Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl's Dad, Wins "the Nobel Prize of Computer Science"
It's a strange day to report this news. Still, I'm happy to report it: Judea Pearl, a UCLA professor, the father of Daniel Pearl, and a true gentleman, won the Turing Award, an award that many people call "the Nobel Prize of Computer Science."
The following paragraphs, from the web site of the award, describe some of Pearl's contributions:
He is credited with the invention of Bayesian networks, a mathematical formalism for defining complex probability models, as well as the principal algorithms used for inference in these models. This work not only revolutionized the field of artificial intelligence but also became an important tool for many other branches of engineering and the natural sciences. He later created a mathematical framework for causal inference that has had significant impact in the social sciences.
Pearl’s reputation in computer science was established initially not in probabilistic reasoning –a highly controversial topic at that time – but in combinatorial search. A series of journal papers beginning in 1980 culminated in the publication of the book, Heuristics: Intelligent Search Strategies for Computer Problem Solving,  in 1984. This work included many new results on traditional search algorithms such as A*, and on game-playing algorithms, raising AI research to a new level of rigor and depth. It also set out new ideas on how admissible heuristics might be derived automatically from relaxed problem definitions, an approach that has led to dramatic advances in planning systems. Despite the book’s formal style, it drew its inspiration from, as Pearl said, “the ever-amazing observation of how much people can accomplish with that simplistic, unreliable information source known as intuition.” Ira Pohl wrote in 2011 that “The impact of Pearl’s monograph was transformative … [The book] was a tour de force summarizing the work of three decades.”
Soon after arriving at UCLA, Pearl began teaching courses on probability and decision theory, which was a rarity in computer science departments at that time. Probabilistic methods had been tried in the 1960s and found wanting; a system for estimating the probability of a disease given n possible symptoms was thought to require a set of probability parameters whose size is exponential in n. The 1970s, on the other hand, saw the rise of knowledge-based systems, based primarily on logical rules or on rules augmented with “certainty factors.”
In 2010 a Symposium was held at UCLA in Pearl’s honor, and a Festschrift was published containing papers in all the areas covered by his research. The volume also contains reminiscences from former students and other researchers in the field. Ed Purcell, Pearl’s first PhD student, wrote, “In class I was immediately impressed and enchanted by Judea’s knowledge, intelligence, brilliance, warmth and humor. His teaching style was engaging, interactive, informative and fun.” Hector Geffner, a PhD student in the late 1980s, wrote, “He was humble, fun, unassuming, respectful, intelligent, enthusiastic, full of life, very easy to get along with, and driven by a pure and uncorrupted passion for understanding.” Nils Nilsson, former professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department at Stanford and an AI pioneer, described Pearl as “a towering figure in our field.”
Pearl’s outside interests include music (several early conferences were entertained by his impromptu piano renditions and very realistic trumpet imitations), philosophy, and early books – particularly the great works of science throughout history, of which he possesses several first editions. Judea and Ruth Pearl had three children, Tamara, Michelle, and Daniel. Since Daniel’s kidnap and murder in Pakistan in 2002, Professor Pearl has devoted a significant fraction of his time and energy to the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which he and his wife founded to promote Daniel’s values of “uncompromised objectivity and integrity; insightful and unconventional perspective; tolerance and respect for people of all cultures; unshaken belief in the effectiveness of education and communication; and the love of music, humor, and friendship.”
Pearl will donate a major portion of the Turing Prize money to support the projects of the Daniel Pearl Foundation and another portion to promote the introduction of causal inference in statistics education.