Fred Jelinek, speech recognition pioneer, dies       

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Fred Jelinek, speech recognition pioneer, dies - overview


The former IBM Research manager pioneered the statistical methods that let modern computers understand, transcribe and translate written and spoken language.

Fred Jelinek Dr. Fred Jelinek, former manager of the IBM Research Continuous Speech Recognition Group, passed away on September 14, 2010 at the age of 77.

A respected researcher and teacher, Fred was a pioneer in the field of automatic speech recognition and natural language processing. Many credit Fred with creating the technical foundations of the field as it stands today.

He was among the first people to understand the importance of probabilistic modeling in automatic speech recognition, and helped create the statistical methods that form the basis of state-of-the-art speech and language technology today.

Born in Prague, Fred received his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was a Cornell University faculty member before joining the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in 1972. At IBM, Fred conducted seminal research in continuous speech recognition, machine language translation, and text parsing and understanding.

Fred published widely and authored two books, Probabilistic Information Theory and Statistical Methods for Speech Recognition. He also received numerous awards and honors, including being elected a Fellow of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and being named one of 12 inaugural Fellows to the International Speech Communication Association (ISCA), as well as being elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Fred left IBM in 1993 to join the faculty of Johns Hopkins University, where he was the Julian Sinclair Smith Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the director of the Center for Language and Speech Processing.

"A true giant has departed from the speech and language community. While we are all terribly saddened by the loss of such a valued colleague and friend, we feel confident that his legacy lives on through the generations of colleagues and students he has mentored," said Nicholas P. Jones, dean, Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University.

Fred is survived by his wife Milena, son William, and daughter Hannah.

Memorial services in Fred's memory are being planned by family and colleagues in Baltimore, New York, and Prague.

This article first appeared on the IBM intranet.

Last updated on September 21, 2010.