John McCarthy (computer scientist)

John McCarthy
John McCarthy Stanford.jpg
John McCarthy at a conference in 2006
Born(1927-09-04)September 4, 1927
DiedOctober 24, 2011(2011-10-24) (aged 84)
Alma materPrinceton University, California Institute of Technology
Known forArtificial intelligence, Lisp, circumscription, situation calculus
AwardsTuring Award (1971)
Computer Pioneer Award (1985)
IJCAI Award for Research Excellence (1985)
Kyoto Prize (1988)
National Medal of Science (1990)
Benjamin Franklin Medal (2003)
Scientific career
FieldsComputer technology
InstitutionsStanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, Princeton University
Doctoral advisorSolomon Lefschetz
Doctoral studentsRuzena Bajcsy
Ramanathan V. Guha
Barbara Liskov
Raj Reddy

John McCarthy (September 4, 1927 – October 24, 2011) was an American computer scientist and cognitive scientist. McCarthy was one of the founders of the discipline of artificial intelligence.[1] He coined the term "artificial intelligence" (AI), developed the Lisp programming language family, significantly influenced the design of the ALGOL programming language, popularized timesharing, and was very influential in the early development of AI.

McCarthy spent most his career at Stanford University.[2] He received many accolades and honors, such as the 1971 Turing Award for his contributions to the topic of AI,[3] the United States National Medal of Science, and the Kyoto Prize.

Early life and education

John McCarthy was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 4, 1927, to an Irish immigrant father and a Lithuanian Jewish immigrant mother,[4] John Patrick and Ida Glatt McCarthy. The family was obliged to relocate frequently during the Great Depression, until McCarthy's father found work as an organizer for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers in Los Angeles, California. His father came from the fishing village of Cromane in County Kerry, Ireland.[5] His mother died in 1957.[6]

McCarthy was exceptionally intelligent, and graduated from Belmont High School two years early.[7] McCarthy was accepted into Caltech in 1944.

McCarthy showed an early aptitude for mathematics; during his teens he taught himself college mathematics by studying the textbooks used at the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech). As a result, he was able to skip the first two years of mathematics at Caltech.[8] McCarthy was suspended from Caltech for failure to attend physical education courses.[9] He then served in the US Army and was readmitted, receiving a B.S. in mathematics in 1948.[10]

It was at Caltech that he attended a lecture by John von Neumann that inspired his future endeavors.

McCarthy initially completed graduate studies at Caltech before moving to Princeton University. He received a Ph.D. in mathematics from the institution in 1951 as a student of Solomon Lefschetz.

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