IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Magazine - July 2018 - 49

Remembering Lotfi Zadeh (continued from page 48)
to his passing away; the last e-mails we exchanged were

than a personal, respectful, and warm tribute to his memory

at the end of June 2017. I find it impossible to evaluate the

offered by two researchers, not only working in different fields,

full value that those 40 years of friendship have for me; I did

but belonging to different generations.

learn a lot from the lectures I heard from Prof. Zadeh and the
papers of his that I read, but mainly from the discussions and

Some Personal Memories of Zadeh

the conversations we used to have on wide variety of topics.

ET: Prof. Zadeh had a great personal attractiveness; people

For me, Prof. Zadeh was an unforgettable master who, along

approached him in a truly incredible way, one example of

with Karl Menger, I believe had the greatest influence on

which is, perhaps, an extreme case that occurred in the spring

my research activities. The imprints of their works are clearly

of 1981 in Berkeley. After working all morning at Evans Hall,

evident behind my own thought; for instance, Menger's

Prof. Zadeh and those of us who were there with him at the

addendum to Occam's Razor or Prof. Zadeh's view on the

time went for lunch at the famous Three Cs cafeteria, located

constraint imposed by trying to attain too much precision.

outside the campus on Hearst Street. As the weather that day

For me, Prof. Zadeh was up there among the most creative

was so good, we sat at a table outside the cafeteria to eat. Prof.

researchers of the 20th century.

Zadeh had his usual, a frugal crêpe and a cup of darjeeling

AS: I started reading Prof. Zadeh's works in 1985 and met

tea. We were in the middle of a pleasant conversation when

him in person for the first time in 1996, at the XXVI IEEE

a beautiful, elegantly dressed woman came out from the

Multiple-Valued Logic Symposium that we organized at

cafeteria, walking in the direction of our table; we all gawked

the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. My initial

at her. Just as she was about to walk past us, Prof. Zadeh said

approach to fuzzy logic was through the book, Introducción

to her, "Please, come and join us!" And she did. After talking for

a la Lógica Formal (Introduction to Formal Logic) by the

a while, and even if the conversation seemed to be between

Spanish philosopher of logic, Alfredo Deaño, who, in a few

old friends, it became patently obvious that she and Prof.

lines, approached the principal features of what was, back

Zadeh had never met each other before.

then, a new type of logic. In a footnote, he said that fuzzy

Prof. Zadeh was a man who loved culture and beauty, as

logic attempts to explain imprecision in a precise way. Using

most of the artistic pictures he took over many years show,

a metaphor, he said that it is like an oral theory of stuttering,

with photos not only of scientists and engineers but also

offering explanations about stuttering but without stuttering.

dancers, writers, singers, politicians, and more. One day in

This phrase captivated me in such a way that I found myself

1980, I was invited to lunch at Fay and Prof. Zadeh's home on

desperate to learn more about the topic. As there was

Mendocino Avenue. At that time, the living room in the house

no such thing as the Internet, I audaciously wrote to Prof.

was full of very large loudspeakers and, while waiting for

Zadeh asking him for papers, which he kindly sent to me a

Fay, Prof. Zadeh and I were talking about Italian opera and

few months later. His papers caused a double impression

its singers, something about which I was, and still am, very

on me; on the one hand, they were so exquisitely written. If

passionate. Prof. Zadeh proceeded to put a record on and

language is a window to our mind, I conjectured that Prof.

said to me, "This is an exam for you," and asked me "What

Zadeh's mind would be like his writing: exciting, creative,

is the song and who is the singer?" I answered, "It's Nessun

brilliant. On the other hand, his papers frequently illustrated

dorma from Puccini's Turandot, and the singer is Luciano

mathematical or logical notions with examples using natural

Pavarotti," and he said to me in a soft voice "We're going to

language. Although the topics dealt with were sometimes

be good friends." In fact, and for 40 years, not only were we

cryptic for a graduate in philosophy, the examples provided

good friends, but loyal ones, too.

the reader with accurate insights. Giving and selecting

In private situations, Prof. Zadeh had a great sense of

suitable examples is a sign of clear and distinctive intuition,

humor. Maybe it was in 1983 when Sergei Ovchinnikov, Elie

which Prof. Zadeh undoubtedly possessed.

Sanchez, and I were invited to lunch at Fay and Prof. Zadeh's

ET and AS: Hence, this short narrative cannot be a

home. Sergei had left the Soviet Union a few years before

typical obituary, nor can it merely contain impartial and

and had only very recently recovered his books, which had

independent views. It endeavors to present a passionate

finally been sent to him from Moscow, after the inordinately

picture of the Prof. Zadeh we knew, a number of hints on how,

long time the authorities took to scrutinize them one by one.

and in line with the previous comments, we see the work

Prof. Zadeh presented us with three red shirts, identical to the

of one of the most creative researchers we have had the

one he was wearing, and asked us to put them on to take

great opportunity of knowing personally, admiring him, and

a group photo. But as Sergei attempted to gently refuse,

intellectually benefiting from both his thought and his work.

Zadeh said "Sergei, please, put the shirt on, even if it is too

Prof. Zadeh was not only an engineer and a scientist but
also an innovative thinker [S5], and this account is no more

(continued on page 50)

Ju ly 2018

IEEE SyStEmS, man, & CybErnEtICS magazInE

49



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