IEEE-CS Press Book Recounts Computer Scientists' Fight for Human Rights

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 11 June, 2012 – There is a difference between feeling empathy for those whose human rights are being violated and taking action to prevent it from happening. IEEE Computer Society Press' Scientific Freedom and Human Rights: Scientists of Conscience in the Cold War is a firsthand account of computer scientists' efforts to safeguard or advance the human rights of scientists around the world, including Soviet refuseniks.
This detailed memoir is written by Jack Minker, a University of Maryland computer science professor emeritus, vice chair of computer science for the Committee of Concerned Scientists, and past vice chair of the ACM Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights. The book recounts how scientists were subjected to harassment, imprisonment, loss of jobs, and breakup of their families when they sought to escape anti-Semitism and government control in their countries.
Drawing from the author's archives, Scientific Freedom and Human Rights is a treasure trove of historical information about a critical -- and relatively unsung -- human rights campaign, its successes and heartbreaking challenges, and possible lessons to be applied to future human rights campaigns.
"The solidarity of the global scientific community was especially important in giving moral support to the intellectual leaders of the struggle for Soviet Jewry, helping them to continue their scientific activity even in a time of persecution," said Natan Sharansky, an Israeli human rights activist and former refusenik and prisoner.
Minker's memoir details the scientific community's tireless efforts to assist and support colleagues seeking to leave the Soviet Union. Among them:
Alexander Lerner, the late cybernetics expert who was the first well-known scientist to apply for an exit visa and waited 18 years before it was finally granted;
Cybernetics expert Ovsei Gelman, who received an exit visa in 1975 and is now an investigator at the Center for Applied Research and Technology Development at Mexico's National Autonomous University;
Computer scientist Victor Brailovsky and his mathematician wife, Irina, leaders in the Moscow refusenik community; and
Sharansky and his wife, Avital, who were separated when Natan was sentenced to 13 years' detention in a Siberian labor camp.
"It is not very often that solidarity among scientists is brought to the public eye, and it is certainly not common for people outside science to associate scientists with heroic struggles for human rights, freedom, and dignity," said University of California at Los Angeles professor Judea Pearl. "Jack Minker's new book will change this perception."
Minker is a leading authority in artificial intelligence, deductive databases, logic programming, and nonmonotonic reasoning. He is also an internationally recognized leader in the field of scientific freedom and human rights and has worked in this field since 1972. Minker is the recipient of a 1985 ACM Outstanding Contribution Award, a 1996 University of Maryland President's Medal, a 2005 Allen Newell Award, and a 2011 Heinz R. Pagels Award from the New York Academy of Sciences: Human Rights Committee.
Scientific Freedom and Human Rights covers a troubling time in history, yet its lessons remain just as relevant today. The book is available through at and at major booksellers. For press information or interview requests, contact Margo McCall ( For more information on the Computer Society's books program, contact Kate Guillemette (

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