Wiezmann Institute of Science
2014 Laureates of Emet Prize
In Category: Exact Sciences
In Field: Computer Science
Prof. Simon Ullmanwas born in Jerusalem in 1948. Following his education at ‘Gymnasia Rehavia’, Jerusalem’s first high school, he served in the air force as a fighter pilot. In 1973 he graduated summa cum laude from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, majoring in mathematics and physics, and received an additional degree in Biology. He obtained his PhD from MIT’s department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory), and then served on MIT’s faculty as Associate and then Full Professor until 1993. During this period he was also one of the founders of Orbot (todays Orbotech), a high-tech company dealing with industrial applications of computer vision, in which he served as a chief scientist and board member. While still at MIT, he joined the department of Applied Mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, and contributed to its development in the field of computer science. For several years he served as department head, and in 1986 became the Samy and Ruth Professor of Computer Science. Parallel to his academic work, he was also the chief scientist at the Israeli division of Applied Materials upon its founding in Israel.
In his PhD work, he studied computations performed by the brain’s visual system and developed computer algorithms for performing similar computations in artificial systems. In thefollowing years, his research combined computer science with brain science and the study of human cognition, striving for understanding of the human visual system and the development of computer systems with visual capabilities. The focus of much of his work has been on automatically understanding of the content of an image, in particular automated object recognition and categorization.
In addition to scientific publications, he authored two books on his vision research. Work described in one of them, The Interpretation of Visual Motion, was selected as one of the leading contributions to cognitive science in the 20th century. He was awarded the prestigious international David E. Rumelhart Prize in Cognitive Science for his contributions to the theoretical foundations of human cognition. In 2011 he was elected as a member of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities.