Genrikh Saulovich Altshuller

AltshullerGenrikh Altshuller was born on October 15, 1926 in Tashkent. His parents were born in Baku. His father was a member of the editorial staff of the “Zarya Vostoka” newspaper.

When Genrikh turned 5 years old, his parents moved back to Baku. Genrikh Altshuller resided in this city till 1990, when he moved to Petrozavodsk, where he lived and worked till his death. Very early in his life he has discovered that libraries exist and started reading a lot – mostly science fiction novels. Luckily his teachers at school were very good. He dreamed to become a sailor in the future.

After graduating from the 8th grade Genrikh entered a Special Naval School. After the beginning of the II World War all students were sent to the front line. Genrikh was one year younger than other students – that’s why he was left in Baku and continued studying at secondary school. He has received his first Author’s Certificate for a water-diving apparatus operating on hydrogen peroxide when he was still a student of the 10th grade. When he graduated the school, he was enlisted with a rifle regiment, from which he was sent to a flying school. When he graduated the flying school the World War II ended. Genrikh Altshuller asked to send him to naval flotilla in Baku. That’s how he started working at the Patent Department of Baku Flotilla. He continued making various inventions and teaching other people to invent. Teaching other people to invent led to the necessity to study or work out inventive method or technique. In contrast to psychologists, who studied human beings engaged in inventive activity, Genrikh Altshuller started studying inventions proper – i.e. engineering systems created by humans. He started with searching for distinctive features – i.e. specific features that distinguish “strong” inventions from the weak ones. He has chosen a contradiction as a cornerstone of his method. He has analyzed the entire collection of Author’s Certificates and patents and identified standard approaches for engineering contradiction resolving. In 1948 he has obtained first results of his work.

Together with his friend R.Shapiro, Genrikh Altshuller wrote a letter to Stalin describing extremely poor situation with inventive activity in the country. In the end of this letter, he informed Stalin that he worked out methodology enabling people to solve inventive problems and proposed to teach this methodology to inventors. It took almost 6 months to write this letter, which had 30 pages. At that time Altshuller was only 22 years old. Both friends were placed under arrest in 1950. Their case was investigated in Moscow. They were subjected to torture – investigators kept the prisoners awake day and night. The court proceeding was conducted by the Special Council – 58th Section of the Criminal Code – Altshuller was sentenced to 25 years and sent to the city of Vorkuta.

His mother committed a suicide in 1953 – after she received refusal to her petition for pardon. Altshuller’s father passed away earlier. In 1954 Altshuller was rehabilitated. The first article signed by Altshuller was published in the Journal “Psychology Issues” in 1956. The main point of this article was that engineering evolves in compliance with objective trends that need to be studied. It also postulated that any inventive problem involves identification and resolving of contradiction. Altshuller is the author of several dozen inventions. One of the most interesting inventions is a special pressure suit for rescue team members. After rehabilitation Altshuller has been working at a steel-wire cable production facility for some time, then as an editorial staff member at “Bakinskiy Rabochiy” newspaper, then at the Construction Ministry of Azerbaijan Republic. He has also graduated the university at that time. Starting from mid 60-ies he quit his job and started earning his living by literary work. Altshuller is a science fiction writer. He published science fiction novels under pseudonym Genrikh Altov. His science fiction novels were translated into foreign languages and the writer Altov is included in science fiction encyclopedias.

Gradually work on TRIZ superseded science fiction and Altshuller devoted the rest of his life to TRIZ only. Implementation of TRIZ methodology was not easy. For 10 years – from 1958 till 1967 – Altshuller maintained correspondence with the Central Council of the All-Union Society of Inventors and Innovators. Altshuller was asking only for an opportunity to tell people about his methodology, but he received one refusal after another during all these 10 years. In 1970 the Central Council of the All-Union Society of Inventors and Innovators took a decision on establishment of Public Laboratory of Inventive Methodology, and Azerbaijan Public Institute of Inventive Creativity was established in 1971 on the basis of youth school of inventive activity (which was the first school of this type in the USSR). Altshuller put a lot of effort to the organization of scientific research work. Employees of the Public Laboratory of Inventive Methodology have been working by a relay-race principle. Those who couldn’t keep the pace quit, leaving the research results to those who continued working. Altshuller managed to organize an effective creative team of theory developers. Schools, in which people were taught TRIZ, started emerging in many USSR cities.

In 1974 the Central Council of the All-Union Society of Inventors and Innovators closed the Public Laboratory of Inventive Methodology because Altshuller disobeyed the order to discontinue establishing TRIZ schools throughout the country. The process of TRIZ school establishment turned out to be uncontrollable for the Central Council of the All-Union Society of Inventors and Innovators. When the Laboratory was closed, Altshuller quit his job at the Azerbaijan Public Institute of Inventive Creativity – followed by other teachers who shared his views on TRIZ. Altshuller also applied enormous efforts for the organization of TRIZ society – a circle of people who use TRIZ in their work and life. Starting from 90-ies TRIZ began gaining recognition abroad – at first in the most developed foreign countries. In recent years TRIZ found wide recognition in the USA, which is explained, in particular, by publication of Altshuller’s books in the USA, Japan and other countries and by development of “Invention Machine” software for PCs. Altshuller left huge literary heritage.

His books were translated into many languages. Recently researchers started introducing TRIZ into pedagogic practice and other fields of human activity. Russian TRIZ Association was established in 1989 and since then it has been working a lot to organize TRIZ society. In 1997 the Convention of TRIZ Association (held in Petrozavodsk) took a decision to establish International TRIZ Association.   September 28, 1998 The above text is based on information from L.Kozhevnikova