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 Biographies of John McCarthy

John McCarthy’s Home Page




John McCarthy named and helped pioneer the field of artificial intelligence. He led the development of the LISP programming language to facilitate research in that field, initiated the development of computer timesharing, which made interactive computing practical for the first time and thus enabled the development of general purpose computer networks such as the Internet. He was raised as a Communist but eventually became a conservative Republican. He graduated from Caltech in 1948 then earned a PhD at Princeton University, came to Stanford’s Math Department for a time, then to Dartmouth, then M.I.T. and back to Stanford, where his AI Project became part of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL). He has received many honors for his outstanding innovations.


J. McCarthy, Memorandum to P.M. Morris Proposing Time Sharing, 1959.01.01. This proposal to the MIT community initiated the creation of several general purpose timesharing systems, which enable the creation of the Internet.

N. Nilsson, John McCarthy, 1927-2011, a Biographical Memoir, National Academy of Sciences, 2012. Reviews McCarthy’s many accomplishments in the field of artificial intelligence, which he named, and in other fields.


Celebration of John McCarthy's accomplishments, held 25 March 2012, shows both text and video versions of talks about his accomplishments.

L. Earnest, John McCarthy (1927-2011), December 2011. John McCarthy introduced the term “artificial intelligence” to identify his principal interest and created the LISP programming language to help develop that field. He also initiated the mathematical theory of computation and the development of computer timesharing, which was a necessary precursor of the Internet. He deservedly has been honored by many national and international organizations.


L. Earnest, How John McCarthy accidentally started uniting the World, March 2012, is a text version of one of the Celebration talks discussing McCarthy’s innovative idea on how to create general purpose timesharing systems, which both greatly enhanced the efficiency of program development and enabled the Internet to be created much earlier than would otherwise have happened.

B. Meyer,
John McCarthy, Nov. 7, 2011. A tribute article

P. McJones,
History of LISP, 2012. A comprehensive review of the many branches of the LISP programming language.

J. McCarthy, Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Nov. 1, 1968. This handwritten letter to Lester Earnest describes a turning point in John McCarthy’s life.