Artificial intelligence historian Pamela McCorduck dies at age 80

Ms McCorduck’s ‘powers of observation’ and ‘conversational style’ have elevated her book above others who have since tried to explain artificial intelligence to a large audience, Philip Mirowski wrote in AI Magazine. in a review of the 25th anniversary edition of “Machines Who Think,” which included a lengthy addendum updating the history of AI to 2004.

Pamela Ann McCorduck was born on October 27, 1940 in Liverpool, England, when the city was bombed by the German Luftwaffe. At the age of 6, she left for the United States with her parents, Jack and Hilda (Bond) McCorduck, and her two younger siblings, who were twins.

Her father owned beauty colleges, where her mother was a beautician and teacher. The family first settled in Stamford, Connecticut, before relocating several times. She graduated from high school in Rutherford, New Jersey, and received a bachelor’s degree in English composition and literature from Berkeley in 1960. Ten years later, she received a master’s degree in English literature from Columbia University. .

“Computers & Thought”, the result of her work with Professors Feigenbaum and Feldman, was published in 1963. It was called a “gofer” to them, but Professor Feigenbaum said it had been essential to their project. . She continued her association with Professor Feigenbaum as an executive assistant for several years after moving from Berkeley to Stanford University in 1965 to help start her computer science department and run the Stanford Computation Center.

She met Professor Traub at Stanford, and they married in 1969. (Her first marriage, to Thomas Tellefsen, ended in divorce.) The following year they moved to Seattle, where he taught. at the University of Washington; a year later, they moved to Pittsburgh. Around this time, she published two novels: “Family Relations” (1971), the story of a family set in Liverpool in 1944, and “Working to the End” (1972), about a brilliant female scientist in a love triangle with his brother. -in law.

At Carnegie Mellon, where she taught in the English department, Ms. McCorduck got to know computer scientists working on artificial intelligence and became particularly close to Professor Simon, who helped to launch the idea that computers can present an artificial intelligence that reflects human thought.

She often offered Professor Simon a glass of sherry as he passed her Pittsburgh home on the way home, and they discussed artificial intelligence, linguistics, music and art, she said. in an oral history interview with Carnegie Mellon in 2019.

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