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In Memoriam: Morton Nadler, Professor

Morton Nadler

Morton Nadler

Morton Nadler, a retired professor of electrical engineering, died November 13, 2013. He was 92 years old.

Nadler was born June 23, 1921 in Brooklyn, New York. He earned his B.S. in psychology and math from the City College of New York in 1945 and his M.S. in electrical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1949. He received the degree of Candidate of Physico-Mathematical Sciences in 1958 from the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences.

A pioneer in the field of pattern recognition, Nadler specialized in optical character recognition (OCR). He served as OCR Product Line Engineering Manager for the French computer company Bull from 1960-1972 and was a scientific adviser for INRIA, a French computational sciences research institute, from 1976-1983.

Nadler founded North American Digital Logic Inc. in 1985. The company was later renamed Topologic Systems Corporation and eventually acquired by Image Processing Technologies (IPT). IPT's product line included the AutoOptimizer, a scanner peripheral used to improve the image quality of damaged documents and preprocess text for OCR. The company also developed a multilingual OCR system for the CIA.

Nadler served on the Virginia Tech faculty from 1984-1991. His research with ECE focused on developing digital devices to aid people with vision and hearing difficulties, including reading machines and systems for sign language communication via telephone. ECE faculty members fondly recall Nadler's trademark: "Oh pshaw."

Nadler authored about 200 publications, including 40 patents. He wrote one of the earliest publications on associative memory in 1960 and coauthored the textbook Pattern Recognition Engineering in 1993. Version 14 of his book Topics in Engineering Logic was published in February 2013.

Nadler is remembered in the community for his brilliance and his determination to match his actions to his beliefs. An advocate for social justice and recognition of the Palestinian state, he had aligned himself with the Communist party and emigrated to Czechoslovokia in 1948. He lived there for 11 years before renouncing the party and eventually returning to the United States.

Nadler "had the courage to say, 'I was wrong,'" said his friend George Lally in a eulogy delivered at Nadler's memorial service. "He was outspoken, curmudgeonly, irreverent. He did not suffer fools gladly. He was intellectually brilliant, a lover of books and ideas, and inquisitive until the day he died."