Milestones, People

Lotfi Zadeh, inventor of ‘fuzzy logic,’ dies at 96

Engineering and computer science professor pioneered mathematics that mimic human intuition

Lotfi Zadeh

UC Berkeley professor emeritus and world-renowned computer scientist Lotfi Zadeh has passed away at the age of 96.

Zadeh is widely known as the father of a mathematical framework called fuzzy logic, which was an early approach to artificial intelligence. His 1965 paper on the topic has been cited over 90,000 times and is the basis for modern-day technologies including facial recognition, air conditioning, washing machines, car transmissions, weather forecasting, stock trading and even rice cookers. 

Zadeh was born in 1921 in Baku, Azerbaijan, which was then part of the Soviet Union. His family moved across the Soviet border to Iran, where Zadeh would later graduate from the University of Tehran. According to a New York Times obituary, during World War II Zadeh sold goods to the U.S. Army, earning enough money to continue his education in the United States in 1944.

“Lotfi Zadeh was an inspiration to Berkeley and many people around the world,” said James Demmel, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. 

In 1959, Zadeh joined the Berkeley faculty of what was then called the Department of Electric Engineering. He was named department chair in 1963 and then broadened the department to the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, “a prescient change that helped create one of the top departments in the world,” Demmel said.

Zadeh became a professor emeritus in 1991. He died Sept. 6. 

Read more on the College of Engineering website.