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Laudatio uitgesproken door prof. dr. Rik Pintelon

LAUDATIO Prof. dr. Michel Gevers
Proximus: Prof. dr. Rik Pintelon

Michel Gevers was born in Antwerp, Belgium, on June 29, 1945. He obtained his engineering degree from the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) in 1968.

After one year of research at the microelectronics labs of the UCL, he went to Stanford University (California) with a Harkness Fellowship, and in 1972, under the supervision of T. Kailath, he obtained his Phd degree in the field of stochastic realization theory. In 1972 he came back to the UCL, where he founded the Automatic Control department in 1976. From 1983 to 1986 he worked as a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian National University. In 1986 he came back to the UCL and under his influence the control department became an internationally recognized center of excellence, which attracts many international visitors.

Michel Gevers did pioneering work in the general area of system theory, estimation and control. His publications (2 books, 9 chapters in books, 65 journal papers, and 117 conference papers) have been cited more than 1000 times, which indicates the quite exceptional impact of his work on the control community. The fact that his work was carried out with more than 70 co-authors from 28 different institutions illustrates very nicely Michel’s open and many-sided mind. Michel’s scientific achievements are remarkable not only because of the depth of importance and the wide variety of his contributions but also because of the influence he had upon the direction taken by the control community in formulating fundamental questions. A good example of this is the new understanding he has developed throughout the nineties of the interplay between system identification and robust control design, which has led to the now widely accepted concept of identification for control. Although Michel Gevers’ research activities have been focussed on fundamental advances, they often have been inspired by practical problems in industrial process control, in hydrology, in the biomedical area, and in traffic control. Conversely, his theoretical contributions to iterative control design have been put into practice after an uncommonly short period of time by major companies such as Solvay (Belgium), Philips (The Netherlands) and CSR Sugar Mills (Australia).

Michel Gevers is recognized as an international leader in his field: in 1989 he became Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE); in 1997 he became a Distinguished Member of the IEEE Control Systems Society; and presently he is one of the twenty or so Distinguished Lecturers of that Society. Michel has served the scientific community in numerous ways: through numerous International Programme Committees and scientific boards of research laboratories; through the evaluation of research teams and grant applications in Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United States; through the evaluation of between 50 and 100 research papers each and every year; as a reviewer or Associate Editor of the top journals in systems and control; through numerous postgraduate courses, workshops and summer schools, and through service to the IEEE Control Systems Society as a member of the Board of Governors and as Vice-President. By the quality of his own research, and by promoting excellence in his environment, Michel created a Belgian Research Network in Systems and Control which has established Belgium as a leading country in the domain.

Besides being a great scientist, Michel is also a great guy with an open mind and a specially developed sense of humor, and in all his activities humankind plays a central role. He rejects all prejudices. His opinions are always based on arguments with respect to content, even if the results and/or conclusions are in opposition to the mainstream. He is also very socially-minded: he never fails to encourage and to support promising young researchers all over the world, and as a Vice-President of the IEEE Automatic Control Society he has created conference grants for researchers of developing countries, covering lodging costs and inscription fees.

We are proud, for all these reasons, to confer the honorary doctorate degree to Michel Gevers.