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On pattern, categories, and alternate realities - page 2 / 14





2 / 14

Volume 14, Number 3


March 1993

Society's pattern recognition committee in Puerto Rico in October, 1966. King-Sun, Azriel Rosenfeld, Herb Freeman, Dick Duda, Tom Cover, Bernie Widrow, Leonard Uhr, Russell Kirsch, George Nagy, C.K. Chow, Marvin Minsky, Seymour Papert, Bela Julesz and many others who have become well known in the field were at that workshop (1968). It was through the IEEE activities I came to appreciate that King-Sun was not only very good at getting things done but was a generous spirit who liked to include a broad spectrum of people and research approaches in the activities that he helped organize.

About a decade after I first met him, a little more than twenty years ago now, King-Sun, Herb Freeman, Azriel Rosenfeld, I, and a few others met at a place in Virginia-I think it was the Airlie House, and talked about organizing the first International Joint Conference on Pattern Recognition (IJCPR). As I recall, Herb Freeman nominated me to head the organizing group and King-Sun seconded the nomination. At that time I made a most important contribution to the subsequent success of IJCPR and its successor organization, IAPR. I declined the nomination and nominated King-Sun. In the years that followed, his energy, dedication, sponsorship, and support made IAPR, the IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, and many other pattern recognition activities flourish. A word to describe such a champion of the field is patron.


It is interesting to note that the English word pattern derives from the old French word patron and one of the first usages of pattern was to denote a person or a thing so ideal as to be worthy of imitation or copying, i.e., a model. We find this usage quite frequently in 19th century English, as in Robert Browning's poem "The Lost Leader", when he says:

"We ... Made him our pattern to live and to die!"

Earlier, it appears in Shakespeare's King Lear. Of course Shakespeare, being the master that he was, could be expected to use the word in several interesting ways. In some books on pattern recognition I have read statements to the effect that the use of pattern as an example or sample representing a class, type, or concept, is a modern usage. But in Henry VIth Shakespeare wrote:

"For what is wedlock forced, but a hell An age of discord and continual strife Whereas the contrary bringeth bliss And is a pattern of celestial peace."

In Othello, the example is more complex. Under the light of a flaming torch, gazing at the sleeping Desdemona whom he is contemplating killing, Othello says:

"Put out the light, and then put out the light: If I quench thee, thou flaming minister I can thy former light restore, Should I repent me; but once put out thy light, Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature, I know not where is that Promethean heat That can thy light relume."

Among 19th century English quotations on pattern I encountered the following which triggered thoughts leading to a connection with some current topics in pattern recognition.

"Take a mere beggar-woman, lazy, ragged, filthy, and not over scrupulous of truth-but if she be chaste, and sober and cheerful, and goes to her religious duties-she will in the eyes of the church, have a prospect of heaven, quite closed and refused to the state's pattern- man, the just, the upright, the generous, the honorable, the conscientious, if he be all this, not from supernatural power-but from mere natural virtue."

John Henry, Cardinal Newman, Lecture VIII of Lectures on Anglican Difficulties.


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