History of machine translation  

For the first time the idea that machine translation is possible was expressed by Charles Babbage (1791–1871), who between 1836 and 1848 developed the project of a digital analytical engine – a mechanical prototype of electronic digital computers, which appeared 100 years after. Charles Babbage’s idea was that the memory of 1000 50’bit decimal numbers (50 gears in each register) could be used to store dictionaries. Charles Babbage brought this idea as a justification for the British government to request funds he needed for physical embodiment of the analytical engine. Babbage never succeeded. (see Apokin, etc. Charles Babbage. M., “Nauka”, 1981).

In fact, the history of machine translation starts with “Georgetown experiment“. The first machine translation was publicly demonstrated in January 1954. Translation from Russian into English was carried out by the machine IBM 701. The announcement of this event was published in “Computers and Automation” journal, 1954, № 2. The abstract of this report, made by D.U. Panov, appeared in AJ (abstract journal) of VINITI (All–Union Institute of Scientific and Technical Information, rus. “ВИНИТИ») “Mathematics”, 1954, № 10: “Machine translation from one language to another: first successful test report”.

This message initiated the development of machine translation in the USSR. D.U. Panov, who at that time was a director of VINITI (then the Institute for Scientific Information – ISI) attracted I.K. Belskaya to the works on machine translation, who then led a group of machine translation in the ITM and CC AS USSR. The first experience of translation from English into Russian with BESM machine dates back to the end of 1955. The programmes for the BESM were written by N.P. Trifonov L.N. Korolev, whose PhD thesis was devoted to the methods of constructing dictionaries for machine translation.

Another area of work emerged in the Department of Applied Mathematics, Mathematical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now the Institute of applied mathematics named for M.V. Keldysh RAS) on the initiative of A.A. Lyapunov. He involved O.S. Kulagina, graduate student of Steklov Mathematical Institute, RAS, and his students T.D. Wentzel and N.N. Ricco into the work on machine translation of mathematical texts from French into Russian. Since the end of 1955 T.N. Moloshnaya, who then started to work independently on the algorithm of English-Russian translation, participated in these studies. A.A. Lyapunov and O.S. Kulagina published their views on the use of computers to translate from one language to another in “Priroda” magazine, 1955, № 8. The first machine translation programmes, developed by this team, had been implemented by the machine “Strela”.

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