John McCarthy was an American computer scientist and cognitive scientist. He was one of the founders of the discipline of artificial intelligence. He co-authored the document that coined the term "artificial intelligence" (AI), developed the programming language family Lisp, significantly influenced the design of the language ALGOL, popularized time-sharing, and invented garbage collection.
McCarthy spent most of his career at Stanford University. He received many accolades and honors, such as the 1971 Turing Award for his contributions to the topic of AI, the United States National Medal of Science, and the Kyoto Prize.
John McCarthy was a pioneering computer scientist known for his significant contributions to the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Born on September 4, 1927, in Boston, Massachusetts, McCarthy displayed an early aptitude for mathematics and science. He pursued his education at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and later at Princeton University, where he completed his Ph.D. in mathematics in 1951.
One of McCarthy's most notable achievements was the coining of the term "artificial intelligence" in 1955. He organized the Dartmouth Conference in 1956, which is widely regarded as the birth of AI as an academic field. At this conference, McCarthy and his colleagues outlined the goals and potential of AI research. His visionary work laid the foundation for the development of AI as a distinct discipline.
McCarthy made significant contributions to AI research throughout his career. He developed the LISP programming language in the late 1950s, which became one of the most influential programming languages for AI applications. LISP was designed to facilitate symbolic reasoning and is still used in AI research and development today.
In addition to his work on LISP, McCarthy made pioneering contributions to various AI subfields, including natural language processing, machine learning, and robotics. He was a proponent of using formal logic as a basis for AI reasoning systems. His efforts in these areas helped shape the direction of AI research and inspired generations of computer scientists and AI researchers.
John McCarthy's contributions to computer science and artificial intelligence earned him numerous awards and accolades, including the A.M. Turing Award in 1971, one of the highest honors in the field of computer science. He continued to be an influential figure in the AI community until his passing on October 24, 2011, leaving behind a lasting legacy of innovation and visionary thinking in the field of artificial intelligence.
John McCarthy's published work encompasses a wide array of groundbreaking contributions to artificial intelligence and formal logic. In 1959, his paper "Programs with Common Sense" presented at the Teddington Conference on the Mechanization of Thought Processes laid the foundation for AI research by discussing the idea of endowing machines with common-sense reasoning capabilities. In 1960, his work on "Recursive functions of symbolic expressions and their computation by machine" introduced Lisp, a significant programming language for AI, and delved into symbolic computation. McCarthy's influence continued with his 1963 publication "A basis for a mathematical theory of computation," which explored the mathematical underpinnings of computation.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, McCarthy delved into philosophical questions related to artificial intelligence, collaborating with P. J. Hayes on "Some philosophical problems from the standpoint of artificial intelligence" and addressing epistemological challenges in AI. His work also extended into non-monotonic reasoning, introducing "Circumscription" in 1980 as a form of reasoning that allows exceptions to be made to general rules. McCarthy further expanded on this concept in 1986 with "Applications of circumscription to common sense reasoning." His exploration of context formalization in AI was evident in papers like "Notes on formalizing context" (1993) and "Formalizing context: Expanded notes" (1997). McCarthy's contributions to the development of the situation calculus and its application in modeling events and actions are evident in his 2002 paper "Actions and other events in situation calculus." These publications collectively demonstrate McCarthy's pioneering role in shaping the field of artificial intelligence and computational logic.
John McCarthy's vision in the field of artificial intelligence was characterized by his unwavering belief in the potential for machines to exhibit human-like intelligence. He envisioned a future where computers could reason, learn, and solve complex problems in a manner similar to human cognition. McCarthy aimed to create intelligent machines that could understand natural language, recognize patterns, and make decisions autonomously. His vision included the development of AI systems capable of not only mimicking human intelligence but also surpassing it in specific domains, ultimately enhancing human capabilities and quality of life.
Furthermore, McCarthy envisioned AI as a multidisciplinary field that would draw insights from various domains, including mathematics, logic, psychology, and computer science. He advocated for collaborative research and knowledge-sharing to advance AI, emphasizing the importance of creating a robust theoretical foundation for AI systems. McCarthy's vision extended beyond academia, as he sought practical applications for AI in fields such as healthcare, education, and problem-solving. His forward-thinking approach and dedication to the possibilities of AI have left a lasting legacy, shaping the direction of AI research and inspiring generations of scientists to continue pursuing his vision of intelligent machines.
Recognition and Awards
- John McCarthy (1927-2011): Artificial Intelligence (complete) | Thinking Allowed YouTube
- Professor John McCarthy | jmc.stanford.edu
- John McCarthy – A.M. Turing Award Laureate | amturing.acm.org
- Out of Their Minds: The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists | Springer
- Leading academic who coined the term 'artificial intelligence' | The Irish Times
- History of Computers and Computing, Birth of the modern computer, Software history, LISP of John McCarthy | history-computer.com
- A Biographical Memoir | National Academy of Sciences
- Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1968 witnessed by John McCarthy; Letter to Les Earnest dated Nov. 1, 1968 | Brags and Blunders of Lester Donald Earnest
- John McCarthy dies at 84; the father of artificial intelligence | Los Angeles Times
- On John McCarthy's 80th Birthday, in Honor of his Contributions | AI Magazine, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
- Arguing A.I.: The Battle for Twenty-first-Century Science | AtRandom
- A. M. Turing award: John McCarthy, United States – 1971 | ACM
- Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution | Gutenberg.org
- Thinking Machines: The Search for Artificial Intelligence | Distillations
- Profile of IFIP Working Group 2.1 | Foswiki
- Recursive functions of symbolic expressions and their computation by machine | Communications of the ACM
- Architects of the Information Society, Thirty-Five Years of the Laboratory for Computer Science at MIT | Cambridge: MIT Press
- Space Bridge Short | sci.space.tech
- Progress and its sustainability | formal.stanford.edu
- John McCarthy, 84, Dies; Computer Design Pioneer | The New York Times
- Tree of John McCarthy students for the Computer History Exhibits | infolab.Stanford.edu
- The Robot and the Baby | formal.stanford.edu
- The Death of TRUE Tech Innovators D. Ritchie & J. McCarthy – Yet the Death of Steve Jobs Overshadows All | WordsWithMeaning blog
- John McCarthy, 84, Dies; Computer Design Pioneer | The New York Times
- Biography of Carolyn Talcott | Stanford University
- Biographies of John McCarthy | Stanford University
- Stanford's John McCarthy, seminal figure of artificial intelligence, dies at 84 | Stanford University News
- Minds, brains, and programs | Behavioral and Brain Sciences
- President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details 1990 | National Science Foundation
- AI's Hall of Fame | IEEE Intelligent Systems
- Stanford School of Engineering names new engineering heroes | Stanford News