Joan Targ

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Joan Fischer Targ (1938 – June 2, 1998) was an educator who was an early proponent of computer literacy and initiated peer tutoring programs for students of all ages.

As a child, she bought her younger brother, Bobby Fischer, his first chess set and taught him how to play the game.

Proponent of computer education[edit]

Targ founded a number of programs to study the teaching of computer literacy, including programs in the Palo Alto Unified School District,[1][2] as well as the Institute of Microcomputing in Education at Stanford University.[1][3] Her educational techniques included the creation of peer tutoring systems whereby a student, trained by peers in a basic course in computer programming, would then tutor the next students. In the early 1980s she created and led a programs sponsored by Stanford University in which elementary school teachers were taught the basics of programming by high school students.[3][4][5] One focus of her work was bringing computer literacy to girls, senior citizens, and other groups that were underrepresented in computing.[6]

She coauthored the book Ready, run, fun: IBM PC edition with Jeff Levinsky.[7]

Childhood, family and personal life[edit]

Targ was born in Moscow to Hans-Gerhardt Fischer, a German biophysicist, and his wife Regina Wender Fischer, a Swiss born naturalized American citizen of Russian-Polish Jewish ancestry. Regina Fischer left Moscow because of the persecution of Jews in the 1930s, bringing her child with her to the United States. She spoke seven languages fluently and was a teacher, registered nurse and eventually a physician.[8][9] After living in several cities in various parts of the United States, in 1948 the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Regina worked as an elementary school teacher and nurse. While they were living in Chicago, Targ taught her younger brother, chess world champion Bobby Fischer, to play chess.[10][11]

Targ lived in Palo Alto, California, receiving a Masters degree in education from the College of Notre Dame in Belmont.[1] Her husband, Russell Targ, worked at SRI International as a parapsychologist, and her daughter Elisabeth Targ also became a parapsychologist.[12]

Joan Targ was noted for her activism for organic farming, having built an organic farm soon after she married Russell in 1958. In 1976, she, her husband, and another family bought 80 acres of land they hoped to turn into another such farm; a lawsuit from her neighbors attempting to block this use was settled in her favor shortly before her death.[11]

Targ died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 60 in 1998.[10][11][1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Joan Fischer Targ, computer literacy activist", Palo Alto Weekly, June 17, 1998 .
  2. ^ Johnstone, Bob (2003), Never Mind the Laptops: Kids, Computers, and the Transformation of Learning, iUniverse, p. 150, ISBN 9780595288427 .
  3. ^ a b "Teens Teach Educators Computer Literacy", Montreal Gazette, September 10, 1983 .
  4. ^ Williams, Linda V. (October 1982), "Kids Teach The Teachers: A unique exchange of roles—the teachers are teenagers, the students are teachers, and the subject is computers", PC Magazine: 159–163 .
  5. ^ Stanley, Autumn (1995), Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology, Rutgers University Press, p. 475, ISBN 9780813521978 .
  6. ^ Personal computer magazine 2 (1–2), 1983: 153, Probably the person who's doing more than anyone for computer parity for girls (and minority boys, and senior citizens, and disabled people, and anyone else who needs it) is Joan Fischer Targ of Palo Alto, CA. 
  7. ^ Targ, Joan; Levinsky, Jeff (1985). Ready, run, fun: IBM PC edition. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 9780137622207. Retrieved 17 May 2014. 
  8. ^ FBI watched chess genius and family. Fischer's mother suspected as spy November 18, 2002
  9. ^ Schach Nachrichten in German
  10. ^ a b Chess Life (United States Chess Federation) 54 (1–6), 1999: 357, In June of last year, Bobby Fischer's sister, Joan Fischer Targ, died at the age of 60 of a cerebral hemorrhage. She taught Bobby how to play chess. 
  11. ^ a b c Pimentel, Benjamin (12 June 1998), "Joan Targ", San Francisco Chronicle, retrieved 6 May 2014 
  12. ^ Targ, Russell (2010), Do You See What I See? Memoirs of a Blind Biker, Hampton Roads Publishing, p. xxxi, ISBN 9781612830070 . This page from the preface quotes Martin Gardner writing in The Skeptical Inquirer in 2001: "William Targ's beliefs in the paranormal trickled down to his son Russell, and now they have descended on Russell's attractive and energetic daughter Elisabeth. Her mother, Joan, by the way, is the sister of chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer."

Additional sources[edit]