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The Taub Faculty of Computer Science News and Announcements

Prof. Uzzi Ornan 1923-2022
Friday, November 4, 2022
Prof. Uzzi Ornan 1923-2022We are saddened by the passing of the late Prof. Uzzi Ornan, a member of CS faculty.

Uzzi Ornan served as a visiting professor at the faculty starting in 1987 and engaged in language research and natural language processing. He was a linguist and a member of the Hebrew Language Academy. He founded the "League for the Prevention of Religious Coercion" and worked for the separation of religion from the state in Israel.

Prof. Ornan's life is intertwined with the history of the country and the Hebrew language, science and computing as well as Israeli society. In his youth he was active in the Etzel underground and was exiled to detention camps in Eritrea, Sudan and Kenya where he taught Hebrew grammar. Later he published the textbook "Oral and Ear Grammar - a textbook for Hebrew speakers". Lecturer and Professor of Hebrew In 1987, Ornan joined as a visiting professor in the Faculty of Computer Science at the Technion and began leading the Laboratory for Natural Language Processing.

In these years, personal computers became a common product in every home and computational linguistics and natural language processing developed into active research fields in academia and industry and became an arena for collaboration.

Prof. Ornan's research focused on the development of the phonemic script - a Hebrew script written in Latin letters which he developed out of a deep understanding of the morphology and phonetics of the Hebrew language. Ornan developed a software that helped in the morphological analysis of words written in the phonemic script, converting texts from phonemic script to regular script and vice versa while understanding the context and meaning of the text. In this way, it will be possible to analyze a Hebrew text by converting it into phonemic spelling, and analyzing it in this script. His years at the faculty were characterized by extensive work - he mentored 14 graduate students - the last of whom he mentored when he was 84 years old.

"Uzzi, it has to be said, is a man of contrasts... He is a quicklime pit that doesn't lose a drop and is also like a spring that grows stronger. He is firm in his opinions but will never impose them on anyone. He is strong and gentle, a scientist and a revolutionary, a thinker and a poet. He is not, how to say, big person in body or thick in flesh, but he is definitely one of the giants of the generation before us, of whom there are few like him - too few."

From the words of Prof. Irad Yavneh on the occasion of the publication of Uzzi Ornan's book, in 2016.

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