Image of computer code

Allen Newell

  • National Medal of Science
  • Mathematics And Computer Science

For his seminal contributions to the development of artificial intelligence, the theory of human cognition and the software and hardware of computational systems for complex information processing.

As a child, Allen Newell was not interested in the idea of following his father’s footsteps into medicine, and not much interested in science in general. It was much later in his life, when Newell was serving on a U.S. Navy ship carrying scientific observers to the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests. He was assigned the task of making maps of the radiation distribution over the atolls. This task sparked his interest in scientific research.

Newell’s central goal was to understand the cognitive architecture of the human mind and how it enabled humans to solve problems. His goal was to make the computer into an effective tool for simulating human problem-solving. Newell’s advances are largely recognized as the birth of artificial intelligence (AI). He transformed the development of computer software and hardware systems for complex information processing.

Since the early 1980s, Newell’s research focused on the development of Soar, a cognitive architecture realized as a software system capable of solving problems and learning in ways similar to human beings. Soar continues to be used as a framework for intelligent system design and has been widely used by AI researchers to model different aspects of human behavior.

By Jen Santisi