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UA engineering researcher dies

By Topper D. Johnson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 14, 1999

Engineering professor Sidney J. Yakowitz, who spent 33 years at the UA and was highly regarded in the science community for his research, died Sept. 1 of an unknown illness. He was 62.

Yakowitz was known throughout the world for his research on systems theory, numerical analysis, applied probability and financial engineering, said professor Ferenc Szidarovszky, his long-time friend and colleague.

Yakowitz was born March 8, 1937 in San Francisco. He received a bachelor's degree in engineering from Stanford University and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Arizona State University.

Yakowitz joined the Engineering Department at the UA in 1966.

He met Szidarovszky in 1973 when they both participated in an international research grant that included people from the United States and Hungary.

"He was the most honest person I've ever met," Szidarovszky said.

Ever since their first meeting, Yakowitz and Szidarovszky enjoyed working together. They wrote two books and more than 50 research papers together.

Szidarovszky said he will remember Yakowitz for their research on glaciers, one of their most significant papers.

Yakowitz and Szidarovszky became colleagues in 1988 when Szidarovszky joined the UA Engineering Department.

Even outside of their professional relationship, the two spent a lot of time together with their families.

Yakowitz was an intelligent person with a wide range of scientific interests, and he had tremendous knowledge of the fields in which he was working, Szidarovszky said.

"He read a lot and was like a living lexicon," Szidarovszky said. "If I needed some background or information about almost any problem in applied math, I could ask Sid and 99 percent of the time he could pick up a journal and show me a relevant article about the subject."

Yakowitz was on a trip to Seattle two weeks ago when he checked into an Oregon hospital and died of an unknown illness.

Yakowitz retired from the UA in May, but he planned to teach a course in the spring semester.

Before his death, Yakowitz was working on statistical research on epidemics and how they spread throughout a population.

His wife Diana said Yakowitz was dedicated to his research. He treated it like a hobby as well as a profession.

"He was a generous man - we'll miss him," Diana said.

Ron Askin, Systems and Industrial Engineering Department head, said Yakowitz played an important role in the department.

"Our department seminars were organized by Sid and it just won't seem the same without his presence in the front row," Askin said.

Yakowitz is survived by his mother, Mary Yakowitz of Tucson; wife, Diana Yakowitz; children, April Modica of West Hurley, N.Y., Taibele Karen Wesley of Sumiton, Ala., Jane Yakowitz of Tucson, Joel Yakowitz of Seattle; and two grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Yakowitz home in Tucson.

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