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Guide to the John McCarthy Papers
SC0524  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical/Historical Sketch
  • Description of the Collection
  • Arrangement note
  • Access Terms

  • Overview

    Call Number: SC0524
    Creator: McCarthy, John, 1927-2011.
    Title: John McCarthy papers
    Dates: 1951-2012
    Physical Description: 49.5 Linear feet and 4577.28 megabytes
    Summary: Correspondence, memos, reports, course materials, newsletters, articles, reprints, computer manuals, and other materials pertaining to McCarthy's research and his teaching at Stanford and MIT. Correspondents include Forest Baskett, Donald Knuth, Serge Lang, Joshua Lederberg, Douglas Lenat, Donald Michie, Hans Moravec, Zohar Manna, Aaron Sloman, and Masahiko Sato. Also included are correspondence, reprints, programs, notes, and articles from his work with Russian computer scientists, 1958-78.
    Language(s): The materials are in English.
    Repository: Dept. of Special Collections & University Archives.
    Stanford University Libraries.
    557 Escondido Mall
    Stanford, CA 94305-6064
    Email: speccollref@stanford.edu
    Phone: (650) 725-1022
    URL: http://library.stanford.edu/spc

    Administrative Information

    Provenance

    Gift of John McCarthy, 1995-2009; Susan McCarthy, 2012-2013.

    Information about Access

    This collection is open for research.

    Ownership & Copyright

    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94304-6064. Consent is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner, heir(s) or assigns. See: http://library.stanford.edu/depts/spc/pubserv/permissions.html.
    Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Cite As

    John McCarthy Papers (SC0524) Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Biographical/Historical Sketch

    McCarthy was born on Sept. 4, 1927, in Boston. He earned his undergraduate degree from the California Institute of Technology in 1948 and his PhD at Princeton in 1951, both in mathematics. He was an instructor at Princeton from 1951 until 1953 when he came to Stanford as an assistant professor. In 1955, he left for Dartmouth and then for MIT before returning to Stanford for good in 1962 as a full professor of computer science.
    During his remarkable career, McCarthy co-founded the MIT Artificial Intelligence Project and what became the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, serving as director at Stanford from 1965 until 1980. He was named the first Charles M. Pigott Professor at the Stanford School of Engineering in 1987, before stepping down in 1994. He retired Jan. 1, 2001.
    McCarthy was a giant in the field of computer science and a seminal figure in the field of artificial intelligence. While at Dartmouth in 1955, McCarthy authored a proposal for a two-month, 10-person summer research conference on "artificial intelligence" – the first use of the term in publication.
    In proposing the conference, McCarthy wrote, "The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture 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." The subsequent conference is considered a watershed moment in computer science.
    In 1958, McCarthy invented the computer programming language LISP, the second oldest programming language after FORTRAN. LISP is still used today and is the programming language of choice for artificial intelligence.
    McCarthy also developed the concept of computer time-sharing in the late 1950s and early 1960s, an advance that greatly improved the efficiency of distributed computing and predated the era of cloud computing by decades.
    In 1960, McCarthy authored a paper titled, "Programs with Common Sense," laying out the principles of his programming philosophy and describing "a system which is to evolve intelligence of human order."
    McCarthy garnered attention in 1966 by hosting a series of four simultaneous computer chess matches carried out via telegraph against rivals in Russia. The matches, played with two pieces per side, lasted several months. McCarthy lost two of the matches and drew two. "They clobbered us," recalled Earnest.
    Chess and other board games, McCarthy would later say, were the "Drosophila of artificial intelligence," a reference to the scientific name for fruit flies that are similarly important in the study of genetics.
    McCarthy would later develop the first "hand-eye" computer system in which a computer was able to see real 3D blocks via a video camera and control a robotic arm to complete simple stacking and arrangement exercises.
    The Association of Computing Machinery honored McCarthy with the A. M. Turing Award in 1971, the highest recognition in computer science. He received the Kyoto Prize in 1988 and the National Medal of Science in 1990, the nation's highest technical award. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
    McCarthy died on October 24, 2011. He was survived by his third wife, Carolyn Talcott of Stanford; two daughters, Susan McCarthy of San Francisco and Sarah McCarthy of Nevada City, Calif.; a son, Timothy Talcott McCarthy of Stanford; a brother, Patrick, of Los Angeles; two grandchildren, Kitty McCarthy of San Francisco and Joseph Gunther of New York City; and his first wife, Martha Coyote. McCarthy's second wife, Vera Watson, died in 1978 in a mountain-climbing accident attempting to scale Annapurna in Nepal.

    Description of the Collection

    Correspondence, memos, reports, course materials, newsletters, articles, reprints, computer manuals, and other materials pertaining to McCarthy's research and his teaching at Stanford and MIT. Correspondents include Forest Baskett, Donald Knuth, Serge Lang, Joshua Lederberg, Douglas Lenat, Donald Michie, Hans Moravec, Zohar Manna, Aaron Sloman, and Masahiko Sato. Also included are correspondence, reprints, programs, notes, and articles from his work with Russian computer scientists, 1958-78.

    Arrangement note

    The materials are arranged by accession.

    Access Terms

    Baskett, Forest.
    Knuth, Donald Ervin, 1938-
    Lang, Serge, 1927-2005
    Lederberg, Joshua
    Lenat, Douglas B.
    Manna, Zohar.
    McCarthy, John, 1927-2011.
    Michie, Donald.
    Moravec, Hans P.
    Sato, Masahiko, 1947-
    Sloman, Aaron.
    Stanford University. Computer Science Dept. Faculty.
    Artificial intelligence.
    Computer programming.
    LISP (Computer program language)