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Kavraysky, Vladimir Vladimirovich

Kavraysky, Vladimir Vladimirovich

(b.Zherebyatnikovo, Simbirsk province [now Ulyanovsk oblast]. Russia, 22 April 1884; d. Leningrad, U.S.S.R., 26 February 1954)

astronomy, geodesy, cargtography.

Kavraysky was born into a family of landed gentry and government officials. In 1903 he graduated from the Simbirsk Gymnasium with a gold medal and entered the mathematical section of Moscow University, where one of his teachers was the mathematician Boleslaw Mlodzeenwski, who greatly influenced Kavraysky’s development as a scientist. His involvement in the revolution of 1905 forced Kavraysky to leave the University of Moscow; not until 1916 did he graduate with distinction from Kharkov University, where one of his chief professors was Ludwig Struve, director of the astronomical observatory. In the interim Kavraysky had earned his living by teaching mathematics and physics in various educational institutions in Saratov and later in Kharkov. In 1915–1916 he worked as a calculator at the Kharkov University observatory. Even before 1916 he showed a deep interest in astronomy and geodesy and (starting in 1910) published ten articles in various scientific publications. Among them was “Graficheskoe reshenie astronomicheskikh zadach” (“A Graphic Solution of Astronomical Problems”; 1913). In this work he proposed the so-called “Kavraysky grid,” a transverse grid of equally spaced azimuthal projection, which was widely distributed and was awarded a prize by the Russian Astronomical Society. In 1915 Kavraysky received the V. Pavlovsky Prize from the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics of Kharkov University for his research on the polarization of light from clear daylight sky.

After graduating from the university Kavraysky entered naval service in Petrograd as assistant chief, and later chief, on the workshop producing nautical instruments for the Main Hydrographical Administration of the Navy. From 1918 to 1926 he served as astronomer at the Administration’s observatory. In 1921 he began teaching at the Faculty of Hydrographics of the Naval Academy and in 1922 at the Mining Institute—first mining surveying and mathermatical cartography. From 1926 through 1930 Kavraysky was extraordinary astronomer at the Pulkovo observatory, conducting studies in astronomy and geodesy. In 1930–1938 Kavraysky was a member of the newly created Leningrad Institute of Geodesy and Cartography (now the Central Institute of Geodesy, Aerial Photography, and Cartography in Moscow). His scientific authority was so great that he was asked to participate in all important cartographic and geodesic projects. Kavraysky retired in 1949 with the title of engineer-rear admiral. He was awarded the degree of doctor of physico-mathematical sciences (1934) and the title of professor (1935), as well as four orders and several medals.

A full list of Kavraysky’s published works includes eighty-six titles; manuscripts of a number of his major unpublished works are preserved in various archives. He was responsible for a number of inventions and treatments of original cartographic projections and nomograms. For the invention of two new nautical instruments, a tiltmeter and a direction finder, he received the State Prize in 1952.

Kavraysky’s scientific activity covered many fields, each of which must be considered separately. All of his publications are distinguished by unusual clarity and mastery of exposition. After a statement of the history of a problem and survey of the literature, Kavraysky expressed the mathematical essence of the problem and gave not only an exhaustive solution but also all the information necessary for practical use of the solution, including tables, a list of possible variants, and an estimate of error. In this manner he worked out in detail the mathematical aspects of the introduction into the Sovien Uniot of a unified system of two-dimensional rectangular coordinates on a Gauss projection for all geodesic and cartographic work. Kavraysky’s work for many years was connected with mathematical cartography, the establishment of strict criteria for evaluating cartographic projects, and the development of the most useful projects for various problems. Volume II of the Izbrannye trudy (“Selected Works”) includes many—but not all—of his works in this area. These works gave him the opportunity to propose original projections for maps of the world and of individual sections of the earth’s surface. Many maps and atlases have been published with these projections. Kavraysky also worked on the computations associated with the making of globes. He gave an extraordinarily clear and strict statement of the complex problem of cartographic projection in his articles in Blolshaya sovtskaya entsiklopedia (1st ed., XLVII [1940]; 2nd ed., XX [1953]).

A special group of Kavraysky’s works is connected with the solution of practical problems of navigation, including the major investigation, Graficheskie sposoby opredelenia mesta korablya po radiopelengam (“Graphic Methods of Determining Positions of Ships by Radio Bearings”), in which all problems are solved by the construction of “position lines.” Many works in this group are in volume II of Izbrannye trudy. This group also includes Kavraysky’s numerous inventions and his improvement of nautical instruments.

Part of Kavraysky’s theory of astronomical observations is the improvement and simplification of known methods of solving problems in practical astronomy and geodesy, as is a series of original methods of simultaneous determination of time and latitude, which proved highly effective in the high northern latitudes (from 60° to to 80°). Kavraysky developed methods of determining locations near the pole for the first Soviet expedition to the North Pole and developed the necessary tables and nomograms for this project. He contributed to the Pulkovo observatory’s Vvedenie v prakticheskuyu astronomiyu (“Introduction to Practical Astronomy”; 1936). Related to this work is a group of works on the theory and practice of the use of astronomical and geodesic instruments.

In essence, all of Kavraysky’s scientific works were devoted to the solution of problems of navigation.

Kavraysky devoted the last years of his life to the preparation of Rukovodsiva po matematicheskoy kartografii (“Guide to Mathematical Cartography”), which remained unfinished. But all that he had written was included in volume II of the Izbrannye trudy.


I. Original Works. Most of Kavraysky’s writings are in Izbrannye trudy (“Selected Works”), 2 vols. (Moscow, 1956). Vol. I. Astronomia i geodezia has a complete bibliography (pp. 355–358) and contains the following works: “Graficheskoe reshenie astronomicheskikh zadach” (“A Graphic Solution of Astronomical Problems”; 1913), pp. 13–138; “Zapiski po sferoidicheskoy geodezii” (“Notes on Spheroidal Geodesy”; 1944), pp. 139–248; “Obobshchenny sposob liny polozhenia” (“A Generalized Method of Lines of Position”; 1943), pp 249–282; “Linii polozhenia i ikh primenenie” (“Lines of Position and Their Use”; 1939), pp. 283-306 ; and (“Theory of Determination of Positions of Points on a Surface”; 1956). pp. 307–350.

Vol. II, Matematicheskaya kartografia, is in 3 pts.: “Obshchaya teoria kartograficheskikh proektsy” (“General Theory of Cartographical Projections”; 1958); “Konicheskie i tsilindricheskie proektsii, ikh primenenie” (“Conic and Cylindrical Projections, Their Use” 1959); and “Perspektivnye, krugovye i drugie vazhneyshie proektsii. Navigatsionnye zadachi” (“Perspective, Circular and Other Major Projections. Navigational Problems” 1960).

He also contributed to Sovmestnoe opredelenie vremeni i shiroty po sootvetstvuyushchim vysotam zvyezd s efemeridami yarkikh zvyezd dlya shiroty ot +60° do +80°, vychislennymi Astronomicheskim Institutom (“Simultaneous Determination of Time and Latitude From Altitudes of Stars Corresponding to Ephemerides of Bright Stars in Latitudes From +60° to +80°, Computed by the Astronomical Institute”; Moscow-Leningrad, 1936).

II. Secondary Lierature. See M. K. Venttsel, “Kratky ocherk istorii prakticheskoy astronomii v Rosssii iv SSSR: Razvitie metodov opredelenia vremeni i shiroty” (“Brief Sketch of the History of Practical Astronomy in Russia and the U.S.S.R.: Development of Methods of Determining Time and Latitude”), in Istoriko-astronomicheskie issledovaniya, 2 (1956), 7–137, see 113–119; A. P. Yushchenko, “Vladimir Vladimirovich Kavraysky,” in Kavraysky’s Izbrannye trudy, 5–12; and K. A. Zvonarev, “Vladimir Vladimirovich Kavraysky,” in P. G. Kulikovsky, ed., Istoriko-astronomicheskie issledovaniya, 9 (1966), 261–285.

P. G. Kulikovsky

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