Pearl studied at the Technion (Bachelor in Electrical Engineering 1960), at Newark College of Engineering ( master's degree, 1961), at Rutgers University ( master's degree, 1965) and at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, where he became in 1965 a doctorate in electrical engineering. While still a student he was 1960/61, Research Engineer at the Medical School of New York University and from 1961 to 1965 as an engineer at the RCA Research Laboratories, the Outstanding Achievement Award he received in 1963. 1966 to 1969 he was Director of Advanced Memory Devices at Electronic Memories, Inc. in California. From 1969 he was assistant professor and in 1976 professor at the Cognitive Systems Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles ( UCLA). Since 1978 he was a Principal Investigator at the Cognitive Systems Lab at UCLA and currently its director.
1973 to 1983 he was a consultant to the RAND Corporation, 1976-1979 Consultant of Perceptronics Inc., from 1986 to 1988 at Hughes Aircraft and 1974-1976 Advisor to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
He is a Fellow of the IEEE and the American Association of Artificial Intelligence and the National Academy of Engineering.
Pearl is one of the pioneers of Bayesian networks and the stochastic access to artificial intelligence. He is concerned with causal models in the empirical sciences. For its mathematical specification of the causality concept with applications for example in social science, cognitive science and medicine, he received the 2001 Lakatos Prize for Philosophy of Science.
In 2011 he received the Rumelhart Prize, the Harvey Prize and the Turing Award, the highest award in computer science. In 2007 he became an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto.
He is the father of the murdered journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan.
- Heuristics, Addison -Wesley, 1984
- Probabilistic Reasoning in Intelligent Systems, Morgan Kaufmann, 1988
- Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference, Cambridge University Press, 2000, website for the book
- I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl, Jewish Lights, 2004.