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On being elected IFAC Fellow 精选

已有 6267 次阅读 2016-7-14 22:44 |个人分类:生活点滴|系统分类:海外观察

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I was recently informed by The International Federation ofAutomatic control (IFAC), the super-national organization of my profession,that I was elected to be an IFAC Fellow in 2016, the highest  membership class the organization can offer. To receive such a singular honor at my age of course is a great pleasure for which I am grateful. However, one of my dear friend while congratulating me also said that the honor  should have come “much much earlier” .  While I am appreciative of his sentiment, it made me recall one personal incident in  scientific history that might be worth retelling. Garrett Birkhoff, one of the great mathematicians of the 20th  century, was my senior colleague at Harvard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garrett_Birkhoff.  He did not even have a Ph.d degree but was a Junior Fellow at Harvard (considered by many  to be a much higher honor). Anyhow when he was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in  the 1960s and the news was announced. He and I happened to be at a SIAM (Society of  Industrial and Applied Mathematics) conference and sat next to each other.  Many people came and congratulated Birkhoff on his election to the Academy. He graciously thanked everyone and mumbled after they left to himself or for my benefit “should have happened long ago”.  

Rudy Kalman, whom I just wrote about in my previous blog,refused to attend his induction ceremony of the  US National Academy ofEngineering since He felt the same way (for example, I was inducted before he was. In fact, I prepared his nomination documents).  While I have no such hurt feelings and feel amply rewarded by the public, I do empathize with Birkhoff and Kalman for their feelings of not being recognized sufficiently by their peers or the public early enough.  It is true that a scientist is the best judge of his own contributions despite personal ego and hubris.  But many fail to distinguish the difference between scientific contribution and personal relationship with others. The first can be judged by itself in the long run irrelevant to the second. But awards are expressions  of current public sentiment and/or attention (note very few posthumous awards including the Nobel  are  given). Public Relations play a part. For example, how many of the readers of this blog realize  that Laplace, the great mathematician and the "  French Newton", is a vain and egotistical person  while alive. But nowadays we all honor and use the tools he developed. Thus, if you only care about your position in hisotry you can pretty much do anything you damn well please while alive. In the long run only your contributions to the Society counts (but as Lord Keynes said,":in the long run we are all dead,")




http://blog.sciencenet.cn/blog-1565-990720.html

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