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On the History of Separation Principles

On the History of Separation Principles

| On 05, Oct 2000

Y. B. Karasik


As is known, the concept of physical contradictions is one of the cornerstones of TRIZ.

It is also well known that they are resolved with the help of so called “separation principles”. What is the history behind the idea of separation principles in the whole and each and every principle in particular?

The present paper aims to answer this question.

Year 1973 AD.

Due to G. Filkovsky [1] , the concept of physical contradictions was proposed by Perelstein, a physicist. It should had happened before the fall of 1973 because when in the fall of 1973 I enrolled The Azerbaijan Public Institute for Inventive Creativity (AzOIIT), we were already taught physical contradictions. We were also taught that they are resolved by separating contradictory requirement either in space or time. Who was behind the latter idea I do not know but it is plausible to guess that he was the same Perelstein for whom as a physicist space-time thinking was natural.

Shortly afterwards I was also exposed to the work by Irina Flikstein whose main thesis was that strong inventions are obtained by applying not one of 40 methods/principles of invention but by applying them in pairs: principle + anti-principle. For example, splinting was recommended to apply along with uniting.

Being a mathematician, I immediately noticed that something is wrong with this idea because application of an operator/action along with its anti-operator/anti-action should leave system intact. This was the starting point of my research.

The examples in the Flikstein’s work clearly showed that both operator and anti-operator were applied. But how come that they did not cancel each other, I wondered? OK, in mechanics opposite forces do not cancel each other if they are applied to different portions/sides of an object. On the contrary, opposite forces applied to different sides can transform the object or set it into rotation. Maybe the inventive operators/principles are also applied to different “sides” of a system, I questioned?

Thus, the idea of conjugate “sides” of a system was born. The “sides” were defined merely as conjugate views or representations of a system. For example, you can view a system as a whole or can view it as consisting of parts, etc. My thesis was that strong inventions were obtained by applying the opposite operators to such conjugate “sides” (views, representations) of a system.

By then I already was taught that strong inventions are results of resolving physical contradictions. It was not difficult to guess that physical contradictions are hence resolved by applying opposite operators to conjugate “sides” of system.

In other words, if we are given a contradiction “object should have property A and should not have property A” then it will turn to be resolved if one “side” of the object has property A and the conjugate “side” does not have it. I called this principle “the principle of resolving physical contradictions by separating contradictory requirements between conjugate/dual sides of an object”. The separation in space-time turned out to be a particular case of this principle.

The other separation principles immediately followed. For example, if we use “parts and the whole” conjugate “sides” of object, then we obtain a new separation principle: the parts of a system should have property A but as a whole it should not have property A. The manuscript outlining this theory and presenting a number of new separation principles was published in 1974 [2] .

Years 1974 – 1980.

The theory did not get blessing from G. S. Altshuller. He continued to insist that contradictory requirements can be only separated either in space or time. “What else can be?” – he questioned – “It is physical contradictions. Physics deals with space and time…”

The tables turned in 1975 when Altshuller suddenly recognized separation between parts and the whole. I was elevated. I recollected him his own argument against my theory that physics deals with space and time and hence physical contradictions can be only resolved by separating in space or time. Separation between parts and the whole obviously did not support this thesis. Then Altshuller countered that contradictory requirements can also be separated in phase transitions. In other words, if he acknowledged that he was wrong with respect to the number of possible methods then let him be right with respect to what nature such methods should have. They should be something of physics!

To this day I view this method (separation in phase transition) as something artificial born in the heat of polemics. To this day I do not see the usefulness of this method as well as where is separation here. To this day I consider it as alien to the idea of separation and as absolutely redundant.

The two new methods were incorporated into ARIZ and first officially published in 1979 in “Creativity as an exact science” [3] . I continued to persuade Altshuller that there are an indefinite number of separation principles all derived from the above theory till 1980. In 1980 the theory was officially published in “The technology and science” magazine [4] but Altshuller broadcasted the information to that effect that my publication is not a TRIZ one.

Why Altshuller rejected the other separation principles? I have the only explanation to that. I could not provide examples on these principles from mechanical (or electro-mechanical) engineering – the only field of engineering Altshuller knew and understood, but which was not the area of my expertise. On the other hand, my examples from software and algorithms engineering were unclear to him.


Since 1981 our ways diverged. I did not meet Altshuller for years. In the meantime I wrote and published papers not necessarily related to separation principles. One of them just dealt with some algebra of system transformations [5] . In particular, it discussed the following transformations:

When in 1986 I bought the latest Altshuller’s book “Find an idea” [6] , I was surprised to learn that the transformations I described were incorporated into ARIZ-85 as guess what? As new separation principles! Probably for Altshuller I became inseparable from separation.


  1. G. Filkovsky, internet posting
  2. Y. B. Karasik, The mathematical foundation of the theory of heuristic methods, (in “Towards the general theory of creativity”, G. S. Altshuller ed., Baku, 1974).
  3. G. S. Altshuller, “Creativity as an exact science”, Moscow, 1979 (in Russian). Translated into English by Anthony White, published by Gordon and Breach, 1988.
  4. Y. B. Karasik, The studies on dualities, “The technology and science” magazine of the USSR Council of Scientific and Engineering Societies, No. 3, 1980, pp. 27–28.
  5. Y. B. Karasik, Algebra of intuition, “Chemistry & Life” magazine of the USSR Academy of Science, No. 4, 1982, pp. 48–49.
  6. G. S. Altshuller, “Find an idea”, Novosibirsk, 1986 (in Russian).

About the author:

Yevgeny B. Karasik studied TRIZ of the day at Azerbaijan Public Institute for Inventive Creativity (founded by G. S. Altshuller) in Baku from 1973 to 1975. Since 1974 he became a member of the small group of researchers centered around Altshuller that gave TRIZ its contemporary shape.

Dr. Karasik holds Ph.D. in computer science from Tel Aviv University awarded for his ground- breaking work on optical models of computation. He is the author of more than 40 research papers on optical information processing and optical algorithms. He is also the author of a number of key concepts in TRIZ. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada, the hub of numerous high-tech companies.