McCarthy (born September 4, 1927, in Boston, Massachusetts), is an
American computer scientist and cognitive scientist who received the
Turing Award in 1971 for his major contributions to the field of
Artificial Intelligence (AI). He was responsible for the coining of
the term "Artificial Intelligence" in his 1955 proposal for the 1956
Dartmouth Conference and is the inventor of the Lisp programming
John McCarthy was born in Boston on September 4, 1927 to two
immigrants, John Patrick and Ida Glatt McCarthy. The family was forced
to move frequently during the depression, until McCarthy's father
found work as an organizer for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers in Los
Angeles, California. McCarthy showed an early aptitude for
mathematics; in his teens he taught himself mathematics by studying
the textbooks used at the nearby California Institute of Technology
(Caltech). As a result, when he was accepted into Caltech the
following year, he was able to skip the first two years of
Receiving a B.S. in Mathematics in 1948, McCarthy initially continued
his studies at Caltech. He received a Ph.D. in Mathematics from
Princeton University in 1951 under Solomon Lefschetz. After short-term
appointments at Princeton, Stanford, Dartmouth, and MIT, he became a
full professor at Stanford in 1962, where he remained until his
retirement at the end of 2000. He is now a Professor Emeritus.
McCarthy championed mathematical logic for Artificial Intelligence. In
1958, he proposed the advice taker, which inspired later work on
question-answering and logic programming. Based on the Lambda
Calculus, Lisp rapidly became the programming language of choice for
AI applications after its publication in 1960 . He helped to
motivate the creation of Project MAC at MIT, but left MIT for Stanford
University in 1962, where he helped set up the Stanford AI Laboratory,
for many years a friendly rival to Project MAC.
In 1961, he was the first to publicly suggest (in a speech given to
celebrate MIT's centennial) 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 (like
water or electricity). This idea of a computer or information utility
was very popular in the late 1960s, but faded by the mid-1970s as it
became clear that the hardware, software and telecommunications
technologies of the time were simply not ready. However, since 2000,
the idea has resurfaced in new forms. See application service
From 1978 to 1986, McCarthy developed the circumscription method of
John McCarthy often comments on world affairs on the Usenet forums.
Some of his ideas can be found in his sustainability web page, which
is "aimed at showing that human material progress is desirable and
McCarthy, J. 1959. Programs with common sense. In Proceedings of the
Teedington Conference on the Mechanization of Thought Processes,
756-91. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
McCarthy, J. 1960. Recursive functions of symbolic expressions and
their computation by machine. Communications of the ACM 3(40:184-195.
McCarthy, J. 1963a A basis for a mathematical theory of computation.
In Computer Programming and formal systems. North-Holland.
McCarthy, J. 1963b. Situations, actions, and causal laws. Technical
report, Standford University.
McCarthy, J., and Hayes, P. J. 1969. Some philosophical problems from
the standpoint of artificial intelligence. In Meltzer, B., and Michie,
D., eds., Machine Intelligence 4. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University
McCarthy, J. 1977. Epistemological problems of artificial
intelligence. In IJCAI, 1038-1044.
McCarthy, J. 1980. Circumscription: A form of non-monotonic reasoning.
Artificial Intelligence 13(1-2):23-79.
McCarthy, J. 1986. Applications of circumscription to common sense
reasoning. Artificial Intelligence 28(1):89-116.
McCarthy, J. 1990. Generality in artificial intelligence. In Lifschitz,
V., ed., Formalizing Common Sense. Ablex. 226-236.
McCarthy, J. 1993. Notes on formalizing context. In IJCAI, 555-562.
McCarthy, J., and Buvac, S. 1997. Formalizing context: Expanded notes.
In Aliseda, A.; van Glabbeek, R.; and Westerstahl, D., eds., Computing
Natural Language. Standford University. Also available as Stanford
Technical Note STAN-CS-TN-94-13.
McCarthy, J. 1998. Elaboration tolerance. In Working Papers of the
Fourth International Symposium on Logical formalizations of
Commonsense Reasoning, Commonsense-1998.
Costello, T., and McCarthy, J. 1999. Useful counterfactuals.
Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence 3(A):51-76
McCarthy, J. 2002. Actions and other events in situation calculus. In
Fensel, D.; Giunchiglia, F.; McGuinness, D.; and Williams, M., eds.,
Proceedings of KR-2002, 615-628.