi k portretu O. Iu. Shmidta.” Priroda, 1973, no. 4.
Mitrofanov, N. N. “Tverdyi splav.” In Etiudy o lektorakh. Moscow, 1974.
Duel’, I. I. Lintia zhizni. Moscow, 1977.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.