Allen Newell: Wikis


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Allen Newell
Born March 19, 1927(1927-03-19)
Died July 19, 1992 (aged 65)
Fields Computer Science
Cognitive Psychology
Institutions Carnegie Mellon University
Alma mater Carnegie Mellon University
Doctoral advisor Herbert Simon
Known for Information Processing Language
Notable awards A.M. Turing Award
National Medal of Science

Allen Newell (March 19, 1927 - July 19, 1992) was a researcher in computer science and cognitive psychology at the RAND corporation and at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, Tepper School of Business, and Department of Psychology. He contributed to the Information Processing Language (1956) and two of the earliest AI programs, the Logic Theory Machine (1956) and the General Problem Solver (1957) (with Herbert Simon). He was awarded the ACM's A.M. Turing Award along with Herbert Simon in 1975 for their basic contributions to artificial intelligence and the psychology of human cognition.

Newell completed his Bachelor's degree from Stanford in 1949. He was a graduate student at Princeton University during 1949-1950 when he studied mathematics. Due to his early exposure to a new field known as game theory and the experiences from the study of mathematics, he was convinced that he would prefer "a combination of experimental and theoretical research to pure mathematics" (Simon). Soon after, he left Princeton and joined the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica where he worked for "a group that was studying logistics problems of the Air Force" (Simon). His work with Joseph Kruskal led to the creation of two theories: A Model for Organization Theory and Formulating Precise Concepts in Organization Theory. Newell eventually earned his PhD from the now Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon with Herbert Simon serving as his advisor.

Afterwards, Newell "turned to the design and conduct of laboratory experiments on decision making in small groups" (Simon). He was dissatisfied, however, with the accuracy and validity of their findings produced from small-scale laboratory experiments. He joined with fellow RAND teammates John Kennedy, Bob Chapman, and Bill Biel at an Air Force Early Warning Station to study organizational processes in flight crews. They received funding from the Air Force in 1952 to build a simulator that would enable them to examine and analyze the interactions in the cockpit related to decision-making and information-handling. From these studies, Newell came to believe that information processing is the central activity in organizations.

In September 1954, Newell enrolled in a seminar where Oliver Selfridge "described a running computer program that learned to recognize letters and other patterns" (Simon). This was when Allen came to believe that systems may be created and contain intelligence and have the ability to adapt. With this in mind, Allen, after a couple months, wrote in 1955 The Chess Machine: An Example of Dealing with a Complex Task by Adaptation, which "outlined an imaginative design for a computer program to play chess in humanoid fashion" (Simon).

His work came to the attention of economist (and future nobel laureate) Herbert Simon, and, together with programmer J. C. Shaw, they developed the first true artificial intelligence program, the Logic Theorist. Newell's work on the program laid the foundations of the field. His inventions included: list processing, the most important programming paradigm used by AI ever since; the application of means-ends analysis to general reasoning (or "reasoning as search"); and the use of heuristics to limit the search space.

They presented the program at the Dartmouth conference of 1956, an informal gathering of researchers who were interested in simulating intelligence with machines. The conference, now widely considered the "birth of artificial intelligence",[1] was enormously influential and those who attended became the leaders of AI research for the next two decades, Newell included.

Newell and Simon formed a lasting partnership. They founded an artificial intelligence laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University and produced a series of important programs and theoretical insights throughout the late fifties and sixties. This work included the General Problem Solver, a highly influential implementation of means-ends analysis, and the physical symbol systems hypothesis, the controversial philosophical assertion that all intelligent behavior could be reduced the kind of symbol manipulation that Newell's programs demonstrated.

Newell's work culminated in the development of a cognitive architecture known as Soar and his unified theory of cognition, published in 1990.


  • 1971—John Danz Lecturer, University of Washington
  • 1971—Harry Goode Memorial Award, American Federation of Information Processing Societies
  • 1972—National Academy of Sciences
  • 1972—American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1975—A. M. Turing Award (with H. A. Simon), Association for Computing Machinery
  • 1976-77—John Simon Guggenheim Fellow
  • 1979—Alexander C. Williams Jr. Award (with William C. Biel, Robert Chapman and John L. Kennedy), Human Factors Society
  • 1980 — National Academy of Engineering
  • 1980 — First President, American Association for Artificial Intelligence
  • 1982—Computer Pioneer Award, Charter Recipient, IEEE Computer Society
  • 1985—Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, American Psychological Association
  • 1986—Doctor of Science (Honorary), University of Pennsylvania
  • 1987—William James Lectures, Harvard University
  • 1989—Award for Research Excellence, International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence
  • 1989—Doctor in the Behavioral and Social Sciences (Honorary), University of Groningen, The Netherlands
  • 1989—William James Fellow Award (charter recipient), American Psychological Society
  • 1990 — Emanuel R. Piore Award, Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers
  • 1990 — IEEE W. R. G. Baker Prize Award
  • 1992—National Medal of Science
  • 1992—Franklin Institute’s Louis E. Levy Medal

The Award for Research Excellence of the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science was named in his honor.


  1. ^ Crevier 1993, p. 49-51

See also


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Allen Newell (1927-03-191992-07-19) was a researcher in computer science and cognitive psychology at the RAND corporation and at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science. He contributed to the Information Processing Language (1956) and two of the earliest AI programs, the Logic Theory Machine (1956) and the General Problem Solver (1957) (with Herbert Simon). He was awarded the ACM's A.M. Turing Award along with Herbert Simon in 1975 for their basic contributions to artificial intelligence and the psychology of human cognition.



  • With the hubris common to physicists, I have always felt that I have known what good science is — it is theory cast in terms of mechanisms that describe how parts of the universe behave. With sometimes immense historical delay, these mechanisms always move towards being grounded in the larger mechanistic view of the universe. Theories always propose a view of how the universe is. They can never be effectively argued to be true, but only be brought before the bar of empirical evidence. All the modern concern for contextualism, hermeneutics and the social determination of meaning has its point, but is a mere footnote to the massive evidence for this view of science. The overwhelming success within this framework of modern biology over the last half century has provided another major confirmation, if one is needed. Someday we will get another striking confirmation from cognitive science. Though it can be argued that we are well on our way, we still have an immense distance to go. Arguments are no match for the evidence that cognitive science does not control its subject the way physics, chemistry and now biology do.

Computer Science as Empirical Inquiry: Symbols and Search

Allen Newell and Herbert Simon, 1975 Turing Award Lecture[2], Communications of the ACM 19 (3), (March 1976): p. 113–126

  • Computer science is an empirical discipline. [...] Each new machine that is built is an experiment. Actually constructing the machine poses a question to nature; and we listen for the answer by observing the machine in operation and analyzing it by all analytical and measurement means available. Each new program that is built is an experiment. It poses a question to nature, and its behavior offers clues to an answer.
    • p. 114
  • The Physical Symbol System Hypothesis. A physical symbol system has the necessary and sufficient means for general intelligent action.
  • Heuristic Search Hypothesis. The solutions to problems are represented as symbol structures. A physical symbol system exercises its intelligence in problem solving by search—that is, by generating and progressively modifying symbol structures until it produces a solution structure.
    • p. 120 [italics in source]
  • If you think there is nothing problematic or mysterious about a symbol system solving problems, then you are a child of today, whose views have been formed since mid-century. Plato (and by his account, Socrates) found difficulty understanding even how problems could be entertained, much less how they could be solved. Let me remind you of how he posed the conundrum in the Meno:
And how will you inquire, Socrates, into that which you know not? What will you put forth as the subject of inquiry? And if you find what you want, how will you ever know that this is what you did not know?
  • pp. 120-121
  • [The] amount of search is not a measure of the amount of intelligence being exhibited. What makes a problem a problem is not that a large amount of search is required for its solution, but that a large amount would be required if a requisite level of intelligence were not applied.
    • p. 122 [italics in source]
  • It has been a long road from Plato's Meno to the present, but it is perhaps encouraging that most of the progress along that road has been made since the turn of the twentieth century, and a large fraction of it since the midpoint of the century. Thought was still wholly intangible and ineffable until modern formal logic interpreted it as the manipulation of formal tokens. And it seemed still to inhabit mainly the heaven of Platonic ideals, or the equally obscure spaces of the human mind, until computers taught us how symbols could be processed by machines.
    • p. 125

Quotes about Allen Newell

  • In joint scientific efforts extending over twenty years, initially in collaboration with J. C. Shaw at the RAND Corporation, and subsequently with numerous faculty and student colleagues at Carnegie-Mellon University, they have made basic contributions to artificial intelligence, the psychology of human cognition, and list processing.

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