Clear glass award on blue background

I have been honored and humbled to have receive several important awards for my work. I am proud to present them here because they recognize my efforts, throughout my career, to balance teaching and research in computer science and mathematics and to disseminate knowledge widely through books and web content.

Winning such a prize requires careful consideration by many people. First, someone has to take responsibility for the nomination, which involves gathering detailed information, making a case, and identifying people who might write letters of support. Second, several people have to write thoughtful and thorough recommendation letters—having prepared many such letters myself, I know the amount of effort involved. Third, a committee has to study all the nominations and choose a prizewinner. Again, this is a difficult and time-consuming task. I am extremely grateful to all the people who did this work on my behalf.

Yes, these are personal honors, but I hope that reading about them might also serve to inspire others to strive for excellence in their work.

Phi Beta Kappa Award

The Princeton University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa gave its 2013 awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching to … Robert Sedgewick, the William O. Baker *39 Professor in Computer Science; and Kevin Wayne, the Phillip Y. Goldman ’86 Senior Lecturer in Computer Science.

The awards were presented at the Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony held in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall, prior to the graduating seniors’ Class Day ceremony.

Princeton students elected to the academic honor society have selected recipients of the teaching prize annually since 2004. The students define the criteria for excellence in teaching as skill in instruction, commitment to working with and building relationships with undergraduates, and ability to spark students’ intellectual interests.

Citation

Sedgewick and Wayne are recognized for their courses on algorithms and introductory computer science, which are based on their textbooks. “Computer science is the field of the future, and their positive influence to the scientists and professionals of tomorrow is undeniable,” seniors Max Rabinovich and Ilias Giechaskiel wrote in their commendation. The students added, “Their hard work has paved the way for countless students to go from not knowing the first thing about computer science to being able to apply it and even making it the centerpiece of fulfilling professional lives — an achievement that embodies some of the highest ideals of education.”

In 2012-2013, Sedgewick and Wayne also taught their classes online to a total of 250,000 students around the world as part of the University’s participation in the educational website Coursera.

Sedgewick served as founding chair of the Department of Computer Science from 1985 to 1994, and became an Association for Computing Machinery fellow in 1997 for his seminal work in the mathematical analysis of algorithms and pioneering research in algorithm animation. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Reprinted with minor edits and additional photos from the Princeton Weekly Bulletin, May 30, 2013

Flajolet Lecture Prize

The Analysis of Algorithms (AofA) community awarded its 2016 Flajolet Lecture Prize to Robert Sedgewick of Princeton University. The prize included an invitation to deliver the opening lecture at the 2016 AofA conference in Krakow, Poland. In Sedgewick’s lecture, entitled Cardinality Estimation, he surveyed a foundational problem in data science first addressed by Flajolet in 1983. Flajolet’s HyperLogLog algorithm, developed with several coauthors in a series of papers in the 2000s, is still the method of choice in the industry today.

The Flajolet Prize

The prize is named in honor and recognition of the extraordinary accomplishments of the late Philippe Flajolet, who spent most of his scientific life at INRIA, France. Philippe is best known for fundamental advances in mathematical methods for the analysis of algorithms. His research laid the foundation of a subfield of mathematics, now known as analytic combinatorics. Analytic combinatorics is a modern basis for the quantitative study of combinatorial structures (such as words, trees, mappings, and graphs), with applications to the probabilistic study of algorithms that are based on these structures. It also strongly influences research in other scientific domains, such as statistical physics, computational biology, and information theory. Flajolet’s work takes the field forward by introducing original approaches in combinatorics based on two types of methods: symbolic and analytic. The symbolic side is based on the automation of decision procedures in combinatorial enumeration to derive characterizations of generating functions. The analytic side treats those functions as functions in the complex plane and leads to precise characterization of limit distributions. Beyond these foundational contributions, Philippe’s research opened new avenues in various domains of applied computer science, including streaming algorithms, communication protocols, database access methods, data mining, symbolic manipulation, text-processing algorithms, and random generation.

In selecting the Flajolet-Prize winner, the Committee pays particular attention to a sustained record of high-impact, seminal contributions to the research areas most directly impacted by the work of Flajolet: the foundations of analysis of algorithms and/or analytic combinatorics. The selection may also be based partly on educational accomplishments and contributions such as fundamental textbooks and high-quality students.

Winners of the Flajolet Prize

2014 Donald E. Knuth
2016 Robert Sedgewick
2018 Luc Devroye
2020 Wojciech Szpankowski
2022 Svante Janson

Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition

The American Mathematical Society’s 2019 Leroy P. Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition was awarded to Philippe Flajolet (posthumously) of INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique) and Robert Sedgewick of Princeton University for their book Analytic Combinatorics, an authoritative and highly accessible compendium of its subject, which demonstrates the deep interface between combinatorial mathematics and classical analysis. The 2019 prize was awarded on January 17, 2019 at the 2019 Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore.

Citation

The book is a rare work, one that defines the relatively young subject in its title, and mixes equal parts of complex analysis and combinatorial structure. The authors have combined their extraordinary analytical and expository skills to organize the entire subject into a well-developed and fascinating story. Its publication in 2009 was a major event, and as a result, analytic combinatorics is now a thriving sub-discipline of mathematics, as well as a key component of the analysis of algorithms.

The book magically summarizes a vast amount of information. It identifies and expounds key techniques that have never been explained so well before, while consistently paying proper attention to the historical context.

Biographical sketch of Philippe Flajolet (1948-2011)

Philippe Flajolet was an extraordinary French mathematician and computer scientist. He received several prizes, including the Grand Science Prize of UAP (1986), the Computer Science Prize of the French Academy of Sciences (1994), and the Silver Medal of CNRS (2004). Flajolet was elected a Corresponding Member (Junior Fellow) of the French Academy of Sciences in 1994, a Member of the Academia Europaea in 1995, and a Member (Fellow) of the French Academy of Sciences in 2003. He was made a knight of the Légion d’Honneur in 2010.

His extensive and far-reaching research in mathematics and computer science spanned formal languages, computer algebra, combinatorics, number theory, and analysis, all oriented towards the study of algorithms and discrete structures. His research contributions will have impact for generations. Flajolet’s approach to research, based on endless curiosity, discriminating taste, deep knowledge, relentless computational experimentation, broad interest, intellectual integrity, and genuine camaraderie, will serve as an inspiration to those who knew him for years to come.

Biographical sketch of Robert Sedgewick

Robert Sedgewick is the William O. Baker Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Princeton University. He served for 26 years as a member of the board of directors of Adobe Systems and has held visiting research positions at Xerox PARC, IDA, INRIA, and Bell Laboratories.

Sedgewick is the author of 20 books. He is best known for Algorithms, which has been a best-selling textbook since the early 1980s and is now in its fourth edition. His other current textbooks include An Introduction to the Analysis of Algorithms and Analytic Combinatorics (both with Philippe Flajolet), and Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach (with Kevin Wayne).

In recent years, Sedgewick has been a pioneer in developing modern approaches to disseminating knowledge, from introductory to graduate levels. He has developed six massive open online courses (MOOCs) and published extensive online content on analysis of algorithms and analytic combinatorics and, with Kevin Wayne, algorithms and computer science. These materials have made it possible and convenient for millions of people around the world to teach and learn these subjects, particularly in regions where access to higher education is difficult.

Response of Robert Sedgewick

This award is thrilling and humbling for me, but also bittersweet, because Philippe is not here to share it. But all of us who were at our event in Paris on the occasion of his 60th birthday vividly remember his excitement when we presented him with the first printed copy of Analytic Combinatorics. I keep the look on his face at that moment fresh in my mind, and know that the same look would grace us now.

Philippe and I (and many others) were students of the work of Don Knuth in the 1970s, and inspired by the idea that it was possible to develop precise information about the performance of computer programs through classical analysis. When we first began working together in 1980, our goal was just to organize models and methods that we could use to teach our students what they needed to know. As we traveled between Paris and Princeton, producing conference papers, journal articles, and INRIA research reports, we began to understand that something more general was at work, and Analytic Combinatorics began to emerge. It is particularly gratifying to see citations of the book by researchers in physics, chemistry, genomics, and many other fields of science, not just mathematicians and computer scientists.

I am particularly heartened by the statement in the citation that any mathematician could use our book to teach an undergraduate course on the subject. Having the broadest possible reach was indeed our hope when, with the support of our editor, we provided free online access to the book. For the past several years, I have been working hard to apply 21st-century tools to develop a unique resource for teaching this material. Anyone can now teach and learn analytic combinatorics using the studio-produced lecture videos, new problems with solutions, and other online content found at http://ac.cs.princeton.edu. Philippe, who always embraced technology, would be particularly pleased with the idea that it now makes analytic combinatorics accessible to large numbers of people around the world.

Reprinted with minor edits and additional photos from the Notices of the AMS, Volume 66, number 4, April 2019

Winners of the Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition

2022 Aise Johan de Jong
2021 Noga Alon and Joel H. Spencer
2020 Martin R. Bridson and André Haefliger
2020 Martin R. Bridson and André Haefliger
2019 Philippe Flajolet and Robert Sedgewick
2018 Martin Aigner and Günter M. Ziegler
2017 Dusa McDuff and Dietmar Salamon
2016 David A. Cox, John Little, and Donal O’Shea
2015 Robert Lazarsfeld
2014 Yuri Burago, Dmitri Burago, and Sergei Ivanov
2013 John Guckenheimer and Philip Holmes
2012 Michael Aschbacher, Richard Lyons, Steve Smith, and Ronald Solomon
2011 Henryk Iwaniec
2010 David Eisenbud
2009 I.G. Macdonald
2008 Neil Trudinger
2007 David Mumford
2006 Lars Hörmander
2005 Branko Grünbaum
2004 John Milnor
2003 John B. Garnett
2002 Yitzhak Katznelson
2001 Richard P. Stanley
2000 John H. Conway
1999 Serge Lang
1998 Joseph H. Silverman
1997 Anthony W. Knapp
1996 Bruce Berndt
1996 William Fulton
1995 Jean-Pierre Serre
1994 Ingrid Daubechies
1993 Walter Rudin

Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award

The Association of Computing Machinery’s 2018 Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award was awarded to Robert Sedgewick for developing classic textbooks and online materials for the study of algorithms, analytic combinatorics, and introductory computer science that have educated generations of students worldwide. The prize was awarded on June 15, 2019 at the ACM banquet in San Francisco. The ceremony featured a video highlighting Sedgewick’s contributions.

Citation

For developing classic textbooks and online materials for the study of algorithms, analytic combinatorics, and introductory computer science that have educated generations of students worldwide.

Robert Sedgewick, a Professor and the founding chair of the Department of Computer Science at Princeton University, is known throughout the world for his series of Algorithms textbooks that have been best sellers for four decades (12 books in four editions and five programming languages). The books develop a scientific approach to the study of algorithms, based on experiments with real code to validate hypotheses about performance based on mathematical analysis. Copies of Algorithms have been found on programmers’ desks since the 1980s and code from these books is found throughout our computational infrastructure.

His books span all levels of computer science education. His recent book (with Kevin Wayne) Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach is a comprehensive introduction to the field that can stand alongside classic introductory texts in physics, chemistry, economics and other disciplines. It was named by ACM Computing Reviews as a “Best of Computing Notable Book” for 2017. His book Analytic Combinatorics (with Philippe Flajolet) is an advanced graduate text that defines the field and has been recognized with the 2019 Leroy P. Steele Prize for Mathematical Exposition, and their book Analysis of Algorithms is an advanced upper-division text that prepares students for advanced study in the field, including in-depth appreciation of Knuth’s books.

More recently, Sedgewick has been extremely active as a pioneer and innovator in online education. With Kevin Wayne, he has developed extensive and innovative online content associated with his books that attracts millions of visits per year. Sedgewick has also recorded over 100 hours of online lectures on programming, introduction to computer science, analysis of algorithms, and analytic combinatorics that reach hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year. The Sedgewick-Wayne Algorithms course has been listed as one of the top ten MOOCs of all time.

Prof. Sedgewick’s impact on computer science education places him among the very best in the field.

Winners of the Karl V. Karlstrom Award

2020 Andrew McGettrick
2019 Mordechai Ben-Ari 2019 Mordechai Ben-Ari
2018 Robert Sedgewick
2017 Judith Gal-Ezer
2016 Owen Astrachan
2015 Armando Fox
2014 William Wulf
2013 Susan Rodger
2012 Eric Roberts
2011 Hal Abelson
2010 Barbara Ericson
2010 Mark Guzdial
2009 Matthias Felleisen
2008 John Hopcroft
2007 Randy Pausch
2005 Stuart Russell
2003 Sartaj Sahni
2002 John Gorgone
2001 Nell Dale
2000 Yale Patt
1999 Randy Katz
1998 Abraham Silberschatz
1997 Jeffrey Ullman
1996 Peter Denning
1995 David Gries
1994 Andrew Tanenbaum
1993 Andries van Dam
1992 David Harel
1991 David Patterson
1990 Gerald Sussman
1989 C. L. Liu

Reprinted with minor edits and added photos from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) website.