John McCarthy

In local papers yesterday, now in the NYT, an obit by John Markoff, which begins:

John McCarthy, 84, Dies; Computer Design Pioneer

John McCarthy, a computer scientist who helped design the foundation of today’s Internet-based computing and who is widely credited with coining the term for a frontier of research he helped pioneer, Artificial Intelligence, or A.I., died on Monday at his home in Stanford, Calif.

McCarthy was also the creator of the programming language LISP. Which is how I first came to know him — in a LISP course at MIT, in what must have been 1963. The course, which used the LISP 1.5 manual (1962) as text, was taught by a team, with Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert among the lecturers — plus McCarthy, who had by then already moved from MIT to Stanford, but came back for a bit to responsibilities at MIT.

A few decades later, he shared an office with me at CSLI (the Center for the Study of Language and Information), at least in principle. He had other offices at Stanford and had no particular reason to use this one. (The other occupants of the office, who did use it on occasion, were Annie Zaenen, Ed Zalta, and me, so, except for McCarthy, it was the CSLI Z Office.)


One Response to “John McCarthy”

  1. bfwebster Says:

    McCarthy, Minsky and Papert all as instructors of your class — hard to get more impressive than that. Kind of like taking a physics class taught by Feynman, Gell-Mann, and Gamow.

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