Christopher Longuet-Higgins

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Christopher Longuet-Higgins

Hugh Christopher Longuet-Higgins

(1923-04-11)11 April 1923
Died27 March 2004(2004-03-27) (aged 80)
EducationWinchester College
Alma materUniversity of Oxford (BA, DPhil)
AwardsNaylor Prize and Lectureship (1981)
Scientific career
InstitutionsKing's College London
University of Chicago
University of Manchester
University of Cambridge
University of Edinburgh
University of Sussex
ThesisSome problems in theoretical chemistry by the method of molecular orbitals (1947)
Doctoral advisorCharles Coulson[citation needed]
Doctoral students

Hugh Christopher Longuet-Higgins FRS FRSA FRSE[5] (April 11, 1923 – March 27, 2004) was both a theoretical chemist and a cognitive scientist.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

Education and early life[edit]

Longuet-Higgins was born on 11 April 1923 at The Vicarage, Lenham, Kent, England, the elder son and second of the three children of Henry Hugh Longuet Longuet-Higgins (1886-1966), vicar of Lenham, and his wife, Albinia Cecil Bazeley.[12] He was educated at The Pilgrims' School, Winchester, and Winchester College. At Winchester College he was one of the "gang of four" consisting of himself, his brother Michael, Freeman Dyson and James Lighthill. In 1941, he won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. He read chemistry, but also took Part I of a degree in Music. He was a Balliol organ scholar[13]. As an undergraduate he proposed the correct structure of the chemical compound diborane (B2H6), the structure of which was then unknown because it turned out to be different from structures in contemporary chemical valence theory. This was published with his tutor, R. P. Bell.[14] He completed a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1947[15] at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Charles Coulson[5].

Career and research[edit]

After his D.Phil, he did postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago and the University of Manchester.[5] In 1952, he was appointed Professor of Theoretical Physics at King's College London, and in 1954 was appointed John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge,[16] and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He was the first warden of Leckhampton House, a Corpus Christi College residence for postgraduate students. While at Cambridge he made many original contributions in the field of Theoretical Chemistry. Among the most important were his discovery[17] of Geometric phase at the conical intersection of potential energy surfaces, his introduction of the correlation diagram approach[18] to the study of Woodward-Hoffmann rules, and his introduction of nuclear permutation-inversion symmetry groups[19] for the study of molecular symmetry.

In his later years at Cambridge he became interested in the brain and the new field of artificial intelligence. As a consequence, in 1967, he made a major change in his career by moving to the University of Edinburgh to co-found the Department of Machine intelligence and perception, with Richard Gregory and Donald Michie.

In 1974 he moved to the Centre for Research on Perception and Cognition (in the Department of Experimental Psychology) at Sussex University, Brighton, England. In 1981 he introduced the essential matrix to the computer vision community in a paper which also included the eight-point algorithm for the estimation of this matrix.

He retired in 1988. At the time of his death, in 2004, he was Professor Emeritus at the University of Sussex. His work on developing computational models of music understanding was recognized in the nineties by the award of an Honorary Doctorate of Music by the University of Sheffield.

An example of Longuet-Higgins's writings, introducing the field of music cognition:[20]

Longuet-Higgins (1979):[21]

You're browsing, let us imagine, in a music shop, and come across a box of faded pianola rolls. One of them bears an illegible title, and you unroll the first foot or two, to see if you can recognize the work from the pattern of holes in the paper. Are there four beats in the bar, or only three? Does the piece begin on the tonic, or some other note? Eventually you decide that the only way of finding out is to buy the roll, take it home, and play it on the pianola. Within seconds your ears have told you what your eyes were quite unable to make out—that you are now the proud possessor of a piano arrangement of "Colonel Bogey".

Honours and awards[edit]

Christopher Longuet-Higgins was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1958,[5] a Foreign Associate of the US Academy of Sciences in 1968[5] a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) in 1969,[22] and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) in 1970. He was a Fellow of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science. He had honorary doctorates from the universities of Bristol, Essex, Sheffield, Sussex and York. Among his notable prizes were the Jasper Ridley prize in music from Balliol College, Oxford, the Harrison memorial prize from the Chemical Society, and the Naylor prize from the London Mathematical Society. He was a governor of the BBC from 1979 to 1984.

In 2005 the Longuet-Higgins Prize for "Fundamental Contributions in Computer Vision that Have Withstood the Test of Time" was created in his honor. The prize is awarded every year at the IEEE Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Conference for up to two distinguished papers published at that same conference ten years earlier.

Personal life[edit]

Longuet-Higgins died on 27 March 2004, aged 80. Although he respected many of the features of the Church of England, he was an atheist.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Higgs Website webpage at University of Edinburgh
  2. ^ Higgs, Peter Ware (1954). Some problems in the theory of molecular vibrations. (PhD thesis). King's College London (University of London). OCLC 731205676. EThOS
  3. ^ Hinton, Geoffrey Everest (1977). Relaxation and its role in vision (PhD thesis). University of Edinburgh. hdl:1842/8121. OCLC 18656113. EThOS Free to read
  4. ^ a b Christopher Longuet-Higgins at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ a b c d e Gregory, R. L.; Murrell, J. N. (2006). "Hugh Christopher Longuet-Higgins. 11 April 1923 -- 27 March 2004: Elected FRS 1958". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 52: 149–166. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2006.0012.
  6. ^ Longuet-Higgins, H. C. (1981). "A computer algorithm for reconstructing a scene from two projections". Nature. 293 (5828): 133–135. Bibcode:1981Natur.293..133L. doi:10.1038/293133a0.
  7. ^ Obituary in the Guardian
  8. ^ Page at IAQMS
  9. ^ A biography
  10. ^ The Nature of Mind, Gifford Lectures, 1971-3, with Kenny, A., Lucas, J.R. and Waddington, C. H.
  11. ^ The Development of Mind, Gifford Lectures, 1971-3, with the above
  12. ^ Gregory, R. (2006). "Hugh Christopher Longuet-Higgins. 1923-2004". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 52: 149–166. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2006.0012.
  13. ^ Obituary in the Guardian
  14. ^ Longuet-Higgins, H. C.; Bell, R. P. (1943). "64. The Structure of the Boron Hydrides". Journal of the Chemical Society (Resumed). 1943: 250–255. doi:10.1039/JR9430000250.
  15. ^ Longuet-Higgins, Hugh Christopher (1947). Some problems in theoretical chemistry by the method of molecular orbitals. (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford.
  16. ^ Venn Cambridge University database Archived 14 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ H. C. Longuet Higgins; U. Öpik; M. H. L. Pryce; R. A. Sack (1958). "Studies of the Jahn-Teller effect .II. The dynamical problem". Proc. R. Soc. A. 244 (1236): 1–16. Bibcode:1958RSPSA.244....1L. doi:10.1098/rspa.1958.0022.See page 12
  18. ^ Longuet-Higgins, H. C.; Abrahamson, E. W. (1965). "The Electronic Mechanism of Electrocyclic Reactions". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 87 (9): 2045. doi:10.1021/ja01087a033.
  19. ^ Longuet-Higgins, H.C. (1963). "The symmetry groups of non-rigid molecules". Molecular Physics. 6 (5): 445–460. Bibcode:1963MolPh...6..445L. doi:10.1080/00268976300100501.
  20. ^ Longuet-Higgins, H. C.; Webber, B.; Cameron, W.; Bundy, A.; Hudson, R.; Hudson, L.; Ziman, J.; Sloman, A.; Sharples, M.; Dennett, D. (1994). "Artificial Intelligence and Musical Cognition [and Discussion]". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 349 (1689): 103. Bibcode:1994RSPTA.349..103L. doi:10.1098/rsta.1994.0116.
  21. ^ Longuet-Higgins, H. C. (1979). "Review Lecture: The Perception of Music". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 205 (1160): 307–322. Bibcode:1979RSPSB.205..307L. doi:10.1098/rspb.1979.0067. PMID 41250.
  22. ^ D., Waterston, C. (2006). Former fellows of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1783-2002 : biographical index. Shearer, A. Macmillan., Royal Society of Edinburgh. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0902198845. OCLC 83595094.
  23. ^ "By that time Longuet-Higgins had become a convinced atheist, although he still respected many of the features of the Church of England." John Murrell, 'Higgins, (Hugh) Christopher Longuet- (1923–2004)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition, Oxford University Press, January 2008 (accessed May 1, 2008). doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/93593