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Robert Wilensky

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Robert Wilensky Obituary
Robert Wilensky

A Brooklyn native, born March 26, 1951, who became a computer science pioneer during his nearly 30-year career at U.C. Berkeley. He passed away on March 15, 2013.

Wilensky joined the Berkeley faculty after receiving a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a Ph.D. in computer science, both from Yale University. His many research interests included natural language processing, language analysis and production and artificial intelligence. One of Wilensky's most notable research contributions to the field was the UC Berkeley Digital Library Project, launched in the early years of the World Wide Web to develop techniques to make books and research materials from any library available online. The project also linked technical material together so that different layers of information can be selectively displayed and linked to other documents. This became commonplace on the Web and in tools like Google Earth. During Wilensky's tenure at UC Berkeley, he served as chair of the Computer Science Division, founder and director of the Berkeley Cognitive Science Program, director of the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Project, and board member of the International Computer Science Institute. He also helped found U.C.'s School of Information and Management Sciences (now the School of Information). Wilensky was named Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in recognition for his research contributions to the areas of natural language processing and digital libraries, as well as for his outstanding leadership in computer science. In addition, he was an honorary member of the Golden Key National Honor Society, and a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. He also served as an ACM National Lecturer.

In 2006, Wilensky suffered a debilitating cardiac arrest and retired shortly thereafter. He remained substantially disabled until his death. We laid him to rest in Gan-Shalom Cemetery on March 19, 2013. He is terribly missed by his wife of 17 years, Ann Danforth of Berkeley; his daughter Mia, 15, and son Eli, 12; his mother, Neesa Wilinsky of Brooklyn, NY; and his sister, Sandra W. Cohen of Memphis, Tenn. His father, Abraham Wilinksy, predeceased him in 2008.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Apr. 14, 2013
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