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John McCarthy

John McCarthyBorn: 4-Sep-1927
Birthplace: Boston, MA
Died: 24-Oct-2011
Location of death: Palo Alto, CA
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist [1]
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Computer Programmer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Created LISP programming language

Computer pioneer John McCarthy designed the LISP family of computer programming languages (the name is shortened from List Processing) in 1958. LISP was one of the first and most durable computer languages, with only a few simple operators and notations for various functions.

The breakthroughs in LISP included the invention of the if-then-else construct, programs constructed as trees of expressions (as opposed to net structure), and several other advances that have been carried along to most subsequent languages. McCarthy proposed the concept of computer time-sharing in 1959, and developed the circumscription method for non-monotonic reasoning in 1978. He was also known for his work on artificial intelligence (a term he coined in 1955, when he had already been researching the topic for at least seven years), and he advanced a scientific conception of "common sense" and reasoning.

As a boy he taught himself advanced mathematics by scouring and studying used college textbooks. He studied at CalTech and Princeton, and spent the bulk of his academic career on the faculty at Stanford University. His wife, Vera Watson, was the first woman mountaineer to make a solo ascent of Argentina's Mt Aconcagua, and died in a 1978 accident while climbing Nepal's Mt Anapurna. McCarthy died in 2011.

[1] "To count oneself as an atheist one need not claim to have a proof that no gods exist. One need merely think that the evidence on the god question is in about the same state as the evidence on the werewolf question."

Father: John Patrick McCarthy (union organizer)
Mother: Ida Glatt McCarthy
Wife: Vera Watson (b. 1932, d. 17-Oct-1978 mountaineering accident)

    High School: Belmont High School, Los Angeles, CA (1943)
BS Mathematics, California Institute of Technology (1948)
    University: PhD Mathematics, Princeton University (1951)
    Teacher: Mathematics, Princeton University (1951-53)
    Teacher: Mathematics, Stanford University (1953-55)
    Teacher: Mathematics, Dartmouth College (1955-58)
    Teacher: Communication Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1958-62)
    Professor: Computer Science, Stanford University (1962-2000)
    Administrator: Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Stanford University (1965-80)
    Professor: Charles M. Pigott Professor of Engineering, Stanford University (1987-94)

    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Mathematical Society
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    Association for Computing Machinery
    Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence President (1983-84)
    National Academy of Engineering 1987
    National Academy of Sciences 1989
    National Legal Center for the Public Interest Academic Advisor (1976-80)
    Hoover Institution Senior Fellow
    Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society
    Artificial Intelligence Journal Editorial Board (1975-)
    Turing Award 1971
    Kyoto Prize 1988
    National Medal of Science 1990
    Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science 2003
    Irish Ancestry

Official Website:

Author of books:
LISP 1.5 Programmer's Manual (1965, technical)

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