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John McCarthy, (September 4, 1927 - October 23, 2011 [1])
was an American researcher in computer science and pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence. After short-term appointments at Princeton, Stanford, Dartmouth, and MIT, John McCarthy became a full professor at Stanford in 1962, where he remained until his retirement at the end of 2000. In 1971 John McCarthy received the Turing Award for his major AI contributions.

In 1955 McCarthy co-organized the Dartmouth Conference [2], where he coined the term Artificial intelligence, and introduced the idea of the Alpha-beta algorithm, to become their eponym. Alpha-beta was also approximated by Herbert Simon with Allen Newell and Arthur Samuel and was released to the public by Daniel Edwards and Timothy Hart in 1961 [3] and independently by Alexander Brudno in 1963 [4] . In 1958 at MIT John McCarthy created the Lisp programming language [5] [6] [7].
John McCarthy [8] [9]


John McCarthy, playing chess at Stanford's IBM 7090, 1967 [10] [11] [12]

Claude Shannon, John McCarthy, Ed Fredkin and Joseph Weizenbaum (1966) [13]

Georgy Adelson-Velsky and John McCarthy playing chess,
Soviet-American computer science conference, Urgench, 1979 [14]


Between 1959 and 1962, students of John McCarthy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Alan Kotok, Elwyn Berlekamp (1960), Michael A. Lieberman, Charles Niessen and Robert A. Wagner, wrote a chess program for the IBM 7090. When McCarthy left MIT to take charge of the Arificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford, he took Kotok's program with him and improved it's searching. In 1965, McCarthy visited the Soviet Union and was challenged by Alexander Kronrod for a computer chess match. At the end of 1966 the four game match began between the Kotok-McCarthy-Program, running on a IBM 7090 computer, and a program developed at the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP) in Moscow which used a Soviet M-2 computer [15]. The match played over nine months was won 3-1 by the The ITEP program.



Quote by John McCarthy from Human-Level AI is harder than it seemed in 1955 [16]:
Chess programs catch some of the human chess playing abilities but rely on the limited effective branching of the chess move tree. The ideas that work for chess are inadequate for go. Alpha-beta pruning characterizes human play, but it wasn't noticed by early chess programmers - Turing, Shannon, Pasta and Ulam, and Bernstein. We humans are not very good at identifying the heuristics we ourselves use. Approximations to alpha-beta used by Samuel, Newell and Simon, McCarthy. Proved equivalent to minimax by Hart and Levin, independently by Brudno. Knuth gives details.

What is AI?

Quote by John McCarthy from What is Artificial Intelligence? [17] [18] [19]:
Alexander Kronrod, a Russian AI researcher, said 'Chess is the Drosophila of AI.' He was making an analogy with geneticists' use of that fruit fly to study inheritance. Playing chess requires certain intellectual mechanisms and not others. Chess programs now play at grandmaster level, but they do it with limited intellectual mechanisms compared to those used by a human chess player, substituting large amounts of computation for understanding. Once we understand these mechanisms better, we can build human-level chess programs that do far less computation than do present programs. Unfortunately, the competitive and commercial aspects of making computers play chess have taken precedence over using chess as a scientific domain. It is as if the geneticists after 1910 had organized fruit fly races and concentrated their efforts on breeding fruit flies that could win these races.

Selected Publications

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See also

External Links


  1. ^ Father of Lisp and AI John McCarthy has died • The Register by Iain Thomson, October 24, 2011
  2. ^ John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester, Claude Shannon (1955). A Proposal for the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence.
  3. ^ Daniel Edwards, Timothy Hart (1961). The Alpha-Beta Heuristic. AIM-030, DSpace at MIT
  4. ^ Alexander Brudno (1963). Bounds and valuations for shortening the search of estimates. Problemy Kibernetiki (10) 141–150 and Problems of Cybernetics (10) 225–241
  5. ^ John McCarthy from The Computer History Museum
  6. ^ The Lisp programming language from Wikipedia
  7. ^ History of Lisp
  8. ^ About John McCarthy
  9. ^ The Programmer Dress Code | CodeThinked by Justin Etheredge, December 6, 2007
  10. ^ History of Computer Chess from The Computer History Museum
  11. ^ CSD founding faculty from Computer History Exhibits Photo Tour created January 2000 by Gio Wiederhold
  12. ^ See also image from Breaking News for 2011 - "Obituary: Emeritus Professor John McCarthy of Stanford University [1927 - -2011]" by L. Stephen Coles
  13. ^ Weizenbaum. Rebel at Work. A documentary by Peter Haas and Silvia Holzinger
  14. ^ Photos of Georgy M Adelson-Velsky (1922 - 2014) - ForeverMissed.com, shared by: Семен Карпенко, June 01, 2014
  15. ^ The Fast Universal Digital Computer M-2 by the Russian Virtual Computer Museum
  16. ^ John McCarthy Human-Level AI is harder than it seemed in 1955
  17. ^ What is Artificial Intelligence? by John McCarthy
  18. ^ John McCarthy (1989). The Fruitfly on the Fly. ICCA Journal, Vol. 12, No. 4
  19. ^ John McCarthy (1990). Chess as the Drosophila of AI. Computers, Chess, and Cognition, pp. 227-237
  20. ^ LISP 1.5 family — Software Preservation Group from The Computer History Museum
  21. ^ McCarthy et al. LISP 1.5 Programmer's Manual. from The Computer History Museum Software Preservation Group
  22. ^ John McCarthy (1997). Chess as the Drosophila of AI. Computer Science Department, Stanford University, condensed version of the 1990 paper, pdf

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