Prof. Naftali (Tali) Tishby passed away at the age of 68 on August 10, 2021 in Jerusalem. Prof. Tishby was a founding member of the Hebrew University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation (ICNC), which later became The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC). In his work he investigated the interface between computer science, physics and biology, focusing on computational principles that govern information processing in both biological and artificial systems. Prof. Tishby was considered the father of machine learning in Israel. He was a pioneer in establishing the connections between mechanical statistics, machine learning, information theory and computational neuroscience, and was responsible for numerous theoretical and applied achievements in these fields.
Prof. Tishby was a professor of computer science at the Hebrew University and held the Ruth and Stan Flinkman Chair for Brain Research. He was a passionate teacher and mentor, supervising dozens of students and postdocs, and recently said that “nurturing a whole generation of brilliant scientists in machine learning and computational neuroscience is certainly my greatest achievement.” Indeed, his numerous trainees now hold key academic and industrial research positions all over the world.
Prof. Tishby was born in Jerusalem in 1952. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics at the Hebrew University and his master’s degree in astrophysics at Tel Aviv University, both as part of a special program offered to exceptional high school graduates by the Israel Defense Forces. He then earned a doctorate in theoretical physics from the Hebrew University. From 1985 to 1991, Prof. Tishby served as a research staff member at MIT and Bell Labs, and later held the position of visiting professor at the NEC Research Institute, the University of Pennsylvania, UCSB and IBM research.
Along with his passion for science, Prof. Tishby loved music and was an avid piano player. He was deeply interested in history, loved new technologies and argued in favor of physicalism. He was a true scholar and a close friend to many at ELSC.
Prof. Tishby’s passing is a great loss for ELSC, the Hebrew University and the scientific community at large.
Prof. Tishby left behind him a loving wife and four children.