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Invited Talks

Frank Rosenblatt, my distinguished advisor George Nagy, PhD Cornell 1962

Prof. George Nagy (emr.)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, USA


Frank Rosenblatt (1928-1971) pioneered the connectionist approach for explaining how biological systems sense, process, organize and use information. He based his models on the results of previous research on neurophysiology and on published observations of the performance of cognitive tasks. His models of diverse aspects of biological information processing, that he called perceptrons, consisted of networks of fixed connections, threshold units, and adaptive non-linear storage elements. He analyzed the models using mathematical tools (probability and linear algebra), large-scale computer simulations, and via hardware implementations. He demonstrated that various families of perceptrons with parameters assigned according to given probability distributions could learn to discriminate classes of patterns, exhibit selective attention, associate geometrically similar and temporally contiguous patterns, and recall entire sequences of sensory input. In the later stages of his career, he conducted experiments on rats that sought to demonstrate the biochemical bases of learning. He published his results in venues ranging from technical reports through conference proceedings to scientific and technical journals like Psychological Review, Science, Nature, Reviews of Modern Physics, and the Proceedings of the IRE. He summarized his results up to 1961 in the book Neurodynamics. Some of his publications are still widely cited. In addition to his influential contributions to biological information processing, Rosenblatt is credited with the invention of trainable artificial neural networks that have found many applications far from the realm of biology and neurophysiology. This aspect of his work is commemorated by the Frank Rosenblatt Award of the IEEE Neural Networks Society. As an amateur astronomer, he built his own observatory and in 1971 proposed a method of detecting planetary systems that is now pursued by the NASA. He was an accomplished musician, mountain climber, and sailor. He participated in national political campaigns and in faculty governance at Cornell University.


George Nagy graduated from McGill University in Engineering Physics (fencing and chess). He earned his MS at McGill by solving Euler's Second Equation for the hysteresis motor. He was awarded the PhD at Cornell University in 1962 for helping Frank Rosenblatt build Tobermory, a sixteen-foot, four-layer neural network for speech recognition. After a short postdoc he worked on character recognition and remote sensing at IBM Yorktown (and claims credit for IBM's growth during this period). During a reverse sabbatical at the Université de Montréal he recorded pulse trains from cats' medial geniculate nuclei. In 1972 he was appointed chairman of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Nebraska where he dabbled in computational geometry, GIS and HCI, and was eventually inducted in the NHC. Since 1985 he has been Professor of Computer Engineering at RPI in Troy, NY. Nagy's credits in document analysis include Chinese character recognition with Dick Casey, "self-corrective" character recognition with Glen Shelton (with a reprise twenty-eight years later with Henry Baird), character recognition via cipher substitution with Casey, Sharad Seth, and Tin Ho, growing X-Y trees with Seth, table interpretation with Dave Embley, Mukkai Krishnamoorthy, Dan Lopresti and Seth, modeling random-phase noise with Prateek Sarkar and Lopresti, style-constrained classification with Sarkar, Harsha Veeramachaneni, Hiromichi Fujisawa and Cheng-Lin Liu, and paper-based election systems research with Lopresti and Elisa Barney Smith. He tries to keep up with the state of the art by learning new ideas from former students. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and the IAPR, and received prematurely (in 2001) the ICDAR Lifetime Contributions Award. In his spare time Nagy enjoys skiing, sailing, and writing prolix surveys. He was promoted to Professor Emeritus status in 2011 and since then enjoys having more time for family, friends, research, reading and octogenarian outdoor activities.

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