Lifetime Achievement Awards | 2017

Godfried Toussaint

New York University Abu Dhabi, McGill University

Godfried Toussaint

Professor Godfried Toussaint is the father of Canadian computational geometry and one of the pioneers of the field worldwide. It is largely as a result of his efforts that Canada plays such a leading role in the discipline. However, his interests are wide-ranging and he has initiated many other entirely new directions of multidisciplinary research. His most impressive successes in this regard are his recent contributions in music theory and ethno-musicology.

Professor Toussaint joined McGill’s school of computer science in 1972, one year after its creation, and remained a faculty member in the school until 2007 when he retired. He is currently a Professor Emeritus at the school, a Research Associate at the MIT Computer Science Department, and McGill’s Schulich School of Music, and a Professor at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Professor Toussaint has (co)written over 400 publications with over 1000 collaborators, and has given over 300 invited presentations. He solved many fundamental and foundational questions in Computational Geometry: he presented the first optimal algorithm to compute the diameter of a point set, he developed a tool called Rotating Calipers and used it to solve a host of geometric problems, he showed how to efficiently triangulate a simple polygon or a set of points. The list goes on and on.

His ability to communicate his ideas to researchers in diverse fields is demonstrated by his recently published book The Geometry of Musical Rhythm: What Makes a “Good” Rhythm Good? This book proposes a new way to analyze musical rhythms using geometry and shows how useful this approach can be in many domains of musicology in the broadest sense. The book was selected for inclusion in Princeton University Press’ fifth anthology of the best writing on mathematics. It is also used as a textbook in music courses in several universities, including Professor Kofi Agawu’s music theory class at Princeton University.

Professor Toussaint has had sixteen Ph.D. students, eight of whom hold tenured faculty positions at universities in Canada. In 2001 McGill awarded him the David Thomson Award for excellence in Graduation Teaching and Supervision.

Professor Toussaint was a cofounder of the two main computational geometry conferences, both held annually: The ACM Symposium on Computational Geometry and The Canadian Conference on Computational Geometry. He has been the editor of the leading international scholarly journals in his fields including the IEEE Transactions of Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, the IEEE Transactions on Information Theory, the Pattern Recognition journal, the Discrete and Computational Geometry journal, the journal of Computational Geometry: Theory and Applications, and the journal of Computational Geometry and Applications.

Close to his heart is the Annual Bellairs Workshop on Computational Geometry, which he founded in 1986. It is held at the Bellairs Research Institute of McGill University in Barbados, West Indies. A select group of up to forty invited researchers work together on open problems for one week. These workshops in Computational Geometry garnered an international reputation for being among the best collaborative research workshops in the world, and have spawned similar workshops in several other countries including Japan and Spain.

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