Kateryna L. Yushchenko | History of Computing in Ukraine

Kateryna L. Yushchenko

Kateryna Yushchenko was the first woman in the USSR to become a Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences in programming. Using her experience in operating MESM, she developed one of the world's first high-level language​​s with indirect addressability in programming, called the “Address language.” This language provided the free location of a program in the computer memory. Kateryna was the founder of the first Soviet school of theoretical programming.

K.L. Yushchenko was born on December 8th, 1919, in the former capital of Cossacks in Chigirin. Her father, Logvin Rvachev, was a teacher of history and geography. In 1937 he was considered a Ukrainian nationalist and was arrested. At this time, Kateryna was a first-year student in the department of Physics and Mathematics at Kyiv University. Being 17 years old, she was expelled from the university because she was the daughter of an "enemy of the people.” Kateryna's mother tried to prove the innocence of Kateryna’s father, by taking some documents to the secret police to disprove his involvement in the revolutionary movement. She never returned. She and her husband were sentenced to a 10-year prison term, and the documents proving innocence were burned in her sight. It wasn’t until 1954, after Stalin’s death, that Ekaterina’s parents were released because of the absence of any evidence of a crime.

That summer, in 1938, Kateryna decided to enter Uzbek State University in Samarkand instead. During the war, the Uzbek University joined Central Asia State University in Tashkent, so the young student had to move and study there. At the same time, she started working at a military plant which produced the scopes for tank guns.

After the war, Ms.Yushchenko returned to Ukraine. At that time, the Lviv Branch of the Institute of Mathematics of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences was launched. A prospective academic, Boris Vladimirovich Gnedenko, offered Yushchenko a job in his Department of Probability Theory. In 1950, Ekaterina successfully defended her PhD dissertation. The same year, Gnedenko was elected as a full member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and his office was transferred to the Kyiv Institute of Mathematics of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He immediately invited Yushchenko to move to Kyiv.

In those years the Institute of Mathematics was on the rise. An academic, Aleksandr Ishlinskiy, was its director, and he studied the theory of gyroscopes. It was a very topical issue, at a time when construction of the satellites was in its very primitive stages. As part of his research, Ishlinskiy had to make some complex calculations. For this purpose they purchased a set of punch machines, which were installed in the basement of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences building. Kateryna was appointed as Director of this Computing Laboratory.

In 1954 B.V. Gnedenko suggested that the Levedev Laboratory (where they created the first computer in continental Europe MESM) be transferred to the Institute of Mathematics. Yushchenko was a member of the joint group of scholars which was operating the MESM.

The limited internal memory of the MESM and its low speed, and the instability of work caused by a large number of vacuum tubes, forced the program developers to look for creative ways to use the internal language of the computer. The development of each program was seen as a solution to the individual problems.

The program developers were looking for effective solutions, skillfully using certain features of the command system of the computer.

In the process, it became clear that the more complex tasks were difficult to solve just by writing simple machine programs. There was a need to develop a "high-level" programming language, but there was a problem: the absence of an appropriate translator for better human/computer communication. L.I.Kaluzhnin, a professor at Kyiv University, who taught the course on mathematical logic in the 1950-70s, made a significant advance in the understanding of this problem and and formalised a scheme of interfacing with the program.

Theoretical programming was developing in Kyiv and was influenced by the works of a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, A.A.Lyapunov. It was Lyapunov who proposed the operational programming method. As a result, in 1955 V.S.Korolyuk and K.L.Yuschenko developed the address language, which was a language based on two general principles for the computer work: addressing and software management. Creating a convenient system of concepts for describing the computer architecture and its system instructions, the authors introduced the "Address language," which became the means of manipulation of the second-rank addresses.

The creation of the "Address language" became the first fundamental achievement of the Scientific School of Theoretical Programming. It was well ahead of other programming languages such as Fortran (1958), Cobol (1959) and Algol (1960). The “Address” language anticipated the emergence of programming languages with the apparatus of indirect addressing. Its forms and constructions were incorporated into modern languages. Kateryna Yushchenko, B.V. Gnedenko and V.S. Korolyuk wrote the first Soviet textbook on programming, "The Elements of Programming." The book was published in 1961 and reprinted in 1964. This book was translated and published in the GDR (German Democratic Republic) in 1964, and in Hungary and in France in 1969.

In subsequent years, Yushchenko mentored 45 Doctors of Philosophy and 11 Doctors of Sciences. The Kyiv School of Theoretical Programming became well known far beyond the borders of the Soviet Union. Yushchenko was awarded two state prizes of Ukraine (the State Prize of the USSR), the Prize of the USSR Council of Ministers, and for theoretical development in the field of computing algebra, she received the Prize of Academic Glushkov. Mrs. Yushchenko was also awarded the Order of Princess Olga.