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Jean Paul Jacob
In Memoriam

Jean Paul Jacob

Faculty-in-Residence in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
Special Advisor, CITRIS and the Banatao Institute

UC Berkeley

Jean Paul Jacob, an internationally renowned expert on informatics for the twenty-first century, died on April 7, 2019. He was the Founding Member of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) at the University of California, Berkeley. Jacob remained a champion of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute over the years, as well as a revered resident at CITRIS headquarters in Sutardja Dai Hall.

Jacob’s history with Berkeley dates back to his graduate years in the 1960s; he received his M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer sciences in 1965 and 1966, respectively. Starting in 1971, he was a faculty-in-residence in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) in the College of Engineering (COE).

Jacob’s research interests covered software engineering, artificial intelligence, multimedia, personal digital assistants, and decision-support systems. He gave hundreds of interviews and presentations on informatics, a view of how people will use computing and how it will affect their lives and society. He was also a strong advocate of efforts to increase the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in the field of engineering, both as students and as faculty.

Born in São Paulo, Brazil on January 24, 1937, Jacob embarked on an international career in 1960, after receiving a bachelor’s degree from Brazil’s Technological Institute of Aeronautics. Starting out as a trainee in aerospace and industrial control in France and Holland, he joined IBM as a research engineer in the company’s Nordic Lab in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1962.

During 42 years of his career at IBM, Jacob created IBM’s first Scientific Center in the Southern Hemisphere and the Institute for Software Engineering in Brazil. He was instrumental in creating IBM Scientific Centers in Paris and Mexico City and was the scientific consultant for IBM Latin America. His responsibilities included developing partnerships between IBM and universities.

In 1995 Dr. Jacob  began a sabbatical year as a lecturer at UC Berkeley. He retired from IBM in October 2002, but stayed on there as a researcher emeritus and chair of the University Relations Committee at the Almaden Research Center (IBM’s innovation lab in the Silicon Valley), and as IBM’s campus relationship manager for UC Berkeley.

Among numerable awards, and honors, Jacob received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in Computer Science and Engineering from UC Berkeley in 1992 and the UC Berkeley Research Leadership Award in 2003. Jacob was honored with a medal of the Rio Branco Order, one of the highest honors of the Brazilian government, in part for his work with CITRIS and COE. The medal was bestowed by Eduardo Prisco Ramos, consul general of Brazil on campus in McLaughlin Hall in July 2016.

Jacob was an elected member of the IBM Academy of Technology, the membership of which includes top technical leaders from around the world working in research, hardware and software development, manufacturing, applications, and services. He published several technical papers, mostly in mathematical journals, and coauthored a technical book on systems and control theory published by MITI in Japan. He was also featured in more than 30 broadcast media programs on science and technology and appeared in more than 200 articles published by print and digital media outlets in 12 countries.

A memorial gathering to celebrate the life of Jean Paul Jacob was held at CITRIS headquarters in Sutardja Dai Hall on June 20, 2019, and drew colleagues from across industry and academia. At his memorial, Dean Emeritus Shankar Sastry recalled his many contributions to the strong relations between IBM and Berkeley, which resulted in IBM being one of the Founding Corporate Members of CITRIS. He spoke of Jean Paul Jacob’s wit in selecting such intriguing titles for IBM-Berkeley days as “Is Small the Next Big Thing?” (2002), or “IBM At Your Service” (2003). Dr. Sheila Humphreys paid homage to his role in mentoring women and underrepresented groups in the EECS graduate program. Professor Pravin Varaiya, who was a classmate of Jean Paul’s in graduate school, spoke about his special role in building lasting partnerships between Brazil and UC Berkeley. CITRIS Director Costas Spanos said that,  “He leaves a legacy of mentorship for generations of graduate students, postdocs, and early career professionals, and will be fondly remembered by all for his sense of humor and positive attitude.”

Shankar Sastry 2020