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Raj Reddy To Receive 2006 Vannevar Bush Award for Lifetime Contributions to Science

BY Byron Spice - Mon, 2006-05-08 12:00  Printer-friendly version

PITTSBURGH—Raj Reddy, Carnegie Mellon University's Mozah Bint Nasser University Professor of Computer Science and Robotics in the School of Computer Science, will receive the 2006 Vannevar Bush Award, an honor presented by the National Science Board in recognition of his contributions to science and his statesmanship on behalf of science and the nation.

The board cited Reddy for his pioneering research in robotics and intelligent systems, and his significant contributions in the formulation of national information and telecommunications policy.

Reddy and Charles Townes, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and inventor of the laser, will both receive Vannevar Bush awards this year at a May 9 dinner at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The National Science Board, which provides scientific advice to Congress and the president and oversees the National Science Foundation, established the Vannevar Bush Award in 1980 to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to mankind and the nation through public service activities in science and technology.

"This is a fitting honor for a man whose contributions to this university have been immense, but whose impact on the broader society has been even more profound," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon. "He has raised the bar in education and research for more than 30 years and now is devoting his energies to bringing the benefits of information technologies to some of the world's poorest people."

Reddy and Townes are the 25th and 26th individuals to receive the award — a bronze medal memorializing Vannevar Bush, an engineer and scientific adviser to presidents. Bush coordinated Allied scientific efforts during World War II and was instrumental in the creation of the National Science Foundation in 1950. He also conceived the "memex," an idea to mechanically link vast quantities of information in a way that was later realized electronically in the form of the World Wide Web.

"It's especially appropriate for Raj to be a winner of an award named after Vannevar Bush," said Randal E. Bryant, dean of Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science. "He credits Vannevar Bush as one of the original pioneers of artificial intelligence, a field in which Raj himself is a pioneer. Bush's proposal for a memex presaged the World Wide Web. Raj doesn't take credit for inventing the Web, but he's pioneered many other developments in AI — especially in the areas of robotics and speech recognition."

As founding director of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, the nation's first when it was established in 1979, Reddy promoted and advanced the field of robotics, educating many of the researchers now working in companies and universities around the world. He directed the Robotics Institute from 1979 to 1991, and from 1991 to 1999 was dean of the School of Computer Science, where he worked to expand research into human-computer interaction, speech recognition and machine vision.

"Vannevar Bush was very influential in working with leaders of the federal government and so, too, was Raj," Bryant said. As co-chair of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee from 1999 to 2001, Reddy laid the groundwork for a significant increase in federal support for information technology research.

More recently, he has focused his energies on using digital technologies to improve the lives of impoverished people. Those international projects include the Million Book Digital Library, which makes free digitized books available online, and the PCtvt, an inexpensive personal computer designed to meet the needs of poor people in the developing world.

Reddy has been a member of the Carnegie Mellon faculty since 1969. He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Madras, India, and a master of technology degree from the University of New South Wales, Australia. He began his academic career as an assistant professor at Stanford University after receiving his doctorate there in 1966.

In 1984, France awarded Reddy the Legion of Honor for his work in developing countries. He received the Association for Computing Machinery's Turing Award in 1994 for his contributions to artificial intelligence. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Acoustical Society of America and the American Association for Artificial Intelligence.

In 2001, he was awarded Padma Bhushan by the President of India, an honor that recognizes distinguished service of a high order to the nation in any field. He holds eight honorary doctorates from universities around the world. In 2004, Reddy received the Okawa Prize, which recognizes and honors people who have made outstanding international contributions to the research, technological development and business in the information and telecommunications fields.

Reddy, who helped establish Carnegie Mellon's campus in Qatar, was honored in 2005 as the first recipient of the Mozah Bint Nasser Chair of Computer Science and Robotics, a gift from the Qatar Foundation. Also that year, the Honda Foundation awarded him its Honda Prize, citing his contributions to "eco-technology," the concept that technology should be in harmony with the environment.

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