Renowned mathematician dies after getting lost during walk in Moscow woods

Professor Alexey Chervonenkis worked at London University

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The Independent Online

A globally renowned London University mathematician has been found dead after he got lost in a forest in Moscow while out for a walk.

Professor Alexey Chervonenkis’s body was found on Wednesday by a helicopter during a search by emergency service personnel and more than 100 of his colleagues and students, the university said in a statement on its website.

The 76-year-old academic was known for his work in pattern recognition and computational learning. He and a colleague also created a “whole new research area of statistical learning theory” and pioneered ideas about minimizing structural risk, the university said.

“It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death of Alexey Chervonenkis, Emeritus Professor in this department and a long-time member of the Computer Learning Research Centre,” it said.

“Alexey was an avid walker covering many miles around London, in other parts of Britain and the world, and especially in and around his native Moscow.

“On 21 September he went for a walk in Losiny Ostrov, a beautiful forest in Moscow, and lost his way. A search party was organized straight away. It included both professionals and more than a hundred of his colleagues and students, but they could not do anything; his body was found yesterday from a helicopter.”

Professor Chervonenkis, who split his time between London and a research institute in Moscow, called his wife at 8.20pm local time on Sunday to tell her that he was lost in a swamp but would try to find his way out. An hour later, she suggested calling the emergency services but her husband said they would not be able to find him, The Guardian reported.

He called a final time at about midnight, saying he was tired and shaking. Temperatures dropped to below freezing that night.

The search party found his glasses and the helicopter was then able to find him lying in the grass.

Volunteer search co-ordinator Grigory Sergeyev said: “The search party passed very near him, but there’s a lot of grass there and lots of water spots because it’s a swamp, and finding a person laying in the grass is nearly impossible.”

Mr Sergeyev added that the cause of death was “almost certainly hypothermia”.

“He was a great teacher and friend, and will be deeply missed,” the university said.