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Edward A. Feigenbaum

20 january 1936 , Weehawken NJ, USA

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"{Knowledge} is power, and computers that amplify that knowledge will amplify every dimension of power"

"Humans are superb problem solvers; superb learners; superb at coordinating functions of sensing and locomotion and problem solving into an integrated unit.  However, computer programs can claim intellectual niches that evolution did not provide for us marvelous creatures."


principal papers




see also

related subjects


The Expert System (4)  

It is Feigenbaum's development of the expert system that has contributed the most to computer science, particularly the field of artificial intelligence.  He began hypothesizing about the creation of an expert system as early as 1962, when first he co-edited Computers and Thought along with Julien Feldman. 

Wanting to use computers to explore induction -- "an informed guess, one that may have to be changed in light of new evidence" (Sasha, Lazare, 215), Feigenbaum considered many possibilities for his first expert system. 

Eventually, Feigenbaum along with Joshua Lederberg (chairman of the genetics department) and Carl Djarassi (another colleague, who supplied the needed knowledge of chemistry) created the first expert system -- DENDRAL.    DENDRAL was important not only because it helped solve the problem its creators set out to solve (the odds of life on other planets), but also because it became a framework for expert systems to follow.

Feigenbaum tested his framework in other areas, proving successful each time.  These days, expert systems are used in everything from airlines to computer manufacturers, the military to hospitals.  Feigenbaum's framework of the expert system and theories about it continue to influence the leading computer scientists working in artificial intelligence today.  Douglas Lenat's Cyc project, for example, builds upon Feigenbaum's knowledge principle. 
The expert system is hardly common place today, knowledge and acceptance is growing. 



From the earliest moments of his life, Feigenbaum had an interest in the sciences -- an interest sparked by his stepfather.  With the prodding of his parents, however, Feigenbaum entered the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1952, in order to earn a degree in electrical engineering.  Earning his BS in 1956, Feigenbaum rediscovered science at Carnegie.  A professor of his, James March, introduced Feigenbaum to John Von Neumann's ideas of game theory; Edward was intrigued. (4)

After earning his PhD at Carnegie Institute of Technology, Feigenbaum went on to become a member of the faculty at Berkeley's School of Business Administration.  The school's lack of a computer science program, however, prompted Feigenbaum to leave the world of psychology and human behavior to the world of artificial intelligence.(4) 

With John McCarthy (who had first worked with Marvin Minsky at MIT) recently hired at Stanford to head the artificial intelligence laboratory, Feigenbaum could not help but move on.

"I decided that I didn't want to be a psychologist and study human behavior using a computer. I
wanted to build the computer artifacts.  I moved from Berkeley to Stanford to be part of this new department" (5)

At Stanford, Feigenbaum made most of his contributions to the world of AI and computer science in general. 

Feigenbaum works now as a professor at Stanford, having held numerous positions in the past, including Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force (from 1994-1997).  He has written many books, collaborating with various different experts, including his wife H. Penny Nii, who he married in 1975, and has had four children with.


1936, 20 January, Born at Weehawken NJ, USA

1952 entered the Carnegie Institute of Technology to earn a degree in electrical engineering.

1956 BS

1962, co-edited Computers and Thought along with Julien Feldman.

PhD at Carnegie Institute of Technology,

member of the faculty at Berkeley's School of Business Administration.

1975 married H. Penny Nii

1994 -1997 Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force

1999, February 8 Alan Turing Award


Honors and awards

Received the Allan Turing award for pioneering the design and construction of large scale artificial intelligence systems, demonstrating the practical importance and potential commercial impact of artificial intelligence technology. (6)




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Footnotes & References


J.A.N. Lee, Computer Pioneers, IEEE Computer Society Press, 1995.

2 Dennis Shasha and Cathy Lazere, Out Of Their Minds: The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists, Copernicus, 1995.
3 http://ksl-web.stanford.edu/people/eaf/
4 http://kzoo.edu/~k98cm01/edwardfeigenbaum.html
5 from Out of their Minds).
6 www.acm.org