In Memoriam Professor Boris I. Kvasov: the Spline of Life and the Life in Spline Spaces
His entire life had been dedicated to science. He had spent seven years working at the Suranaree University of Technology (Thailand) and served as Visiting Professor at different universities in South Korea, Norway, Singapore, Australia, Croatia and other countries. Prof. Kvasov was known for his research and publications on computational mathematics which are directly relevant to geometric modeling and shaping. His writings on shape-preserving splines are well known among experts in Russia and abroad, and his monograph on methods of shape-preserving spline approximation has been published in English by one of the prominent publishing houses in Singapore. One could write a long, difficult and fascinating text on his scientific research, but on that particular subject, our patient reader can inform themselves. Here, I would like to relate some of my memories on how two people who are completely different in both age and character can still have something in common.
It all began in South Korea, in the midst of June 2010 with its sweltering heat, when I was a research fellow at Seoul National University. I was browsing the copious literature in the library at my research laboratory when I stumbled across an English-language monograph by Boris Kvasov, a Russian professor. That was how I first learned about methods of shape-preserving approximation. I decided to write the author in order to ask whether there were more interesting works on the subject. The answer came precisely 10 days later; the author wrote:
“I thank you for your interest in my research. The thing is, it is very easy to pose a shape-preserving interpolation problem; however, the algorithms for solving them are far from easy. It all depends on one’s objective in any given case - for example, if one only needs to preserve the monotonicity, the best algorithm would be the Fritsch-Carlson method; if one needs to preserve the convexity, you want more difficult algorithms, C2 smoothness etc. I have a book – Methods of Shape-Preserving Spline Interpolations, Moscow, Fizmatlit Publishing House, 2006, 360p.; it describes some of those algorithms. There are also some student textbooks on the subject, published by Novosibirsk State University. I’ve been back at Novosibirsk, working and being published in Russian since 2002. P.S. It took me this long to answer, because I’ve been away in Dalian, China; tomorrow I’m leaving for Avignon, France to speak at the Conference on Curves and Surfaces. I am going to speak on the parallel algorithms for constructing shape-preserving splines; I will be back on July, 3.”
Today, as I sit in my dark university office by the weak lamplight and try to piece together the events that led us to finally meet each other in The Land of the Morning Calm, I reread one e-mail after the other and feel the warmth with which Prof. Kvasov spoke and wrote. It has been exactly one year since I wrote to him. I recommended to my Korean boss that he invite Prof. Kvasov to our laboratory for a month or two to conduct collaborative research. The boss agreed, and we started to work on the invitation for a visa to South Korea. He arrived in The Land of the Morning Calm in the middle of July, 2011. The weather was stifling hot, and also very humid, as it usually is this time of year, when the cicadas bother those already tired after a day’s work with their relentless buzzing. Prof. Kvasov took a seat at the desk across from me. He was a middle-aged man, strongly built – a true Siberian and an old-school researcher. Together we spent in Seoul two exciting months: he had been provided with a small studio in the house next to the nearest subway station. Every day he arrived at the office at 9 AM or so in the morning and left after the sun had set. In between calculations and writing articles we dined together, sampling the local cuisine, which he liked. After dinner came the good coffee – we preferred chicory coffee, which he simply loved.
In spite of his grand age, Prof. Kvasov was a true child at heart. One could talk to him about just anything, and he would happily and easily support the conversation. He took interest in many modern things – computers, programming languages, new programs and many other things. Depending on the situation, he could laugh like a child, be sad or look very smart – and that is how I will always remember him. He really loved ice cream, because it helped in the sweltering heat…
On one of the rainy days I suggested we visit the famous Korean baths, which Prof. Kvasov also loved. We would go to a bathhouse every week, and he wanted to return every time to improve his health.
Prof. Kvasov was also one of the guests at my wedding celebration in Seoul. He offered a toast and gave a very interesting and memorable speech.
It’s a great pity he’s left us, but, unfortunately, such are the laws of nature. The only thing a human being can change is that which he himself created, and Prof. Kvasov, for example, could easily change the shape and some characteristics of the splines he studied.
Patient reader, my office is getting even hotter, it’s almost midnight, and I still keep trying to remember something else about Prof. Kvasov – after all, it’s been exactly five years since we met in this wonderful country for the first and the last time. In half an hour I’ll leave my office, but on my way home I’ll stop at a small convenience store to buy some ice cream – the very same ice cream Prof. Kvasov loved so much.