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George J. Klir


1932 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
George J. Klir Obituary
Klir, George J.

George J. Klir, 84 of Vestal, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Systems Science at Binghamton University, passed away unexpectedly at his home on May 27, 2016. George was predeceased by his parents, Jan and Emilie Klir. George is survived by his devoted wife of 54 years, Milena, and their daughter and son-in-law, Jane and Michael Viau of New York, New York.

George J. Klir was born on April 22, 1932, in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He obtained his MS degree in electrical engineering from the Czech Technical University in Prague in 1957 (Summa Cum Laude) and his PhD degree in computer science from the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in 1964. He began his professional career at the Computer Research Institute in Prague in 1957. After immigrating to the United States in 1966, he was a lecturer at UCLA and an Associate Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ. From 1969 until his retirement in 2007, he was with Binghamton University where he obtained the rank of Distinguished Professor in 1984, served as Chairman of the Department of Systems Science (1978-1992) and Director of the Center for Intelligent Systems (1994-2000). During the academic years 1975-1976 and 1982-1983, he was a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies, and in 1980, he was a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

George was a brilliant scholar who had an unusually broad spectrum of interests. He left a lasting mark in every area in which he worked. During the earlier stages of his career, he conducted research in the areas of systems modeling and simulation, logic design, and computer architecture. Later on his research included generalized information theory, fuzzy logic and fuzzy sets, and generalized measures, but also a variety of other topics such as the psychology of concepts and certain aspects of the philosophy of science. He wrote over 300 research papers, held a number of patents, and authored or co-authored 20 books, among them Fuzzy Logic and Mathematics: A Historical Perspective (Oxford University Press, in print). Some of George's books and papers have been translated into foreign languages (Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Polish, and Czech). At Binghamton University, he supervised 34 completed doctoral dissertations and taught graduate courses on fuzzy systems, generalized information theory, systems problem solving, discrete mathematics, logic design and computer architecture, fault-tolerant computing, automata theory, introduction to systems science, and combinatorial analysis.

George's organizational activities were extraordinary and demonstrated his leadership. He founded the International Journal of General Systems in 1974 and continued as its Editor-in-Chief until 2014. He was also Editor of the International Book Series on Systems Science and Engineering, published by Springer and sponsored by the International Federation for Systems Research (IFSR) since 1985, and served as a member of the editorial board for 19 journals. He was President of the Society for General Systems Research from 1981-1982, the first President of the IFSR from 1980-1984, President of the North American Fuzzy Information Processing Society (NAFIPS) from 1988-1991, and President of the International Fuzzy Systems Association (IFSA) from 1993-1995.

For his outstanding contributions, George received numerous awards, including 6 honorary doctoral degrees, the Medal of Bernard Bolzano in mathematical sciences, the Kaufmann's Gold Medal Prize for excellence in uncertainty research, the Lotfi A. Zadeh Best Paper Award, the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research, the Distinguished Leadership Award from the International Society for the Systems Sciences, an Award from the Netherlands Society for Systems Research for advancing general systems research, an Award from the Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies for outstanding contributions to cybernetics, and an Award from the Society for Computing Anticipatory Systems for outstanding scientific work on anticipatory and intelligent systems. He was a Life Fellow of the IEEE, Life Fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies, and a Fellow of the IFSA. George's research was supported by grants from the NSF, ONR, Air Force, NASA, NATO, Canadian Government, Sandia Laboratories, and some industries.

George was both a gentleman and a scholar who was devoted to his students and the academic community. He epitomized humility.

In 1966, George and Milena sought refuge in the United States to escape the oppression of communist Czechoslovakia. They travelled the world visiting 5 continents, including Antarctica. George was a man who enjoyed adventure. At the age of 68, he climbed Mt. Kala Patthar, a mountain located in the Nepalese Himalayas. From the 18,192 foot summit, George was able to enjoy a unique view of the magnificent Mt. Everest in the distance. In his retirement from Binghamton University, George had more time to engage in activities he enjoyed such as swimming, playing piano, long walks in the Nature Preserve, attending classical and jazz concerts with Milena, and enjoying a glass of good California wine.

At George's request, there were no funeral services. In 2008, a former doctoral student, Hugo Uyttenhove, along with his wife, Kris Conrad, established a scholarship honoring his former mentor. The scholarship is awarded to graduate students in systems science. Expressions of sympathy in George's memory may be made to the "George J. Klir Scholarship for Excellence in Systems Science" c/o Binghamton University Foundation, P.O. Box 6005, Binghamton, NY, 13902-6005, or online at http://www.binghamton.edu/giving/ (Designation: "Other").

The Klir family wishes to extend their thanks to the Vestal Police Department, Vestal Emergency Squad, their neighbors, George's Editorial Assistant, Ellen Tilden, and special friends, Dr. Nicholas and Marta Seketa, for their assistance in their time of need.
Published in Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin on June 19, 2016
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