Thursday, August 25, 2016

1956 Was a Fine Vintage

Bill sends me an email last week with the subject "Our field is getting old!" and talks about upcoming 60th birthday/retirement conferences he's invited to, all of which I've been invited to as well. Bill's subject line should have read "We're getting old."

Here's what's upcoming:
  • Avi Wigderson's 60th celebration before FOCS in New Jersey, October 5-8. Avi is a giant in computational complexity and the event has an amazing line-up of speakers.
  • Albert Meyer's retirement celebration at MIT, November 11. 
  • Rod Downey's 60th symposium in New Zealand, January 5-8.
  • Eric Allender and Michael Saks will have a joint 60th celebration at DIMACS in New Jersey, January 26-27.
Surely I've missed some. Feel free to add in the comments.

Theoretical computer science has a tradition of holding a symposium in honor of a 60th birthday, typically organized by the PhD students. I co-organized such a celebration for my advisor Michael Sipser two years ago. 60 is a good age, a time to look back but not quite the end of a career. 

Janos Simon giving toast to Juris Hartmanis (center).
The first 60th I attended was for Juris Hartmanis, one of the founders of computational complexity, back in 1988 at the 3rd Structure in Complexity Theory (now Computational Complexity Conference) meeting in DC. The conference announcement required everyone to wear a jacket and tie, the first and probably last time I will see a bunch of complexity theorists all dressed up.

Juris was also the first faculty retirement I attended in 2001 at Cornell. Retirement celebrations are generally organized by the department.

Many of the first generation of CS theorists from the 60's and 70's are hitting retirement age. The 1980s saw an explosion in CS theory PhDs and many of them turn 60 in the near future. Expects lots of celebrations, great speakers and remembering many great careers. 


  1. Which people get honored with 60th, 70th, 80th, retirement parties, or other ways to celebrate ones achievements? And how big are these things (retirement parties are often very local).

    One factor is how much has one contributed to the field. But another is having people who are willing to do the work to put one of these things together. Other factors: how liked you are, is their a conference that makes sense to do it at (the Hartmanis 60th at Complexity), how common is it for your subfield. There are likely other factors.

    I was at the Siper-60th, Spencer-70th, and I will be at the
    Avi-60th. Alas, I'll have to miss the Meyer-retirement. The Allendar-Saks is to far off to now yet.

    Is just being invited to all of those an honor? I doubt it.I suspect many were invited to all of those.

  2. In Europe, celebrating 6th birthday is via a "festschrift" which is a memorial book to pay tribute. It is an opportunity to publish work which is hard to get published otherwise.

    Rafee Kamouna.

    P.S. wear a jacket and a tie, (not where a jacket and a tie), in the above original post.

  3. Amihood Amir's at CPM and Faith Ellen's at PODC.

  4. Lance, how was Albert Meyer's retirement celebration at MIT last Friday?

    1. A great time seeing many old faces including six of my fellow PhD students from the 80's. Albert had a great set of students and you could see his influence in theory and semantics.