By Sabina Idayatova
World-famous Baku-born scientist who invented fuzzy logic, Lotfi Askar Zadeh, marked his 92nd birthday on February 4.
Lotfi Zadeh, a mathematician, electrical engineer, computer scientist as well as professor emeritus of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, has received the world's most prominent awards.
One of the recent awards of the scientist came from the Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, 2009) -- Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering for inventing and developing the field of "fuzzy logic," in which a system applies a quantitative assessment to inherently ambiguous ideas, thus providing a new paradigm to improve artificial intelligence and automated control systems. He has also been awarded BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the information and communication technologies (ICT) category in January 2013.
The scientist`s invention and development of fuzzy logic, which was a revolutionary breakthrough in the scientific world, has enabled machines to work with imprecise concepts, in the same way humans do, and thus secure more efficient results more aligned with reality. In the last fifty years, this methodology has generated over 50,000 patents in Japan and the U.S. alone. Japan awarded him Honda Prize -which is granted only to scientists who have made revolutionary discoveries.
Genius Zadeh was born on Feb.4, 1921 in Baku, Azerbaijan. His Iranian Azerbaijani father was working as a journalist. The Soviet government at that time courted foreign correspondents, and the family lived well while in Baku. Zadeh attended elementary school for three years here, which he has said later that had a significant and long-lasting influence on his thinking and way of looking at things.
In 1931, when Zadeh was ten years old, his family moved to Iran and was enrolled in Alborz College. He was educated for the next eight years, and met his future wife, Fay. Zadeh says that he was "deeply influenced" by the "extremely decent, fine, honest and helpful" missionaries from the United States who ran the college.
"To me they represented the best that you could find in the United States - people from the Midwest with strong roots. They were really 'Good Samaritans' - willing to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others. So this kind of attitude influenced me deeply. It also instilled in me a deep desire to live in the United States," Zadeh said later.
Zadeh graduated from the University of Tehran with a degree in electrical engineering in 1942. A year later he decided to emigrate to the United States, and in mid-1944 entered Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) as a graduate student later that year.
After receiving an MS degree in electrical engineering from M.I.T. in 1946, he applied to Columbia University, where he was admitted as a doctoral student and offered an instructorship as well. He received his Ph.D in electrical engineering from Columbia and was promoted to Full Professor in 1957. Since 1959 Zadeh has taught at the University of California, Berkeley as professor of computer science while developing his theory of fuzzy logic.
Zadeh`s revolutionary theory of fuzzy logic emerged in 1965. The essence of fuzzy logic is that the world is a variety of shades - from black to white. To put it scientifically, in this world nothing is absolute in mathematical terms, as everything varies to a certain degree on a scale of 0-1, thus, between zero and one there are dozens, hundreds, of other shades.The word "fuzzy" is used becuase the borders of white and whitish, scarlet and red are fuzzy; there is a continuous transition from one to the other.
It changed entirely the concept of cybernetics and played an important role in space satellites, cognition and the study of images, the Earth and the Universe, and in research into UFOs. The theory is widely applied in all areas of modern industry - robotics, mechanical engineering, electronics, fifth and sixth generation supercomputers and defence technology forming the basis of fuzzy technology throughout the world.
More than two decades later, in 1991, Zadeh introduced another new paradigm: soft computing, a hybrid methodology embracing fuzzy logic, neural networks, evolutive algorithms and probabilistic reasoning. In the last 15 years, he has been concerned with the computational scenario where data and operations may be specified in a natural language, or what he calls "computing with words."
Zadeh has a long list of achievements. In 1993, Azerbaijan bestowed him an honorary Professorship from the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy.
He is a recipient of the IEEE Education Medal, the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal, the IEEE Medal of Honor, the ASME Rufus Oldenburger Medal, the B. Bolzano Medal of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Kampe de Feriet Medal, the AACC Richard E. Bellman Control Heritage Award, the Grigore Moisil Prize, the Okawa Prize, the AIM Information Science Award, the IEEE-SMC J. P. Wohl Career Achievement Award, the SOFT Scientific Contribution Memorial Award of the Japan Society for Fuzzy Theory, the IEEE Millennium Medal, the ACM 2001 Allen Newell Award, the Norbert Wiener Award of the IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Society, and Civitate Honoris Causa by Budapest Tech (BT) Polytechnical Institution, Budapest. Zadeh has also received the V. Kaufmann Prize, International Association for Fuzzy-Set Management and Economy (SIGEF), the Nicolaus Copernicus Medal of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the J. Keith Brimacombe IPMM Award, the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, the Heinz Nixdorf Museums Forum Wall of Fame, the Egleston Medal, the Franklin Institute Medal, the Medal of the Foundation by the Trust of the Foundation for the Advancement of Soft Computing, the High State Award Friendship Order, from the President of Azerbaijan, the Transdisciplinary Award and Medal of the Society for Design and Process Sciences, as well as other awards and numerous honorary doctorates.
Furthermore, Zadeh is a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Finnish Academy of Sciences, the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Korean Academy of Science & Technology and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. He is also an honored chairman of an Azerbaijan diaspora organization in the U.S.
Zadeh is considered to be a scientist whose works are most referred to in the world. Author of 245 papers, his research has been cited on more than 90,000 occasions, according to Google Scholar, and the vitality and influence of the field he created is evidenced by the number of papers - around 253,000 - that include the word "fuzzy" in their titles.
However, fuzzy logic is not Zadeh´s only theory. He developed the theories of system and optimal filters. The theory of optimal filtration is a new step in modern mathematics, cybernetics and computerisation, and is valued not only for its scientific originality, but also its practical results. The theories of multiple valued optimization and impressions in dynamic systems were also developed by Zadeh.
Zadeh's new field of mathematics, fuzzy set theory and fuzzy logic, have found numerous applications ranging from consumer electronics to medicine and natural languages. His work has enabled us to communicate with machines through an increasingly natural, human language.
Zadeh still continues his research in the fuzzy logic field, soft computing, in the hope to connect computers and systems more closely with natural language.