The man who coined the term “Artificial Intelligence” 56 years ago died on Sunday at the age of 84. Death of John McCarthy, who also invented LISP, a computer programming language that is widely used for designing systems using AI is another blow for the computer world.
Earlier this month on 12th of October, Dennis Ritchie, the founder C programming language and UNIX operating system was found dead.
In a conference held in 1956, John McCarthy put forward the idea that “every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.”
This brought scientist and engineers from various disciplines together and lead to the discovery of Information Technology.
“John McCarthy was foundational in the creation of the discipline Artificial Intelligence,” said Noel Sharkey, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Sheffield.
Prof. Sharkey also said that John wanted to call this discipline of AI “Computation Intelligence” but later he realized that the term “Artificial Intelligence” attracted several computer science engineers to pursue this field.
John devised LISP at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which is reflected in his papers submitted in 1960. LISP is still used by programmers developing Artificial Intelligence systems; it enabled programmers to think creatively, because instead of numbers LISP used symbols.
“The invention of LISP was a landmark in AI, enabling AI programs to be easily read for the first time,” said Prof David Bree, from the Turin-based Institute for Scientific Interchange.
In 1971, Prof. McCarthy was awarded the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery, but he believed that the lecture he gave in 1971 was a bit over-ambitious, so he revised his lectures and further won National Medal of Science in 1991.
In 2000, he retired and became Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Stanford University. During this time, he maintained a website where he published his ideas about futuristic computers, robots and other applications of Artificial Intelligence.