"Don Vito" Di Gesù was often joking on his heaven connection. This time, despite a last joke about working a miracle the Monday before, he left us a few days later.
Vito has been our traveling companion, and a friendly figure of the whole scientific community in Pattern Recognition, for thirty years. We met him first at the time he was evolving from his primary interest in astrophysics, a field he always kept relations with, towards data analysis and further computer architecture concerns. With his characteristic sleight of mind and never inhibited curiosity, he was bringing us the rigor of fundamental physics and novel ideas or lighting.
But curiously enough that is not the recall we have in mind of these times. From the start, a major contribution of his was his incredibly optimistic manner of taking life, of mixing its many facets. We soon got to know his families, the civil one and the academic one. Vito was treating his students like colleagues and, we ought the truth to say, some colleagues – the one who deserved it, of course – like students.
One story among so many: Vito comes to Pavia for a national project meeting. Let us precise that he was the spitting image of Fabio Mussi, the Italian Minister of the University at that time, a fellow from Tuscany. After a full morning of intensive work, we soon agreed on a gag. Coming from the dean’s office, Vito-the-Minister meets a first colleague who is duly introduced and, under surprise, begins right away an obsequious long and inaccurate speech briefly answered by "the Minister" in a quasi-Tuscan parlance. Comes a second professor who submits a formal legalistic request which Vito-the-Minister, in a fluent Tuscan fashion, swears to pay attention to very soon. About to come back to the meeting and waiting for a late member, each of us stands at a different corner of the square: a third beggar asks after the Minister: "He is the watchman in that corner, Fabioooooo !". Vito who is now fully in his political character, runs fast to join and starts a long electoral argument with a genuine Tuscan accent!
Indeed, Vito had this unique way of approaching questions, however it was, with affability and never taking himself seriously. Over thirty years, we surely drank quite a lot together and with many respected characters in our community, we ate quite significantly, too, hunting for good small restaurants over the world. Many of our generation remember passionate discussions about politics, cinema or music, religion, or human stupidity. Some of us keep in mind hilarious, after-meal parodies of Italian opera. A happy few know how well he played several instruments, such as the violin or the guitar, and how enjoyable was a working session with him.
Of course in thirty years we worked a lot, too. From the first interests in Computer Architecture as Pyramids, shared by a few teams over Europe, to our recent little theory on Symmetry, passing through his extensive research achievements on intelligent clustering, Vito was a hard worker always ready for new techniques or cross fertilization between various disciplines. He is certainly at the origin of a rapprochement between the fields of soft computing and artificial vision, not only doing research by himself in Fuzzy Clustering or Genetic Algorithms, but also participating actively to the success of the WILF conference. His interest in Parallel programming and efficient implementations of machine vision, more recently on heterogeneous systems, never faded. Here again he contributed significantly to spread results through conferences like the CAMP(s) workshops as a supportive participant and organizer. As for applications, on top of his maintained interest in Astronomy and Astrophysics to which he was applying his research on Data Mining and Information Fusion, we can cite Remote Sensing and, among other medical contributions, diagnosis, e.g. from tomography image analysis. These last years, inspired by his new interest in Quantum Computing, Vito was campaigning actively for Interdisciplinary Science, a concept he had practiced over years. For instance, his contribution to our series of workshops on Human-Machine Perception had been decisive. He first organized a meeting to prove the existence: that was the very successful Workshop on Data Analysis in Astronomy (Erice, April 2007) where surprisingly enough Cosmology got to connect with Bioinformatics in view of cross fertilization. Then he devoted quite some energy to gather a dozen concerned colleagues from over the world into the ICIS consortium and to actually foster the idea up to a concrete activity.
Professor Di Gesù was very anxious about spreading knowledge over the scientific community and especially to the young researchers. He co-edited more than two dozen books and organized a dozen conferences, not to forget about sixty conferences where he served as a committee member. On top of event organizations and committee memberships, he took his fair share of Presidencies and Project leadership roles. Former President of GIRPR (the IAPR Italian Society), he was initiating since 1986 its TC13 on PR in Astronomy and Astrophysics. He was responsible of several projects for the Italian Ministry of Scientific Research and the Italian Space Agency, and was also the national coordinator and member of Governing Boards of several European projects. More locally, he was the Director of the session on Systems and Man-Machine interaction of the CINI - Italian Interuniversity Consortium in Informatics – and a member of its Governing Board. He took responsibility for the consortium COMETA and for the SOCRATES/ERASMUS on Informatics.
There is no surprise that he received the IAPR fellowship at the very first assignment in 1994 and the Mahalanobis prize the same year.
Vito was like this rock in the bay of Palermo that was supporting another favorite joke of ours. We allegedly planned to buy it for half price, because it was underwater half the year long. It was never for sale, but it virtually hosted various dreamlike constructions with the ultimate cybernetic and communication technology. The more secret and often hidden part of his character was the more solid and a foundation for our group. Sadly, unlike the rock, Vito will not emerge this spring.
By Virginio Cantoni (Italy), Domenico Tegolo (Italy), and Bertrand Zavidovique (France)
A Pleasant Traveling Companion
and Tireless Worker
Has Left Us
Vito Di Gesù
25 March 1945 Torino, Italy—15 March 2009 Palermo, Italy
Full Professor in Computer Science, University of Palermo
Researcher in Image and Data Analysis, Statistical Pattern Recognition, Parallel Architecture for Image Processing, Quantum Information.
Applications to Biomedical Images, Astronomical Data, Bioinformatics, Remote Sensing
IAPR Fellow in 1994
Mahalanobis Prize in 1994
President of GIRPR from 1990 to 1994
Initiator and Chair of IAPR - TC 13 from 1986