Skip to main content

Duke Flags Lowered: Professor Emeritus Paul Wang, Pioneer in Artificial Intelligence, Dies

Paul Wang
Paul Wang served on the Duke faculty for four decades.

Paul Wang, a professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering and an early pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, passed away last week.

Wang served on the Duke faculty for nearly four decades. A native of Fujian Province, China and Taiwan, he earned his BS in electrical engineering from National Taiwan University and an MS in electrical engineering from the University of New Brunswick (Canada) before completing a PhD from Ohio State University in 1965. He served at Bell Laboratories in Communications Systems Research and Modern Control Theory before joining the Duke ECE faculty in 1968. 

 He was a prolific and renowned researcher and author in the areas of pattern recognition, image processing, fuzzy logic, mathematics of uncertainty and intelligent machines. A dedicated teacher, he mentored generations of undergraduate and graduate students in ECE.  Wang also consulted on diverse specialties including advanced fighter planes, naval ship navigation, energy, and highly reliable systems for Duke University Medical Center, Emerson Electric, Grumman and LORD Corporation, amongst others. He was a board member and adviser to ECE-related companies, as well as an ASEE-NASA Fellow at Langley Space Research Center. 

Wang maintained close ties to the ECE department and Duke University following his retirement in 2005, visiting often to talk with faculty and staff, and traveling extensively to inspire universities around the world to enhance their ECE programs. As professor emeritus, he also remained active in the scientific community, serving as editor of numerous journals, including special issues for the Elsevier journal Information Sciences and managing editor of the journal New Mathematics and Natural Computation.

Wang was a kind and generous colleague who will be greatly missed by his many friends in ECE. He will be remembered for his wonderful zest for life—his curiosity about all things, his devotion to his family, and his great passion for history, reading, music, the arts, learning, and education.  In 2009, Perkins Library exhibited "Chinese Paintings from the Kingdom of Min" from Dr. and Mrs. Wang's personal collection. A permanent collection of Dr. and Mrs. Wang's academic and literary donations is housed at Jimei University in Xiamen, China.  

He is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, Julia Wang, as well as by son Samuel Wang T’86 P’24 (Barbara), grandson Samuel James Wang E'24 and granddaughter Lucia Wang; son George Wang, grandson Carter Wang, and granddaughter Leah Wang. 

The Duke University flags are being lowered February 1 in memory of Dr. Wang; plans for a memorial service and celebration of his life are forthcoming. The family is establishing a fund in his honor to benefit future Duke Engineering students, which will be announced soon.