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Lotfi Zadeh, Father of Mathematical 'Fuzzy Logic,' Dies at 96


Lotfi Zadeh at his office at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1988.

Computer scientist and electrical engineer Lotfi Zadeh passed away last week at the age of 96.

Credit: Cindy Manly-Fields/University of California, Berkeley

Lotfi Zadeh, the computer scientist and electrical engineer whose theories of "fuzzy logic" rippled across academia and industry, influencing everything from linguistics, economics and medicine to air-conditioners, vacuum cleaners and rice cookers, died on Wednesday at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 96.

His son, Norman, confirmed the death.

Emerging from an academic paper Mr. Zadeh published in 1965 as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, "fuzzy logic," as he called it, was an ambitious effort to close the gap between mathematics and the intuitive way that humans talk, think and interact with the world.

If someone asks you to identify "a very tall man," for instance, you can easily do so — even if you are not given a specific height. Similarly, you can balance a broom handle on your finger without calculating how far it can lean in one direction without toppling over.

Mr. Zadeh envisioned a mathematical framework that could mimic these human talents — that could deal with ambiguity and uncertainty in similar ways. Rather than creating strict boundaries for real world concepts, he made the boundaries "fuzzy." Something was not in or out, for example. It sat somewhere on the continuum between in and out, and at any given moment a set of more complex rules defined inclusion.

"It was a bridge between theory and reality," said Rudolf Seising, a professor at the University of Jena in Germany who specializes in fuzzy logic and worked alongside Professor Zadeh in his later years.

 

From The New York Times
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