IBM Fellow Ron Fagin elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

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The American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected 204 new members across a number of categories, including eight computer scientists. One of these eight was IBM Fellow Ron Fagin, for his breakthrough work. Election to the American Academy is considered one of the nation’s highest honors since its founding during the American Revolution, when its first class included George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
“Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, a college friend of mine, was also elected this year for his work in public affairs. So, it was a thrill to get an email from Reich saying ‘Somehow I always knew we’d end up at the same induction ceremony, fifty years after we met’,” Ron said.
The American Academy recognized Ron for the following accomplishments: 
  • Established the field of finite-model theory, connecting mathematical logic, complexity theory, and database theory, and elaborated Fagin’s theorem and Fagin’s zero-one law. 
  • Founding figure of relational database theory underlying the success of relational databases.
  • Introduced fundamental concepts for database design, especially: fourth normal form, multivalued dependencies, and acyclic schemas, and invented an extendible-hashing algorithm used to find data quickly.
  • Invented algorithms for querying and aggregating imprecise data, key capabilities for information retrieval systems.
  • Created the foundations for data integration and transformation with his work on data exchange and tuple-generating dependencies, considered the most significant development in database theory over the last decade.
  • Invented a highly scalable, widely used method for differential backup of files, and an algorithm for assigning encryption keys, techniques crucial to IBM products.
  • Developed a logical foundation to reasoning about group knowledge and coauthored Reasoning about Knowledge (2d ed. 2003), now considered a classic on knowledge in multi-agent systems.

Ron is an IBM Fellow, which is IBM’s highest technical honor. There are currently 87 active IBM Fellows, and there have been only 257 IBM Fellows in the 51-year history of the program.  Ron received his B.A. in mathematics from Dartmouth College and his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley. He has won an IBM Corporate Award, eight IBM Outstanding Innovation Awards, an IBM Outstanding Technical Achievement Award, and two IBM key patent awards. He is a Fellow of IEEE, ACM, and AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). He has co-authored three papers that won Best Paper Awards and three papers that won Test-of-time Awards, all in major conferences. One of his papers won the 2014 Gödel Prize. He was named Docteur Honoris Causa by the University of Paris, and a “Highly Cited Researcher” by ISI (the Institute for Scientific Information). He won the IEEE Technical Achievement Award, IEEE W. Wallace McDowell Award, and ACM SIGMOD Edgar F. Codd Innovations Award (a lifetime achievement award in databases). In addition to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, this year he was also elected to the US National Academy of Engineering.


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