Joel Moses was born in Palestine in 1941 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1954. He attended Midwood High School in Brooklyn, New York. He received his undergraduate degree in Mathematics from Columbia University and a masters degree in Mathematics, also from Columbia. Under the supervision of Marvin Minsky, Moses received his doctorate in Mathematics at MIT in 1967 with a thesis entitled Symbolic Integration. This laid the groundwork for the Macsyma symbolic mathematics program that was created at MIT largely under his supervision between 1969 and 1983. Macsyma was able to solve problems such as simplification, polynomial factorization, indefinite integration, solution of differential equations, and other higher-order mathematical questions.
Moses served in several administrative positions at MIT between 1974 and 1998, including Provost, Dean of Engineering, Head of the EECS department, Associate Head of the EECS department, and Associate Director of the Laboratory for Computer Science. He was Acting Director of the Engineering Systems Division at MIT between 2006 and 2007. He was Acting Director of the Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development between 2007 and 2010.
His memoirs are to be found in  An interview of him on the occasion of MIT's 150th anniversary is to be found in  He appears in an independent documentary film called Plug & Pray, where he talks about the impact of ELIZA, a famous computer program published by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966.
Moses is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is life fellow of the IEEE. Moses holds the rank of Institute Professor at MIT, a rank currently held by only 13 other professors at MIT.