In Memoriam

February 2016

Edward J. McCluskey, a professor emeritus at Stanford whose research helped pave the way for electronics and computing, died on Feb. 13. He was 86.

Born on the eve of the Great Depression, McCluskey graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine in 1953, earning honors in mathematics and physics, then went on to study electrical engineering at MIT, where he earned his doctorate in 1956. But the experience that set him on the path toward professional greatness occurred during the period from 1955 through 1959, when he worked first as an MIT intern and later as a staff researcher at Bell Telephone Laboratories during its heyday.

In a 2008 lecture, when he won an award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), McCluskey fondly recalled that storied period when Bell researchers were inventing many of the building blocks of electronics and computing. It was in this intellectual crucible that McCluskey helped devise a way to efficiently and unerringly design logic chips...

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October 2011

The Department of Computer Science is saddened to report that Emeritus Professor John McCarthy died on October 24, 2011 at age 84.  John was one of the founders of artificial intelligence (AI), coining that name in 1955.  From that time until his death he made foundational contributions both to AI and to computer science in general.  In a famous 1958 paper and subsequent memos, he proposed (and thereafter strongly held) that the knowledge needed by AI programs should be represented in declarative sentences (principally in a logical language) rather than being encoded within the programs that use that knowledge.  As he put it, “Sentences can be true in much wider contexts than specific programs can be useful.”

John’s work on AI systems that could reason with declarative knowledge inspired a legion of researchers who, along with John, advanced this approach to AI and produced many practical applications of it.  Realizing some of the difficulties of getting logical systems to...

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June 2009

Rajeev Motwani, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, passed away on June 5, 2009.

Rajeev was a luminary in many academic disciplines.  He made fundamental contributions to the foundations of computer science, search and information retrieval, streaming databases and data mining, and robotics.   In these areas, he considered questions as philosophical as what makes problems inherently intractable, and as practical as finding similar images and documents from a database.  His text book, Randomized Algorithms, with Prabhakar Raghavan, epitomizes this meeting of the abstract and the concrete, and has been a source of inspiration to countless students. He has received many awards for his research; notably, the Gödel Prize, and the Arthur P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. Rajeev’s academic legacy extends to teaching and advising a large number of students,  many of whom have gone on to successful academic careers.

In addition to his academic...

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November 2007

Gene Golub, Professor of Computer Science, died on November 16, 2007 at age 75 after a recent diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia.   Gene was born on February 29, 1932 in Chicago.  He earned his bachelors, masters and PhD, all in mathematics, from the University of Illinois.  His PhD advisor was Abraham Taub, who was influenced in turn by John von Neumann and became the general editor of John van Neumann’s 6 volume biography.  In 1959 Gene received an NFS Fellowship and worked as a fellow at the Mathematical Laboratory at University of Cambridge for 15 months. He worked for several industrial companies, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, and Space Technology Laboratories before he returned to academia.   In 1962, Gene joined the faculty of Stanford as a visiting assistant professor in the Computer Science Division. Gene joined the newly formed Computer Science Department in and was chairman of the department from 1981 to 1985.

Gene was a leading pioneer in the field of numerical...

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August 2005

Joseph Oliger, professor emeritus of computer science and co-founder of Stanford's Scientific Computing and Computational Mathematics Program, died of cancer at his home in Truckee, Calif. He was 63.

Oliger was born Sept. 3, 1941, in Greensburg, Ind. He received his bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1966 and his master's degree in 1971, both from the University of Colorado. Between 1965 and 1973, he worked as a programmer and numerical analyst at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He received a doctorate in computer science from the University of Uppsala, Sweden, in 1973.

Oliger joined the Stanford Computer Science Department in 1974 as an assistant professor, teaching numerical analysis courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. He became a full professor in 1980. In 1987, Oliger co-founded the Scientific Computing and Computational Mathematics Program with professors Gene Golub, George Homsy and Joseph Keller. Oliger was noted for his...

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March 2003

"Jack" joined the Math Department in 1942 and again in 1946 after two years as a physicist with Ames Aeronautical Laboratory at Moffett Field. In 1953 Stanford University received its first computer and Prof. Herriot, a pure mathematician, assumed responsibility as the first Director of the newly founded Computation Center. In Spring of 1955, he taught the first programming course "Theory and Operation of Computing Machines" to 25 students using an IBM Card Programmed Calculator, Model II. Enrollment mushroomed to 150 in 1959 In 1956, he started working with students in a new math masters program in "Scientific Computation". In 1957, he helped recruit George Forsythe to the math department. In 1961, he and George Forsythe founded the Computer Science Division of the Mathematics Department and started hiring computer science faculty. In January 1965 the faculty of the Computer Science Division moved to the newly founded Computer Science Department. He served as acting department...

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September 2001

Computer pioneer Robert W. Floyd, a professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Computer Science, died on Sept. 25 after a long illness. He was 65.

"In the old days, programmers would just twiddle with programs till they seemed to work," says Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming Donald Knuth. "Floyd showed that there was a way to prove programs would work." His approach of marrying math with computer science was "a revelation to the field," Knuth says.

"Floyd's 1960s method of invariants, in which assertions are attached to points in a computer program, is still the basis of much work in proving that computer programs meet their specifications," says John McCarthy, professor emeritus of computer science.

Born in New York on June 8, 1936, Floyd was recognized as a child prodigy at age 6; he skipped three grades and finished high school at 14. A scholarship allowed him to study at the University of Chicago, where he received a...

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July 1990

Professor Emeritus Arthur L. Samuel died July 29, 1990 at Stanford hospital from complications related to Parkinson's disease. Arthur Samuel was a pioneer of artificial intelligence research. His life spanned a broad personal and scientific history.

Arthur Samuel was born in Emporia, Kansas in 1901. He graduated from M.I.T. with a Master's of Science degree in Electrical Engineering in 1926, working intermittently at General Electric Co. in Schenectady. He later did graduate work in Physics at Columbia University. His undergraduate school, the College of Emporia, awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1946. After his master's degree he stayed on at M.I.T. as an instructor in Electrical Engineering until 1928, when he joined Bell Telephone Laboratories. At Bell Labs he mainly worked on electron tubes. Particularly notable was his work on space charge between parallel electrodes and his wartime work on TR-boxes. This is a switch that disconnects the receiver of a radar when the...

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