Montana State University

"Father of Biodiversity," Edward O. Wilson to present world's leading inventors and scientists with awards at MSU on Oct. 6

September 21, 2011 -- MSU News Service

Edward O. Wilson to present world's leading inventors and scientists with awards at public ceremony at MSU on Oct. 6. Photo courtesy of Harvard University.   High-Res Available

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The man who led the development of the world's first microprocessor will be one of five prominent engineers and scientists to be honored at Montana State University.

Federico Faggin, (fah-gene) will be presented with the 2011 George R. Stibitz Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6, in MSU's Shroyer Gym. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

In 1971, while working at Intel, Faggin led the team that created the first microprocessor. The chip has been described as the first computer chip "building block" that could be customized with software to perform different functions. Today - on the 40th anniversary year of the invention - microprocessors are ubiquitous in electronic devices. The average car has 45.

"Faggin's work was seminal. The microprocessor is the brain that ushered in the modern era of computers and electronics as we know it," said George Keremedjiev, (keh-reh-med-jiv) founder of the American Computer Museum in Bozeman.

In 2010, Faggin received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists, engineers and inventors. The award recognizes those who have made lasting contributions to America's competitiveness and quality of life and have helped strengthen the nation's technological workforce.

Faggin will be presented the 2011 George R. Stibitz Computer & Communications Lifetime Achievement Award by science luminary, Edward O. Wilson. The Pellegrino University Research Professor, emeritus, at Harvard University, Wilson is one of the most highly respected scientists in the world today. Hailed as "the new Darwin" by Thomas Wolfe, and one of "America's 25 Most Influential People" by Time Magazine, he has twice received the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. He is frequently described as the "father of biodiversity." Wilson will also be speaking at the ceremony on "The Future of Life and Technology."

Wilson will also present the 2011 Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Awards, named in his honor, to four other scientists and engineers whose inventions and work have helped advance the biodiversity of life on Earth.

"This year's awards ceremony is a nice illustration of how computers, engineering and biology can be integrated for the preservation of biodiversity," said Keremedjiev, who along with the American Computer Museum, founded the awards.

The 2011 Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award goes to three recipients for co-pioneering Leafsnap - the first mobile app for plant identification: Peter Belhumeur, David Jacobs and John Kress.

Leafsnap allows users to take a photo of a leaf, nut or blossom with their mobile phone and have it instantly identified. The app uses visual recognition software and a Smithsonian Institution database of trees to identify the images. Currently, the app only includes the trees of New York City and Washington, D.C., but it will eventually include all the trees of the continental United States.

According to Leafsnap's Web site, the genesis of the app was the realization that many techniques used for face recognition developed by professors Belhumeur and Jacobs of the computer science departments of Columbia University and the University of Maryland, respectively, could be applied to automatic species identification.

Jacobs and Belhumeur then approached Kress, chief botanist at the Smithsonian Institution, to start a collaborative effort for designing and building such a system for plant species. Columbia and the University of Maryland designed and implemented the visual recognition system used for automatic identification. In addition, Columbia University designed and wrote the iPhone, iPad, and Android apps, the website, and wrote the code that powers the recognition servers. The Smithsonian was instrumental in collecting the datasets of leaf species and supervising the curation efforts throughout the course of the project.

"Leafsnap and the other apps of its kind that are sure to follow, have the potential to turn the public into a corps of citizen scientists, identifying and cataloguing plant and animal species around the world," Keremedjiev said. "With the ability to geolocate an image thanks to the GPS capability of most smart phones, scientists could be poised to receive an enormous amount of data from the public on biodiversity."

A pioneer in the use of GPS technology for modern fish and wildlife monitoring systems and biotelemetry technology will also be honored with an Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award. James Lotimer is founder and CEO of Lotek, a Canadian company that has been providing wireless tracking devices for wildlife since 1984.

The company's tracking devices are used on every continent and in every ocean for a wide variety of environmental and economic reasons, from protecting endangered elephants in Africa to monitoring the safe passage of salmon through hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. Examples of species being tracked with Lotek devices include salmon, sturgeon, tuna, turtles, whales, seals, crabs, penguins, moose, caribou, wolves and elephants.

May Berenbaum, the head of the entomology department at the University of Illinois, will also receive an E.O. Wilson Award for her contributions to the understanding of insect chemical
ecology and the public understanding of biodiversity. She is also the 2011 recipient of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, which comes with a $200,000 cash prize.

In addition to her ongoing research on the chemical interactions between plant-eating insects and their host plants, Berenbaum has built a second career as a science communicator. She has written or co-written numerous books on insect fact and folklore, and has led several projects aimed at communicating science to the public and engaging "citizen scientists" in the process of collecting data on environmental subjects. One of her most recent books is "The Earwig's Tail: A Modern Bestiary of Multi-Legged Legends."

Due to a schedule conflict, Berenbaum will receive her award in 2012.

The Stibitz Award is named after George R. Stibitz, widely recognized as the father of the modern digital computer. Previous Stibitz awardees include Steve Wozniak, inventor of Apple Computers; Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web; Martin Cooper, an inventor of the cell telephone; and Ross Perot, founder of Electronic Data Systems and U.S. Presidential candidate in 1992 and 1996.

The Wilson and Stibitz awards are sponsored by the American Computer Museum and its founder, Keremedjiev, who received an MSU honorary doctorate in 2009, with support from the MSU College of Engineering, the MSU College of Letters and Science, the MSU Humanities Institute, the MSU Computer Science Department, Montana NSF EPSCoR and Phi Kappa Phi.

Contact: George Keremedjiev, founder of the American Computer Museum in Bozeman, (406) 582-1288,