Marconi Society Mourns Board Member Joseph Traub

Professor Joseph Traub, a longtime Marconi Society Board Member whose teaching and computer research spanned six decades, died August 24th in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 83.

Prof. Traub originally set out to be a physicist, but a 1954 visit to what was then the IBM Watson Computer Labs captured his imagination and changed his mind. Long before “computer science” existed, he was already immersed in computing, and advocating for the additional resources for the field. As dean of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, he built the faculty to 50 people in the 9 years from 1971 to 1979, when he left for Columbia, recruited to be the first dean of their newly-minted computer science department.

He had a tremendous sense of the power of computing, looked beyond the science to its impact on society and pressed his peers to do likewise. His scientific and mathematical achievements were many, especially in the area of designing software algorithms to do more with less computing power, given the limitations of early computers. He worked on the challenge at Bell Laboratories, early in his career, and later as an academic researcher. He also helped develop software tools used to value financial derivatives.

The founding chairman of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, he served two terms as the head of the board. He was a director of the Marconi Society for eight years, and during that time helped the Society organize a number of highly successful events at Columbia.

You can read more about him in the New York Times here.