M. S. Molodensky in Memoriam 

H. Moritz (Graz) and M. I. Yurkina (Moscow)


The year 2000 seems to be particularly appropriate to honor the greatest theoretical geodesist of the 20th century, Mikhail Sergeevich Molodensky (1909-1991). He has been a legendary personality, not only because of his scientific achievments -- he is probably the only geodesist who would have deserved a Nobel prize -- but also because he was leading the reclusive life of an ascetic to whom only a very small circle of devoted friends had access. Mrs. M. I. Yurkina was one of these privileged persons, perhaps the most faithful of his disciples, if I may use this term usually reserved for religious-philosophical thinkers such as the mythical Pythagoras.
The present volume includes obituaries and recollections of friends and fellow Russian scientists. They provide a unique insight into life and work of a real genius, who was as great in his brilliant scientific ideas as in his simple modest life. They are also permitting a unique glance at life in the Soviet Union.
Through his work, M. S. Molodensky attracted many people to the austere beauty of physical geodesy, including myself. Although I had never met Molodensky, his ideas pervaded my whole scientific life. Therefore it is one of the greatest honors in my life that now I am able, by being coeditor of this volume together with Mrs. Yurkina, to help make his scientific and human personality better known to geodesists and geophysicists all over the world.
For this purpose it is very important to have all material in English. Out of respect of the great language in which M. S. Molodensky thought, spoke and wrote, one of Molodensky's last articles is given in the Russian original, together with the English translation.
My original intention was to translate the material myself, but I could not find the time and energy. So very kindly, my Russian friends, on the initiative of Mrs. Yurkina, provided me with good English translations, sometimes even expanded with respect to the original. The translators are mentioned with gratitude: N. M. Molodenskaya, I. V. Stadnik, and P. V. Shvetsov, on the initiative of G. V. Demianov. All I had to do was to convert the texts into the pidgin English of international science, which was quite easy.
So to speak, Mrs. Yurkina and their Russian colleagues provided the cake, I only did the sugar-coating. She and the other authors deserve recognition for all that is good; for all the mistakes, the responsibility is mine.
Finally, I wish to thank warmly and sincerely all my Russian colleagues for their constant friendship and help. I am grateful to the authors, translators, and editors, especially of the journal Geodeziya i Kartografiya, for the permission to reprint and translate several papers. The translation project was sponsored by the Russian Fund for Fundamental Researches No. 00-05-64284. I am also grateful to my friend Milan Burša in Prague for encouragement and help. Last but not least, my secretary Ruth Hödl deserves thanks for her painstaking editorial work.
     December 2000Helmut Moritz    

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