ALLEN NEWELL (1927-1992)
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA 15213-3891
newellarchives@cs.cmu.edu . 412/268-8525 - 412/268-5576 (fax)



Allen Newell earned an international reputation as one of the founders of the fields of artificial intelligence and cognitive science.

Dr. Newell, the U.A. and Helen Whitaker professor of computer science at Cannegie Mellon University, engaged in pioneering work in artificial intelligence, the theory of human cognition and the development of computer software and hardware systems for complex information processing. In 1992, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by then President George Bush.

Dr. Newell's career spanned the entire computer era, which began in the early 1950s. The fields of artificial intelligence and cognitive science grew in part from his idea that computers could process symbols as well as numbers, and if programmed properly would be capable of solving problems in the same way humans do. In cognitive science, he focused on problem solving and the cognitive architecture that supports intelligent action in humans and machines. In computer science, he worked on areas as diverse as list processing, computer description languages, hypertext systems and psychologically based models of human-computer interaction.

From the early 1980s, his work centered on the development of Soar, an artificially intelligent software system capable of solving problems and learning in ways similar to human beings. The goal of Soar was to provide an underlying structure that would enable a computer system to perform a range of cognitive tasks. Soar was used as a framwork for several intelligent systems at research institutions around the country.

A native of San Francisco, Dr. Newell received a bachelor's degree in physics from Stanford University in 1949. He spent a year at Princeton University doing graduate work in mathematics, and worked for the Rand Corporation as a research scientist from 1950-1961. While at Rand, he met Herbert A. Simon, then a professor of industrial administration at Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT). Their discussions on how human thinking could be modeled led Dr. Newell to come to Pittsburgh so the two could collaborate. He earned a doctor's degree in industrial administration from CIT's business school in 1957.

Dr. Newell joined the CIT faculty as a professor in 1961. He played a pivotal role in creating Carnegie Mellon's Department (and later School) of Computer Science and elevating it to world-class status.

Dr. Newell wrote and co-authored more than 250 publication, including 10 books. He co-authored "Human Problem Solving" with Dr. Simon in 1972, and co-authored "The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction" with two colleagues in 1983. His final book, Unified Theories of Cognition," published by Harvard University press in 1990, was based on the thesis that tools are at hand that will allow cognitive scientists to develop one unified theory to describe many different types of behavior, instead of building separate theories to cover isolated aspects, as has long been the practice. A system based on a unified theory could support the full range of intelligent behaviors.

Dr. Newell's awards and honors included the Harry Goode Award of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies (1971); the A.M. Turing Award of the Association for Computing Machinery (1975); the Alexander C. Williams Jr. Award of the Human Factors Society (1979); the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association (1985); the Research Excellence Award of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (1989); the Emanuel R. Piore Award of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineering (1990); and the Franklin Institute's Louis E. Levy Medal (1992). He was awarded honorary doctor's degrees by the University of Pennsylvania and Groeningen University in The Netherlands.

Dr. Newell was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was the first president of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence and president of the Cognitive Science Society. In 1987 he delivered the William James Lectures to the Department of Psychology at Harvard, lectures which formed the basis for his book, Unified Theories of Cognition.

Dr. Newell, who passed away on July 19, 1992, is survived by his wife and son.


School of Computer Science