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Valentin Turchin

File:Valentin Toertsjin (1977).jpg
Valentin Turchin in 1977

Valentin Fyodorovich Turchin (Russian: Валенти́н Фёдорович Турчи́н, 1931 – 7 April 2010) was a Soviet and American cybernetician and computer scientist. He developed the Refal programming language, the theory of metasystem transitions and the notion of supercompilation. He was as 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 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 in 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 1968 he authored "The Inertia of Fear and the Scientific Worldview",[1] a scathing critique of totalitarianism supported by an emerging cybernetic social theory. Following its publication in the underground press, he lost his research laboratory.[2] In 1970 he authored "The Phenomenon of Science",[3] 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 University 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 of Professor of Computer Science at City College in 1999 and died in New York City on 7 April 2010.

His son, Peter Turchin, is a world renowned specialist in population dynamics and 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 a Supercompiler, a unified method for program transformation and optimization based on a metasystem transition.[4]

Major publications

Most cited publications according to Google Scholar


  1. Valentin F. Turchin (1981). The Inertia of Fear and the Scientific Worldview. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-04622-0. 
  2. Valentin F. Turchin (1977). The Phenomenon of Science. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-231-03983-3. 
  3. Valentin F. Turchin (1977). The Phenomenon of Science. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-03983-3. 
  4. 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. 

External links

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