Amir Pnueli, an internationally renowned pioneer in computer science best known for introducing temporal logic to analyze computer systems, died on November 2 at the age of 68 at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York. In recognition of his fundamental contributions to the field, Pnueli, a professor of computer science at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, received the Turing Award, the highest distinction that can be bestowed on a computer scientist.
The cause of death was a brain hemorrhage.
In the mid 1970s, computer scientists realized that many hardware and software computing systems continually interact with their environment. From this grew the need to develop formalisms that would enable specifying of and reasoning about ongoing behavior. Pnueli realized that temporal logic-a logic developed by philosophers in the 1950s to reason about the use of time in natural language-was a perfect fit for the task. This work was embodied in Pnueli’s 1977 paper, “The Temporal Logic of Programs,” published in the journal Foundations of Computer Science, and sparked a new field of scholarship in computer science. In 1996, Pnueli received the Association for Computing Machinery’s Alan M. Turing Award for introducing temporal logic to computer science.
In 2000, Pnueli received the Israel Prize, the state’s highest honor, in the area of Exact Sciences. In 2007, he shared the Association for Computing Machinery’s Software System Award for “Statemate,” a software engineering tool he created that allows developers to formally specify the precise desired behavior of their programs. “Statemate” was the first to successfully overcome the challenges of complex interactive, real-time computer systems.
Pnueli was a foreign associate of the National Academy of Engineering, a foreign member of the Academia Europaea, and a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Uppsala in Sweden, France’s Joseph Fourier University, and the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany, as well as numerous other professional accolades.
Pnueli was born in Nahalal, Israel, on Apr. 22, 1941. He received a B.Sc. degree in mathematics at the Technion in Haifa, Israel in 1962 and his Ph.D. in applied mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel in 1967.
After stints as a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University and at Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY, Pnueli returned to Israel as a senior researcher in the Department of Applied Mathematics of the Weizmann Institute. In 1973, Pnueli founded the Department of Computer Science at Tel Aviv University and became its first chair. In 1981, he returned to the Weizmann Institute as Professor of Computer Science. In 1999, he joined the Courant Institute’s Department of Computer Science at NYU, and in 2006 he was appointed to a Silver Professorship. He supervised more than 30 Ph.D. theses during his career in Israel and New York.
He is survived by his wife, Ariela, his three children, Noga, Shira, and Yishai, and four grandchildren.