Monograph by Professor Rashid Nigmatullin’s 100th birthday issued with TAIF’s support

Hardware implementation of fractional operators and devices based on them became a key theme in the life of the doctor of physical and mathematical sciences

The monograph Fractal Elements: Pioneer Hardware Implementations, which has just a modest 300 copies but huge meaning for Russia and the world’s scientific community, has already been printed and picked up in FIZMATLIT publishing house — Russia’s main scientific publishing house. 640 pages concentrate the scientific thought and breakthrough solutions in the context of more than half a century and the first publications and a number of subsequent ones belong to Kazan Aviation Institute’s Professor Rashid Nigmatullin — the founder of the Kazan (and world) scientific school of fractional operators. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

A man who outstripped time

“There aren’t so many scientists in the world who create something completely new in science, an area with a scientific school that is famous in the country and abroad and at the same time were big managers and statesmen,” Professor of Kazan University Nikolay Neprimerov stressed in his memories of Rashid Nigmatullin.

In 1954, when Mr Nigmatullin successfully defended his PhD dissertation and was invited to the Kazan Aviation Institute (KAI) to chair the Department of Theoretical Basics of Radio Engineering (Editor’s note: later renamed as the Department of Theoretical Radio Engineering and Electronics), he became keen on problems of paramagnetic resonance. He created an experimental unit, which was unique at that time, thanks to which the lowest measurable relaxation rate of spin-lattice transitions reduced a lot, which enabled the possibility of significantly increasing information about studied processes and expand the area of paramagnetic objects open to research.

It was a total surprise for many that after the approval of the young scientist’s research area by Nobel laureate, Academician Prokhorov and a successful report on the topic at the 1st All-Union Meeting on Polaropgrahy in Chișinău in 1959, Nigmatullin changed the area of his major research and the department he chaired. Firstly, he focused on the development of new polarographic methods. Later, he concentrated on a newly born sphere in science and engineering — chemtronics (liquid electronics). Eventually, it started to be called molecular electronics.

At the all-Union meeting in 1962, Rashid Nigmatullin delivered his first report on the use of fractional derivatives in polarography, though reports on this had already been given as early as the 1959-1961s at in-house university conferences.

“He was the first in the world to start talking about the physical meaning of derivatives and integrals of half order and their possible applications. Then, in the 60s, this was indeed a breakthrough in new areas of science, including his brainchild chemtronics he dedicated many years of his scientific art to. Many years later, the son of the founder of the scientific school of fractional operators, Professor, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Honourable Scientist of the Republic of Tatarstan and Honourable Worker of Higher Professional Education of Russia Ravil Nigmatullin.

“Canadian scientist Oldham’s first book on the use of fractional operators in hardware, precisely hardware implementation, appeared only 12 years later. Mandelbrot’s works The Fractal Geometry of Nature appeared after Mr Nigmatullin, in the 74-75s. In other words, Mr Nigmatullin was 10-12 years earlier than everybody,” Rashid Nigmatullin’s student, also Professor, Doctor of Engineering Sciences, Honourable KAI Professor, Honourable Scientist of the Republic of Tatarstan, and Honourable Worker of Higher Professional Education of Russia and Honourable Worker of the Higher School of Russia Anis Gilmutdinov shared.

Anis Gilmutdinov, Ravil Nigmatullin and Mr Nigmatullin’s other student — Professor, Doctor of Engineering Sciences, Honourable KAI Professor, Honourable Scientist of the Republic of Tatarstan and Honourable Worker of Higher Professional Education of Russia — Yury Yevdokimov deliberately gathered in the department Professor Nigmatullin chaired for more than 34 years to tell Realnoe Vremya’s journalist about their mentor and teacher as well as the book they had been working on together for many years.

In memory of Rashid Nigmatullin

The monograph is a kind of printed monument to the professor, doctor of physical and mathematical sciences, head of the Department of Theoretical Basics of Radio Engineering of the Kazan Aviation Institute from 1954 to 1988, KAI rector from 1967 to 1977 and chairman of the TASSR Supreme Council from 1971 to 1979.

“It was important for us to show the crucial role of Russian science, our Kazan science. It was pioneer hardware implementation of fractal elements. It is the theme Mr Nigmatullin was the pioneer in. The foreword reads: ‘The book is dedicated to the blessed memory of Rashid Nigmatullin, the founder of the Kazan scientific school of fractional operators.’ And it puts here that Nigmatullin did this and that for the first time, when and what appeared. Correspondent Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergey Nikitov, director of the Kotelnikov Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, kindly agreed to write the foreword for this book. He is the successor of Academician Vladimir Kotelnikov who created this institute, and student of Yury Gulyayev, an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences,” said Anis Gilmutdinov. The doctor of engineering sciences was the editor of the book.

Rashid Nigmatullin was a very responsible person. After being appointed as KAI rector and then elected as chairman of the TASS Supreme Council in 1971, most energy and time was spent on managerial and organisational work.

“Unfortunately, as Mr Nigmatullin himself admitted, he dived into management, and during his work as rector, he almost left scientific research. After his son R. Nigmatullin returned from a scientific trip to England in 1982-1983, he understood that there was a boom in fractional operators abroad. While we had already been talking about this a decade ago. It is when this area revived here,” said Anis Gilmutdinov.

Professor Gilmutdinov himself has been dealing with science since 1985. This is how he recalls one of the key events in his life:

“I worked in another department, I dealt with hardware implementation of resistance-capacitive elements with distributed parameters. Unconsciously, I did hardware implementation of fractional operators. I worked in my field: resistant-capacitive elements with distributed parameters for frequency-selective circuits, etc. Mr Nigmatullin invited me, gave me the task of implementing fractional operators.”

Realising the scale and meaning of the scientific field, Gilmutdinov started to collect all scientific books on the topic approximately during this period. A lot has been collected by now. When they had the idea of printing a monograph, it turned out that all this big bibliography wasn’t enough. The search went on, but the work was extremely hard because most articles themselves are a bibliographic rarity.

“The theme has been in such a high demand that articles have spread instantaneously. We can say there is no copy left before the article is published. We wrote authors asking them to send us a copy of the sample, contacted editorials wondering if they had a copy of some work. In fact, we have been collecting information for 35-36 years,” said Ravil Nigmatullin together with Yury Yevdokimov (Editor’s note: Mr Nigmatullin’s closest student who replaced his teacher as head of the department and chaired it for more than 20 years) who also actively participated in the preparation of the book. Scientists from France, Italy, the USA, India were also on the editorial board.

Then a long and tough job was done to screen publications out. The selection process was strict, said Anis Gilmutdinov:

“In this monograph, we collected only pioneer hardware implementations, from the first publications of Mr Nigmatullin. However, we paid tribute to Japanese Manabe who published an article in 1961 where he theoretically shows the possibility of implementing constant phase elements. This endeavour says nothing about fractional derivatives. Hardware implementation of fractional derivatives is mentioned for the first time in Nigmatullin’s research. All the works included in the book were published in the original language. Much to our regret, 75-80% are in English. Works of representatives of the Kazan school and one Izhevsk scientist Pyotr Ushakov are available in Russia. He is also a postgraduate of our KAI. He wrote his PhD and doctoral thesis in Kazan. He can be called Mr Nigmatullin’s scientific grandson.

Ultimately, it turned out to be a collection of works done from 1961 to 2013 that dynamically talks about how the scientific area explained for the first time by Professor Nigmatullin precisely in Kazan.

“This book contains more than half a century of the development of the scientific field. One article is one point. The full picture can be seen only if they are put together. And this book has the full picture, everything that has been done in this area, how the area developed, what is the result... It is seen what hardware solutions that were offered then are topical today and developed, where to move further,” explained Yury Yevdokimov.

To all leading libraries of the world

The publication of the scientific book nowadays is already a milestone, though the number of copies is a modest 300.

“300 copies — is it much or little? On the one hand, it is much. On the other hand, it is little. It is little from a perspective of providing of all people who are interested in science. It is much because now this book is available electronically. This book has an identical e-book. And we can send it to everybody who will be interested,” Anis Gilmutdinov hurried to calm the scientific community down.

The editor of the book stressed that one even shouldn’t try to call and write asking to sell a paper version of the book:

“The cover reads: ‘The issue of the monograph was funded by a grant of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Tatarstan during the international Nigmatullin Readings in 2018 and sponsors. It doesn’t pursue any commercial goals. The monograph will be distributed in library networks of universities and scientific institutions free and isn’t subject to be sold in book trade networks and networks of analogous commercial structures,” he read.

Paper copies are already sent to Russian and foreign universities, the largest libraries of the country and the world now.

“We will send it to the Library of Congress. They should know who founded hardware implementation. Here this is set in stone,” Gilmutdinov emphasised.

As for the sponsorship, the book might not have seen the light without it. There was enough money to prepare the layout, but there wasn’t money for copies.

“The publishing house asked for 700,000 rubles. Unfortunately, the organisation that won the tender for the money the Tatarstan president allocated could pay only 250,000 rubles. Therefore we turned to different organisations, first of all, TAIF, its Director General Ruslan Shigabutdinov,” Gilmutdinov said and added, “This isn’t our first experience of cooperation with TAIF. Our friendship has been lasting since the times when Albert Shigabutdinov was the director general. He is a graduate of our Kazan Aviation Institute. Moreover, he studied in the Faculty of Radio Engineering. And he has always helped our faculty.”

However, this doesn’t mean that TAIF is the only Tatarstan company that supports science. Realnoe Vremya’s interlocutors said that the KAI and Tatarstan in general are going to solemnly celebrate the 100th birthday of outstanding scientist, political and public activist, Professor and founder of the Kazan and (world) scientific school of fractional operators Rashid Nigmatullin in 2023. It is planned to host the Nigmatullin Readings dedicated to this date scientists from all Russia, neighbouring and remote countries are going to attend in the republic. Such a big and significant event will also require money, and Tatarstan businesses promised to help to solve this problem.

Arseny Favstritsky