Obituary for Maurice Nivat

A terrible loss for the theoretical computer science Community

Maurice Nivat, professor of theoretical computer science at the University of Paris VII 'Denis Diderot', left us on September 21 at the age of 79 after fiercely fighting for more than one year against a terrible illness. The role of Maurice in our field has been overwhelming. First of all he has been a great scientist who contributed fundamental research work in a variety of fields ranging from formal languages and automata theory to semantics and, more recently, to tilings and discrete geometry. His rigorous and deep algebraic approach, inherited from his mentor Marcel-Paul Schutzenberger, has permeated for long time the French school of theory of computing. In his academic activity he raised an incredible series of brilliant computer scientists who are now among the most prominent researchers in their domain.

But for computer scientists in Europe and worldwide, the role and the merits of Maurice go way beyond his scientific activity. In 1971 Maurice, started to undertake initiatives at European level, in cooperation with Alfonso Caracciolo, with the aim to gain an international recognition for a research domain that was moving its first steps: l'informatique théorique and to gather the European community of researchers in this field. In 1972 this effort successfully led to the foundation of the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science. To the Association Maurice devoted a lot of energy both as President (from 1972 to 1977) and first Bulletin editor and, more generally, as supporter and advisor. Again in 1972 Maurice intiated the ICALP series of conferences, organizing for the first time in Paris a conference on automata, languages and programming that is now one of the top world conferences in the field of theory of computing. In 1973 Maurice started another initiative that became, again, a success story: the series of Spring schools, known as 'Ecole de Printemps en Informatique Théorique', that are still going on and annually gather top world scientists. In 1975 the first issue of the journal Theoretical Computer Science was published by North Holland. The journal, that had been originally conceived as the journal of EATCS, thanks to the inexhaustible energy of Maurice and his farsighted view of the main relevant directions of computing theory, immediately became one of the most important journals in the field. Maurice remained Editor in Chief of the journal for 25 years, and brought it to the current level of excellence.

In 2002 the journal Theoretical Computer Science, with the support of the entire theory community, published a special issue devoted to the scientific achievements of Maurice Nivat with the title: Merci, Maurice: a mosaic in honour of Maurice Nivat (guest editor P. L. Curien, Theoretical Computer Science 281, ISSN 0304-3975). For those who read French, an interesting paper on Maurice Nivat is at https://interstices.info/jcms/c_32847/maurice-nivat-une-vision-a-long-terme-de-la-recherche-en-informatique

All friends and colleagues of Maurice that gather in the EATCS , the Association that he created 45 years ago wish to express their sorrow to his wife Paule and to his sons Dominique and Jean-Luc and to his daughter Catherine.

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