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David Gelernter

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David Gelernter
Gelernter in 2011
David Hillel Gelernter

(1955-03-05) March 5, 1955 (age 69)
Alma materYale University (BA, MA)
Stony Brook University (PhD)
SpouseJane Gelernter
AwardsMember of the National Council on the Arts (2003)
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
Parallel computing
InstitutionsYale University

David Hillel Gelernter (born March 5, 1955) is an American computer scientist, artist, and writer. He is a professor of computer science at Yale University.

Gelernter is known for contributions to parallel computation in the 1980s, and for books on topics such as computed worlds (Mirror Worlds). Gelernter is also known for his belief, expressed in his book America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats), that liberal academia has a destructive influence on American society. He is in addition known for his views against women in the workforce, and his rejection of the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change and evolution.

In 1993 Gelernter was sent a mail bomb by Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber. He opened it and the resulting explosion almost killed him, leaving him with permanent loss of use of his right hand as it destroyed 4 fingers, and permanent damage to his right eye.[1]

Early life and education


Gelernter grew up on Long Island, New York.[2] His father Herbert Gelernter was a physicist who, in the late 1950s and 1960s, became a pioneer in artificial intelligence and taught computer science at State University of New York at Stony Brook.[3][4] Gelernter's grandfather was a rabbi, and Gelernter grew up as a Reform Jew; he later became a follower of Orthodox Judaism.[5]

He received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Classical Hebrew literature from Yale University in 1976.[6] He earned his Ph.D. from State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1982.[2]



Computer science


In the 1980s, Gelernter made seminal contributions to the field of parallel computation, specifically the tuple space coordination model, as embodied by the Linda programming system he and Nicholas Carriero designed (which he named for Linda Lovelace, the lead actress in the porn movie Deep Throat, mocking the naming of the programming language Ada in tribute to the scientist and first attributed computer programmer, Ada Lovelace).[7][2] Bill Joy cited the Linda system as the inspiration for many elements of JavaSpaces and Jini.[8]

In January 1993 in his book Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox...How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean, Gelernter wrote: "...people and software work hand-in-glove – and sometimes hand-in-hand."[9]

On June 24, 1993, Gelernter was severely injured opening a mail bomb sent to him by the Unabomber. He recovered from his injuries, but his right hand (which he covers with a glove) and eye were permanently damaged.[10][11] Some in the press suggested that there were parallels between his thoughts on the need for a human element to computers and those of the Unabomber.[2] He chronicled the ordeal in his 1997 book Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber.[12] Two years after the bombing, the Unabomber sent Gelernter a letter, writing: "People with advanced degrees aren't as smart as they think they are."[13]

Gelernter helped found the company Mirror Worlds Technologies, which in 2001 released Scopeware software using ideas from his 1992 book Mirror Worlds. Gelernter believed that computers can free users from being filing clerks, by organizing their data. The product never took off, however,[14] and the company ceased operations in 2004.[14] In 2013, Mirror Worlds Technologies, LLC, a related company that had purchased its patents, filed a complaint of patent infringement against Apple, Best Buy, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Lenovo (United States), Lenovo Group, Microsoft, Samsung Electronic, and Samsung TeleCommunications in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.[15] Ultimately, the company lost at the trial level and on appeal.[14] A petition for writ of certiorari to have the case considered by the Supreme Court of the United States was denied in 2013.[16] In 2016, the case was dismissed with prejudice.[15]

In July 2019, Gelernter, along with 3 other co-founders, started Revolution Populi: A blockchain-powered crypto clearing house and social network. The team also includes Rob Rosenthal, a 19-year veteran of Goldman Sachs.[17]

Writing and art


Gelernter's paintings have been exhibited, sold, stolen and recovered in New Haven and Manhattan.[18]

Gelernter has critiqued what he perceives as cultural illiteracy among students. In 2015, he commented, "They [students] know nothing about art. They know nothing about history. They know nothing about philosophy. And because they have been raised as not even atheists, they don't rise to the level of atheists, insofar as they've never thought about the existence or nonexistence of God. It has never occurred to them. They know nothing about the Bible."[19] In 2016 he said: "The [Yale] faculty and the students don't have a clue what's going on in the world."[20]



He is a former national fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and senior fellow in Jewish thought at the Shalem Center. In 2003, he became a member of the National Council on the Arts.[21] Time magazine profiled Gelernter in 2016, describing him as a "stubbornly independent thinker. A conservative among mostly liberal Ivy League professors, a religious believer among the often disbelieving ranks of computer scientists..."[22]

Endorsing Donald Trump for president, in October 2016, Gelernter wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal calling Hillary Clinton "as phony as a three-dollar bill", and saying that Barack Obama "has governed like a third-rate tyrant".[23][24] In his capacity as a member of the Trump transition team, Peter Thiel nominated Gelernter for the Science Advisor to the President position; Gelernter did meet with Trump in January 2017 but did not get the job.[25]

In 2018, he said that the idea that Trump is a racist "is absurd."[26] In October 2020 he joined in signing a letter stating: "Given his astonishing success in his first term, we believe that Donald Trump is the candidate most likely to foster the promise and prosperity of America."[27]

Gelernter has spoken out against women in the workforce, saying working mothers were harming their children and should stay at home.[13] Gelernter has also argued for the U.S. voting age to be raised, on the basis that 18-year-olds are not sufficiently mature.[28]

Positions on science

Gelernter in 2010

The Washington Post, profiling him in early 2017 as a potential science advisor to Donald Trump, called Gelernter "a vehement critic of modern academia" who has "condemned 'belligerent leftists' and blamed intellectualism for the disintegration of patriotism and traditional family values."[29] Shortly thereafter, The Atlantic published a rebuttal of The Washington Post profile, saying it was "hard to imagine a more misleading treatment" of the "pioneering polymath" Gelernter.[30]

Gelernter has "expressed skepticism about the reality" of anthropogenic climate change,"[31][32] rejecting the overwhelming scientific consensus in the field.[33]

In July 2019, in a review of Stephen Meyer's book Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, which Gelernter wrote for the Claremont Review of Books, he also rejected the scientific consensus of evolutionary biology.[34] On the other hand, Gelernter stipulates he "cannot accept" intelligent design either, saying that "as a theory, it would seem to have a long way to go."[35] In "A Response to David Gelernter's Attack on Evolution", Patheos, August 26, 2019, Bob Seidensticker writes: "Let's subtitle this story, 'Guy who made his career in not-biology is convinced by other not-biologists that Biology's core theory is wrong.'"[36] Computer scientist and mathematician Jeffrey Shallit wrote: "Gelernter's review was not published in a science journal, but in a politics journal run by a far-right think tank. His review cites no scientific publications at all, and makes claims like 'Many biologists agree' and 'Most biologists think' without giving any supporting citations. So, not surprisingly ... Gelernter makes a fool of himself in his review, which resembles a 'greatest hits' of creationist misconceptions and lies."[37]

Books and book reviews

External videos
video icon Booknotes interview with Gelernter on Drawing Life, November 16, 1997, C-SPAN

Gelernter's book Mirror Worlds (1991) "prophesied the rise of the World Wide Web."[38] Bill Joy, founder and chief scientist of Sun Microsystems, said Gelernter was "one of the most brilliant and visionary computer scientists of our time."[38] The New York Times called him a computer science "rock star".[39]

In The Muse in the Machine (1994), Gelernter theorized that creativity is based on the degree to which people focus their attention, arguing that "low focus", when attention is wandering or emotions interfere with rationality, is when people are creative.[40] His book was harshly criticized.[40] Psychologist Stuart Sutherland, writing in Nature, called the theory wrong.[40] Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, director of the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, wrote: "It makes a great story, but if you look at the contemporary records and autobiographies, it doesn't work that way."[40]

In his 2009 book Judaism: A Way of Being, Gelernter wrote that God has withdrawn from the modern world, that Reform and Conservative Judaism do not work, that the purpose of life is to marry and rear a family, and that the feminist effort for male and female equality "is an act of aggression against both sanctity and humanity."[41]

In his 2012 book America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats), Gelernter argued that American higher education no longer cares about producing well-rounded and cultured students; academics instead believe that their role is to dictate how other Americans live and think. Scottish columnist Stephen Daisley wrote in Commentary magazine that Gelernter portrayed Obama's presidency as a symbol of the failure of American education and the success of its replacement with a liberal indoctrination system. As a solution, Gelernter proposed moving all of human knowledge to online servers so that the in-person college experience can be replaced by user-driven self-education. Daisley wrote, "America-Lite is lean, incisive, convincing, delightfully indelicate, and, in a break from the conventions of the literature on education, honest. It is a fine dissection—de-construction, if you must—of the corruption of higher education and the resulting debasement of political culture. If it makes its way on to a single college reading list, Hell will have frozen over."[42]

Historian Russell Jacoby was critical in his review of Gelernter's book America-Lite, saying it contained insufficient arguments. Jacoby wrote that Gelernter blamed Jews for causing the breakdown of patriotism and the traditional family, writing, "Gelernter is Jewish, and it is not likely that a non-Jew would airily argue that obnoxious leftist Jews have taken over elite higher education."[43]

Selected works



  • With David Padua & Alexandru Nicolau. Languages and Compilers for Parallel Computing. Mass. Instit. of Tech. Pr., 1990.
  • With Suresh Jagannathan. Programming Linguistics. Mass. Instit. of Tech., 1990.
  • With Nicholas Carriero. How to Write Parallel Programs: A first course. Mass. Instit. of Tech. Pr., 1990.
  • Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox...How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean. Oxford Univ. Pr., 1992.
  • The Muse in the Machine: Computerizing the Poetry of Human Thought. MacMillan, Inc., 1994.
  • 1939: the Lost World of the Fair. HarperCollins Pub., 1996.
  • Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber. Simon & Schuster Adult Pub. Group, 1997.
  • The Aesthetics of Computing. Phoenix (Orion Books Ltd, UK), 1998.
  • Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology. Perseus Pub., 1998.
  • Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion. Doubleday., 2007.
  • Judaism: A Way of Being. Yale University Press, 2009.
  • America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats). Encounter Books, 2012, ISBN 978-1594036064
  • The Tides of Mind: Uncovering the Spectrum of Consciousness. Liveright, 2016. W.W. Norton. ISBN 9781631492495



Gelernter has contributed to magazines such as City Journal, The Weekly Standard, and Commentary that are generally considered neoconservative.[citation needed] For seven months, he contributed a weekly op-ed column to the Los Angeles Times.[44] He has published in The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

See also



  1. ^ "Unabomber's act still affects prof. Gelernter". yaledailynews.com. 29 January 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d Henderson, Harry (2014). A to Z of Computer Scientists. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9781438109183 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "David Gelernter, B.A. & M.A. '76". Yale Scientific. 14 February 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  4. ^ David Gelernter, "A Life That Made Sense", The Weekly Standard, September 7, 2015, at 5.
  5. ^ Juliana Ochs, "Judaism: A Way of Being", Public Broadcasting Service, January 7, 2010.
  6. ^ "David Gelernter, B.A., Yale University, 1976 Ph.D., The State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1982 Joined Yale Faculty 1982".
  7. ^ Markoff, John (January 19, 1992). "David Gelernter's Romance With Linda". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "More than just another pretty name – SunWorld – August 1998". Sunsite.uakom.sk. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  9. ^ Gelernter, David (1993). Mirror Worlds: or the Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox...How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195344851 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ "Seer of the mirror world". The Economist. 3 December 2001. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Apple Challenges Big Award Over Patents". The New York Times. October 4, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-05.
  12. ^ David Gelernter (1997). Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber. Simon & Schuster Adult Pub. Group. ISBN 9780684839127.
  13. ^ a b "The Images Dancing in David Gelernter's Head"
  14. ^ a b c Mullin, Joe (July 12, 2016). "Apple will pay $25M to patent troll to avoid East Texas trial". Ars Technica.
  15. ^ a b "Mirror Worlds Technologies, LLC v. Apple Inc. et al". Justia Dockets & Filings.
  16. ^ "Mirror Worlds, LLC v. Apple Inc". SCOTUSblog.
  17. ^ "A Yale professor and Goldman Sachs veteran are teaming up on an eccentric new blockchain-powered social network to try to make Facebook irrelevant". Business Insider.
  18. ^ John Christoffersen (Mar 24, 2009). "Unabomber victim's art recovered after Yale theft". Associated Press.
  19. ^ "David Gelernter on the Dumbing Down of the US, Computer Science, & Art".
  20. ^ "Yale professor makes case for Donald Trump vote". Fox News. October 19, 2016.
  21. ^ "NEA News Room: Five New Members of National Council on the Arts Welcomed by National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia". Nea.gov. 2003-04-10. Archived from the original on 2013-01-27. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  22. ^ "Encounters with the Arch-Genius, David Gelernter". Time.
  23. ^ Gerlernter, David (2016-10-14). "Trump and the Emasculated Voter". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  24. ^ Mikics, David (July 31, 2017). "The Unabomber Couldn't Kill David Gelernter. Now Gelernter Supports Donald Trump". Tablet. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
  25. ^ Chafkin, Max (2021). The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power. Penguin Press. pp. 252–253. ISBN 978-1984878533.
  26. ^ Chotiner, Isaac (October 23, 2018). "The Yale Professor Who Knows "the Real Reason" Liberals Hate Trump Defends His Op-Ed, the President, and Birtherism". Slate.
  27. ^ "Scholars and Writers for Trump | RealClearBooks". 30 October 2020.
  28. ^ Gelernter, David (2020-07-28). "Eighteen Is Too Young to Vote". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2020-08-01.
  29. ^ Kaplan, Sarah (January 18, 2017), "David Gelernter, fiercely anti-intellectual computer scientist, is being eyed for Trump's science adviser", Speaking of Science, The Washington Post.
  30. ^ Friedersdorf, Conor (February 23, 2017). "20 Ideas From the Mind of David Gelernter". The Atlantic.
  31. ^ Yaffe-Bellany, Britton O'Daly and David. "A potential science adviser to Trump says he doesn't believe in man-made climate change". Business Insider.
  32. ^ O'Daly, Britton (25 January 2017). "Gelernter, potential science advisor to Trump, denies man-made climate change". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  33. ^ "Gelernter, potential science advisor to Trump, denies man-made climate change". yaledailynews.com. 25 January 2017.
  34. ^ Kabbany, Jennifer (July 30, 2019). "Famed Yale computer science professor quits believing Darwin's theories". The College Fix. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  35. ^ "Giving Up Darwin".
  36. ^ Examined, Cross (August 26, 2019). "A Response to David Gelernter's Attack on Evolution".
  37. ^ Shallit, Jeffrey (August 2, 2019). "Recursivity: David Gelernter Makes a Fool of Himself Again".
  38. ^ a b John Markoff, technology writer and The New York Times reporter in an interview with David Gelernter
  39. ^ Schwartz, John (July 2, 2001). "New Economy; Selling a Vision of the Future beyond Folders". The New York Times.
  40. ^ a b c d Steven Levy (May 21, 1995). "The Unabomber and David Gelernter". The New York Times Company.
  41. ^ "Judaism: A Way of Being | Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly | PBS". PBS. January 7, 2010.
  42. ^ Daisley, Stephen (June 2012). "Reign of Ignorance". Commentary: 64–65.
  43. ^ "Dreaming of a World Without Intellectuals". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2012-07-16.
  44. ^ David Gelernter (April 15, 2005). "Soldiers Do Us the Honor". Los Angeles Times.