Valentin Turchin

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Valentin Fyodorovich Turchin
Валентин Фёдорович Турчин
Turchin in 1977
Born(1931-02-14)February 14, 1931
DiedApril 7, 2010(2010-04-07) (aged 79)
Alma materInstitute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics
Known for
ChildrenPeter Turchin
Dimitri Turchin
Scientific career
Fieldscybernetics, computer science

Valentin Fyodorovich Turchin (Russian: Валенти́н Фёдорович Турчи́н, 14 February 1931 in Podolsk – 7 April 2010 in Oakland, New Jersey[1]) was a Soviet and American physicist, cybernetician, and computer scientist. He developed the Refal programming language, the theory of metasystem transitions and the notion of supercompilation. He was a pioneer in artificial intelligence and a proponent of the global brain hypothesis.


Turchin was born in 1931 in Podolsk, Soviet Union. In 1952, he graduated from Moscow University with a degree in Theoretical Physics and got his Ph.D. in 1957. After working on neutron and solid-state physics at the Institute for Physics of Energy in Obninsk, in 1964 he accepted a position at the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics in Moscow. There he worked on statistical regularization methods and authored REFAL, one of the first AI languages and the AI language of choice in the Soviet Union.

In the 1960s, Turchin became politically active. In the Fall of 1968, he wrote the pamphlet The Inertia of Fear, which was quite widely circulated in samizdat, the writing began to be circulated under the title The Inertia of Fear: Socialism and Totalitarianism in Moscow in 1976.[2] Following its publication in the underground press, he lost his research laboratory.[3] In 1970 he authored "The Phenomenon of Science",[4] a grand cybernetic meta-theory of universal evolution, which broadened and deepened the earlier book. By 1973, Turchin had founded the Moscow chapter of Amnesty International with Andrey Tverdokhlebov and was working closely with the well-known physicist and Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. In 1974 he lost his position at the Institute and was persecuted by the KGB. Facing almost certain imprisonment, he and his family were forced to emigrate from the Soviet Union in 1977.

He went to New York, where he joined the faculty of the City College of New York in 1979. In 1990, together with Cliff Joslyn and Francis Heylighen, he founded the Principia Cybernetica Project, a worldwide organization devoted to the collaborative development of an evolutionary-cybernetic philosophy. In 1998, he co-founded the software start-up SuperCompilers, LLC. He retired from his post as Professor of Computer Science at City College in 1999. A resident of Oakland, New Jersey,[5] he died there on 7 April 2010.[1]

He has two sons named Peter Turchin and Dimitri Turchin. Peter Turchin is a specialist in population dynamics and the mathematical modeling of historical dynamics.


The philosophical core of Turchin's scientific work is the concept of the metasystem transition, which denotes the evolutionary process through which higher levels of control emerge in system structure and function.

Turchin uses this concept to provide a global theory of evolution and a coherent social systems theory, to develop a complete cybernetics philosophical and ethical system, and to build a constructivist foundation for mathematics.

Using the REFAL language he has implemented Supercompiler, a unified method for program transformation and optimization based on a metasystem transition.[6]

Major publications[edit]

  • Valentin F. Turchin (1977). The Phenomenon of Science. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-03983-3.
  • Sakharov, Andrei; Turchin, Valentin; Medvedev, Roy (6 June 1970). "The need for democratization". The Saturday Review: 26–27.
  • Sakharov, Andrei; Turchin, Valentin; Medvedev, Roy (Summer 1970). "An open letter". Survey: 160–170.
  • Valentin F. Turchin (May 1978). "Why you should boycott the Russians". Nature. 273 (5660): 256–257. Bibcode:1978Natur.273..256T. doi:10.1038/273256a0. S2CID 4222713.
  • Valentin F. Turchin (September 1978). "Boycotting the Soviet Union". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 34 (7): 7–11. Bibcode:1978BuAtS..34g...7T. doi:10.1080/00963402.1978.11458530.
  • Турчин, Валентин (1978). Инерция страха: социализм и тоталитаризм [The inertia of fear: socialism and totalitarianism] (in Russian) (2 ed.). New York: Khronika.
  • Turchin, Valentin; Handle, Philip (January 1980). "Boycott Helsinki meeting". Physics Today. 33 (1): 11. Bibcode:1980PhT....33a..11T. doi:10.1063/1.2913894.
  • Turchin, Valentin (4 January 1980). "From Helsinki to Hamburg". Science. 207 (4426): 8. Bibcode:1980Sci...207....8T. doi:10.1126/science.6444253. JSTOR 1683174.
  • {Cite book|title=The Inertia of Fear and the Scientific Worldview|author=Valentin F. Turchin|publisher=Columbia University Press |location=New York|date=1981|isbn=978-0-231-04622-0}}
  • Turchin, Valentin (July 1985). "Orlov in exile". Physics Today. 38 (7): 9. Bibcode:1985PhT....38g...9T. doi:10.1063/1.2814623.
  • Valentin F. Turchin (July 1986). "The concept of a supercompiler". ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems. 8 (3): 292–325. doi:10.1145/5956.5957. S2CID 8403840.
  • Valentin F. Turchin (March 1987). "A constructive interpretation of the full set theory". Journal of Symbolic Logic. 52 (1): 172–201. doi:10.2307/2273872. JSTOR 2273872. S2CID 2205937.
  • Valentin F. Turchin (1993). "On cybernetic epistemology". Systems Research. 10 (1): 1–28. doi:10.1002/sres.3850100102. S2CID 60953576.
  • Turchin, Valentin F. (1993). "The Cybernetic Ontology of Action" (PDF). Kybernetes. 22 (2): 10–30. CiteSeerX doi:10.1108/eb005960.
  • Turchin, Valentin F. (1995). "A dialogue on metasystem transition" (PDF). World Futures. 45 (1): 5–57. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/02604027.1995.9972553.
  • Refal-5: Programming Guide and Reference Manual, New England Publishing Co. Holyoke MA, 1989
  • Principia Cybernetica Web (as editor, together with F. Heylighen and C. Joslyn) (1993–2005)

Most cited publications according to Google Scholar


  1. ^ a b Joslyn, Cliff (April 2011). "Valentin F. Turchin (1931–2010)". International Journal of General Systems. 40 (3): 233–236. doi:10.1080/03081079.2010.550144. S2CID 11028438.
  2. ^ "Sandzdat News" (PDF). A Chronicle of Current Events (40–42): 270. 1979.
  3. ^ Valentin F. Turchin (1977). The Phenomenon of Science. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-231-03983-3.
  4. ^ Valentin F. Turchin (1977). The Phenomenon of Science. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-03983-3.
  5. ^ Rosenthal, Andrew. "For the Soviet Emigres, Gorbachev Stirs Both Optimism and Skepticism", The New York Times, December 5, 1987. Accessed May 25, 2016. "Valentin Turchin, who teaches computer sciences at the City College of New York and lives in Oakland, New Jersey, said: 'Both sides of Gorbachev's new era must be stressed. What he says is significant and unprecedented, but at the same time, it should be seen only as a beginning. In addition, we generally have the impression that during the last months, things have started curving down.'"
  6. ^ Valentin F. Turchin (1996). "Supercompilation: Techniques and results". Perspectives of System Informatics. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Heidelberg: Springer. pp. 227–248. ISBN 978-3-540-62064-8. ISSN 0302-9743. Archived from the original on 2001-12-25.

External links[edit]