John McCarthy was an American computer scientists who contributed majorly towards the development of artificial intelligence and invented the 'Lisp' programming language. He was responsible for the coining of the term "Artificial Intelligence" in his 1955 proposal for the 1956 Dartmouth Conference. He received the Turing Award in 1971 for his major contributions to the field of Artificial Intelligence.
He was born on September 4th 1927 in his hometown of Boston, MA, and went on to receive a Ph.D. In Mathematics from Princeton University in 1951 under Solomon Lefschetz.
After some short-term appointments at Princeton and Stanford Universities, Dartmouth, and MIT, he became a full professor at Stanford in 1962, and remained there until his retirement at the end of 2000.
McCarthy championed mathematical logic for Artificial Intelligence. He proposed the advice taker in 1958, which inspired later work on question-answering (very apt for Blurtit!) and logic programming. The programming language that he invented around 1959, 'Lisp' became the programming language of choice for AI applications after its initial publication in 1960.
McCarthy was the first to publicly suggest that "computer time-sharing technology might lead to a future in which computing power and even specific applications could be sold through the utility business model". This idea was very popular in the late 1960s, but faded by the mid-1990s. However, since 2000, the idea has resurfaced in new forms such as cloud computing.
It appears that he may have originated the idea of the space fountain, a proposed form of space elevator that does not require the structure to be in geosynchronous orbit, which was further examined by Roderick Hyde, in 1982.
In a 2001 short story written by McCarthy 'The Robot and the Baby', the question of whether robots should have - or simulate having - emotions, and also anticipated aspects of Internet culture and social networking that became more prominent in the ensuing decade.
John McCarthy died on Monday 24th October at the age of 84. His contributions to the computing and technological worlds have earned him a place as a legend in these fields.
The video below is a half hour episode from a series called 'The Computer Chronicles', in which the subject of Artificial Intelligence is discussed at length, and John McCarthy make a worthwhile quest contribution. Enjoy!