Remembering a legacy of practical and theoretical innovation.
Amir Pnueli: Ahead of His Time
When I was a graduate student at Harvard in the early 1980s,
Amir came to visit for a year.
He gave a lecture about temporal logic and I found the simplicity
of the boxes and diamonds to be appealing.
So, I sketched out a probability one proof of the Ethernet protocol
in collaboration with William Ewald (now a law professor) and brought
it to Amir.
Generously, he worked with me until the
deadline and we ended with a nice paper
that was finally published in the Principles of Programming Languages
Conference with the perhaps overwrought title:
"Temporal verification of carrier-sense local area network protocols."
Amir once said that was his first paper in distributed verification.
Amir later came to New York University,
building it into the verification powerhouse that it is.
Through all my dealings with Amir, his cheerful good nature
and straightforwardness have so nicely complemented his evident genius.
He was just a great person to know.
The following letter was published in the Letters to the Editor in the April 2010 CACM (http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2010/4/81506).
Communications cover article "Amir Pnueli Ahead of His Time" (Jan. 2010) mourned the passing of Amin Pnueli in November 2009. Likewise, Communications mourned (Nov. 2008), along with the rest of the computer science community, the disappearance and passing of Jim Gray. Tragic as these events are, they are sure to be followed by others, as computer science is no longer in its infancy but well past middle age. I see the risk that Communications covers (and articles) could turn into a gallery of the revered heroes of our science who will be passing away in ever greater numbers. Communications could instead honor its icons by, perhaps, adding an obituary column, even as a permanent feature.
Communications does indeed publish obituaries to note the passing of prominent computer scientists. In certain cases, however, the Editorial Board deems the event to be deserving of further recognition. Jim Gray was in full vigor when he disappeared without a trace in January 2007, as was Amir Pnueli when he passed away in November 2009. In both cases there was a sense of unusual or unexpected tragedy, which explains the degree of coverage in Communications.
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