Judea Pearl was born in Tel Aviv, British Mandate for Palestine, in 1936 to Polish-immigrant parents and received a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Technion in 1960. In 1960 he emigrated to the United States. He received a master's degree in electrical engineering from Newark College of Engineering (now known as New Jersey Institute of Technology) in 1961. He then received a master's degree in physics from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the New York University Tandon School of Engineering (then Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn) in 1965. He worked at RCA Research Laboratories on superconductive parametric and storage devices and at Electronic Memories, Inc., on advanced memory systems. When semiconductors "wiped out" Pearl's work, as he later expressed it, he joined UCLA's School of Engineering in 1970 and started work on probabilistic artificial intelligence. He is one of the founding editors of the Journal of Causal Inference.
In 2002, his son, Daniel Pearl, a Journalist working for the Wall Street Journal was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan, leading Judea and the other members of the family and friends to create the Daniel Pearl Foundation. On the seventh anniversary of Daniel's death, Judea wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal titled Daniel Pearl and the Normalization of Evil: When will our luminaries stop making excuses for terror?.
Pearl is currently a professor of computer science and statistics and Director of the Cognitive Systems Laboratory at UCLA. He and his wife, Ruth, had three children. In addition, as of 2011, he is a member of the International Advisory Board of NGO Monitor.