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