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Roger Brockett to receive lifetime achievement award

Pioneer in control systems theory honored for outstanding contributions to field

Roger Brockett has been selected to receive the Giorgio Quazza medal from the International Federation of Automatic Control. (Photo by Eliza Grinnell/SEAS Communications.)

Roger Brockett, An Wang Research Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been selected to receive the Giorgio Quazza medal from the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC).

The award recognizes a researcher’s outstanding lifetime contributions to the field of systems and control. Brockett will receive the medal during the opening ceremony of the IFAC Triennial Congress in Toulouse, France, in July 2017.

A pioneer in control systems theory, Brockett began his career at MIT in 1963 before joining the faculty at Harvard in 1969. In 1983, Brockett founded the Harvard Robotics Laboratory, which continues its research in areas such as robotic manipulation and control of quantum systems.

His contributions to control theory and applied mathematics include early work on frequency domain stability theory, differential geometric methods in nonlinear control, the computation of Volterra series, a geometric approach to the sufficient statistics problem in nonlinear estimation, stabilization questions, robot kinematics and dynamics, formal languages for motion control, hybrid systems, computational problems related to tensor ranking and integrable systems, quantum control, and optimal control of Markov processes.

As a Harvard faculty member, he initiated long-standing introductory level courses in engineering design and developed major funding for group efforts in robotics and computer vision. He retired from the regular faculty in 2012 after 49 years of lecturing. During his tenure, he served as the major advisor of more than 60 Ph.D. students at Harvard, MIT, and Brandeis University.

Brockett’s research and teaching have been recognized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), and the American Automatic Control Council. His 1970 textbook on linear systems has recently been reprinted in the SIAM Classic Series.

Established in 1979, the Quazza medal is named in honor of Giorgio Quazza, a leading Italian electrical and control engineer who served as vice chairman and chairman of the IFAC technical committees. The IFAC, which was founded in 1957, is a multinational federation concerned with automatic control and its representation in the fields of engineering and science, and the impact of control technology on society.

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