Lotfi Asker Zadeh
Receives Honorary Doctorate from Ryerson University
When he was 10 years old, Lotfi
Asker Zadeh and his family were forced to leave his home country of Azerbaijan
in the former Soviet Union, relocating to Iran in the midst of religious
prosecution. It was a period of upheaval and struggle for the bright boy.
This Tuesday, Zadeh, also known
as the "father of fuzzy logic", received an Honorary Doctorate from Ryerson
University. During a convocation ceremony for 2008 graduates in Engineering,
Professor Lotfi Zadeh was given the award in a packed house at the Ryerson
Theatre in downtown Toronto.
"To me this award has special
significance because it has been bestowed upon me by a Canadian university,"
Zadeh said in his keynote speech. "I would like to tell you that Canada and the
Canadian people have always occupied a very warm spot in my heart."
was born in 1921 in Baku, Azerbaijan. After moving to Iran, he graduated from
the American College in Tehran, and received his B.S degree in electrical
engineering from the University of Tehran in 1942. He then migrated to the
United States in 1944, obtaining his MSc degree from the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology in 1946, followed by his PhD in 1949, both in electrical
engineering. After teaching for a period at Columbia University in New York
City, Professor Zadeh joined the Department of Electrical Engineering at the
University of California-Berkeley in 1959, serving as its Chairman from 1963 to
In his introduction to Zadeh,
Alex Ferworn, an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at
Ryerson, added, "Professor Zadeh is one of the most referenced authors in the
field of Applied Mathematics and Information Sciences."
Currently, Zadeh is a Professor
Emeritus at Berkeley and is also serving as the Director of the Berkeley
Initiative in Soft Computing.
In his address to the
graduates, the 87 year-old academic targeted today's society and its infatuation
"I'm merely joining a chorus of
those that find it disconcerting to find money play such an important role in
all strata of society. Especially in the television media, but also in the
He explained how on a recent
visit to a major University, he was told that all that mattered was that as a
Professor your brought money in. It was prioritized higher than helping students
graduate, doing important research or getting published.
"Well, the fact that I heard
this at a major University really disturbed me," Zadeh related. "But you see
tendencies along those lines everywhere. There are pressures now to convert
Universities into businesses."
The advertising and commercial
culture he called "by nature, untruthful" can be blamed for much of this
materialization of society, he says.
"We have this (constant
commercials) barraged throughout the day, that is intrinsically untruthful.
Young people, in particular, are influenced to become materialistic. They want
an education only because it is a ticket to a 'better' life. Education will
enable you to buy a BMV, instead of a Ford or Chevrolet."
Professor Zadeh related the
example of the cost of political campaigns, as Barack Obama - whom Zadeh
incidentally is a strong supporter of - reportedly recently spent $500 million
merely to become the Democratic Party candidate.
Zadeh, whose mother was Russian
and father from Ardabil province in northern Iran, has a long list of
accomplishments. He has already received 26 other honorary doctorates. He has
single-authored over 200 papers and serves on the editorial boards of more than
67 journals. He is also a member of several National Academies of Sciences
around the world; including Poland, Finland, South Korea, Bulgaria and Russia.
But the Academic is perhaps
best known for his work on fuzzy sets and its applications to artificial
intelligence, linguistics, logic, and expert systems. His work is currently
focused on fuzzy logic, soft computing, computing with words, and the newly
developed computational theory of perceptions and natural language.
Ferworn, giving his
introduction to Zadeh, related a story of their first meeting: "I met Professor
Zadeh for the first time as a Graduate Student in 1991. He gave a fascinating
presentation that seemed to consist mainly of slides of letters of rejection,
including criticism and personal attacks from the academic community concerning
his concept of fuzzy."
"At the conclusion of this
presentation to me, Professor Zadeh paused for a moment and made the astute
observation that all of the condemnations and criticisms he had received were
from extremely intelligent people," Ferworn recalled. "And that even intelligent
people can, and often are, wrong. I knew from that moment that this man deserved
an award. Because he a true innovator who is not afraid to fight."
Lotfi Zadeh also discussed
growing up in Azerbaijan, then a part of the Soviet Union. There was little
tolerance for religions, and "anyone rumoured of believing in God was ignored."
His family then fled back to Iran where he spent time at an American missionary
school, as well as Iranian schools where any Christian that entered had to wash
the walls of the school.
Due to this upbringing, Zadeh
has embraced and appreciated his time in North America, and the tolerance and
freedoms it provides. He is a dual Iranian-American citizen.
But he still dismayed with
where he sees society heading here in the west.
"I believe it is hurtful for a
society to be dominated by a desire for money," he says. "I would like to urge
you to join me in the chorus who feel concern over becoming a society whose
values are dominated by a quest for money."
Listening to him speak with
such conviction, its clear that it is this dogged determination to not accept
anything but the best, from himself or from society, that has made Lotfi Zadeh a
world-renowned figure in the Sciences.
... Payvand News - 06/18/08 ... --