Arto Salomaa

Artist(s):Henrik Duncker and Yrjö Tuunanen Date:1994 Medium:computer-aided image Dimensions:81.5 x 61.5 cm

Arto Salomaa (b. 1934) served as Professor of Mathematics at the University of Turku from 1966 to 1998. He also served at the Research Council of Finland as a Research Professor and later as Academy Professor in 1975–1980 as well as 1989–1999. Salomaa’s research on mathematical logic has focused on formal languages and automata theory. The internationally acclaimed mathematician has also worked on developing DNA computing theory. Salomaa received the Finnish Cultural Foundation award in 1986 and was namedProfessor of the Year in 1993. He received the honorary title of Academician in 2001.

Salomaa’s portrait is the first known computer-aided portrait in Finland. The professor’s peers wanted the trailblazing scholar to have an equally trailblazing portrait made to mark his 60th birthday. The University of Art and Design Helsinki inquired if Salomaa would be interested in serving as a test sitter for a digital portrait, and ultimately it was decided that a computer-aided image was most fitting for a computer mathematician. Recently graduated artists Henrik Duncker (b. 1963) and Yrjö Tuunanen (1964–2021) were selected to create the portrait with the assistance of the University of Art and Design Helsinki’s computer-aided photography lab team. Made with image processing software, the 76-megabyte image was first printed out as a slide, from which the portrait in the University’s art collection was, in turn, printed and unveiled on 7 June 1994.

The portrait comprises multiple elements that represent Salomaa and his life. Its layout is based on a photograph taken by Hermann Maurer, in which Salomaa is making a sauna whisk. The picture also includes mathematical formulae and a reference to Salomaa’s father’s favourite philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, after whom Salomaa himself was named and whose book on logic lays open in front of the professor. Also included is the Latin motto ab posse ad esse, from possibility to actuality, written in a code language used by Salomaa since his childhood. The festive clothing was borrowed from the University of Art and Design Helsinki. To his great relief, Salomaa only needed to sit for the portrait once.

Emma Vuolaslempi 2024

“Academician of Science Arto Salomaa.” Research Council of Finland, n.d.

Duncker, Henrik. E-mail to Emma Vuolaslempi, 3 August 2023.

Ellonen, Leena, ed. Suomen professorit – Finlands professorer 1960–2007. Helsinki: Finnish Union of University Professors, 2008.

Paakki, Jukka. Arto Salomaa: Mathematician, Computer Scientist, and Teacher. A Thematic Biography. Cham: Springer, 2019.

Tukia, Anneli. “Digitaalinen muotokuva tietokoneprofessorista.” Helsingin Sanomat, 8 June 1994.