David Gelernter

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David Gelernter
David Gelernter.jpg
David Hillel Gelernter

(1955-03-05) March 5, 1955 (age 65)
Alma materYale University (B.A., 1976)
Stony Brook University (Ph.D., 1982)
Spouse(s)Jane Gelernter
AwardsMember of the National Council on the Arts (2003)
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
Parallel computing
Visual arts
InstitutionsYale University

David Hillel Gelernter is an American computer scientist, artist, and writer. He is currently a professor of computer science at Yale University. He is a former national fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and senior fellow in Jewish thought at the Shalem Center, and sat on the National Endowment for the Arts. He publishes widely; his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Los Angeles Times, The Weekly Standard, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and elsewhere. His paintings have been exhibited in New Haven and Manhattan.

He is known for contributions to parallel computation and for books on topics including computed worlds (Mirror Worlds), and what he sees as the destructive influence of liberal academia on American society, expressed in his book America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats).

In 1993 he was sent a mail bomb by Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, which almost killed him and left him with some permanent disabilities: he lost his right hand and his right eye was permanently damaged.[1]

Life and work[edit]

David Gelernter's father was computer science professor Herbert Gelernter, who taught at Stony Brook University.[2] He received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in classical Hebrew literature from Yale University in 1976 and his Ph.D. from S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook in 1982.

In the 1980s, he made seminal contributions to the field of parallel computation, specifically the tuple space coordination model, as embodied by the Linda programming system (named for Linda Lovelace, an actress in the porn movie Deep Throat, mocking Ada's tribute to the scientist and first attributed computer programmer, Ada Lovelace).[3] Bill Joy cites Linda as the inspiration for many elements of JavaSpaces and Jini.[4]

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

On June 24, 1993, Gelernter was severely injured opening a mail bomb sent by the Unabomber. He recovered from his injuries, but his right hand and eye were permanently damaged.[5] He chronicled the ordeal in his 1997 book Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber.

He 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 company announced it would "cease operations effective May 15, 2004". On May 23, 2013, a related company Mirror Worlds, LLC filed a complaint of patent infringement against Apple Inc., Best Buy Co. Inc., Dell Inc., Hewlett Packard Co., Lenovo (United States) Inc., Lenovo Group Ltd., Microsoft Corporation, Samsung Electronic USA Inc, Samsung TeleCommunications America, LLC in the Texas Eastern District Court (case no. 6:2013cv00419).[6] In August 2016, the case was dismissed with prejudice.[6] The case has been considered by the Supreme Court of the United States but a petition for writ of certiorari was denied on June 24, 2013.[7]

In 2003, he became a member of the National Council on the Arts.[8]

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."[9]

Political views[edit]

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."[10] In October 2016, he wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal endorsing Donald Trump for President, calling Hillary Clinton "as phony as a three-dollar bill," and saying that Barack Obama "has governed like a third-rate tyrant."[11]

He has also argued for the U.S. voting age to be raised on the basis that 18-year-olds were not sufficiently mature.[12]

Gelernter contributes to magazines such as City Journal, The Weekly Standard, and Commentary which are generally considered neoconservative. For seven months, he contributed a weekly op-ed column to the LA Times.

Controversial positions on science[edit]

The Washington Post, profiling him in early 2017 as a potential science advisor to Donald Trump, called him "a vehement critic of modern academia" who has "condemned 'belligerent leftists' and blamed intellectualism for the disintegration of patriotism and traditional family values."[13] 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.[14]

David Gelernter "expressed skepticism about the reality" of anthropogenic climate change.[15] In July 2019, Gelernter challenged Darwin's theories.[16] In a review of Stephen Meyer's book Darwin's Doubt, which he wrote for the Claremont Review of Books, Gelernter does not accept evolution "as Darwin presents it"[16] 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."[17]

Book reviews[edit]

A conversation with David Gelernter in 2010

Gelernter's book Mirror Worlds (1991) "prophesied the rise of the World Wide Web."[18] Bill Joy, founder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems, says Gelernter is "one of the most brilliant and visionary computer scientists of our time."[18] The New York Times called him a computer science "rock star".[19]

In America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats), Gelernter argues that American higher education no longer cares about producing well-rounded and cultured students; academics instead believe their role is to dictate how other Americans live and think. Stephen Daisley wrote in Commentary magazine that Gelernter portrays 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 proposes 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."[20]

Russell Jacoby was critical in his review of Gelernter's book America-Lite, feeling it contained insufficient arguments. Jacoby claimed 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."[21]

Selected works[edit]


  • With David Padua and Alexandru Nicolau. Languages and Compilers for Parallel Computing. Hardcover ed. Mass. Instit. of Tech. Pr., 1990.
  • With Suresh Jagannathan. Programming Linguistics. Hardcover ed. Mass. Instit. of Tech., 1990.
  • With Nicholas Carriero. How to Write Parallel Programs: A first course. Hardcover ed. 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. 1st ed. Oxford Univ. Pr., 1992.
  • The Muse in the Machine: Computerizing the Poetry of Human Thought. Hardcover ed. MacMillan, Inc., 1994.
  • 1939: the Lost World of the Fair. Paperback ed. HarperCollins Pub., 1996.
  • Drawing Life: Surviving the Unabomber. Hardcover ed. Simon & Schuster Adult Pub. Group, 1997.
  • The Aesthetics of Computing. Paperback ed. Phoenix (Orion Books Ltd, UK), 1998.
  • Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology. Paperback ed. Perseus Pub., 1998.
  • Americanism: The Fourth Great Western Religion. Hardcover ed. 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



  1. ^ "Unabomber's act still affects prof. Gelernter".
  2. ^ "A Life That Made Sense," by David Gelernter, The Weekly Standard, September 7, 2015, at 5.
  3. ^ Markoff, John (January 19, 1992). "David Gelernter's Romance With Linda". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "More than just another pretty name – SunWorld – August 1998". Sunsite.uakom.sk. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  5. ^ "Apple Challenges Big Award Over Patents". The New York Times. October 4, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-05. Professor Gelernter, a renowned technology pioneer, sustained serious injuries to his right hand and eye from an explosive package sent to him in 1993 by Theodore Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber.
  6. ^ a b "Mirror Worlds Technologies, LLC v. Apple Inc. et al". Justia Dockets & Filings.
  7. ^ "Mirror Worlds, LLC v. Apple Inc". SCOTUSblog.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "David Gelernter on Conversations with Bill Kristol".
  10. ^ "Encounters with the Arch-Genius, David Gelernter".
  11. ^ Gerlernter, David (2016-10-14). "Trump and the Emasculated Voter". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  12. ^ Gelernter, David (2020-07-28). "Eighteen Is Too Young to Vote". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2020-08-01.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/theres-enough-time-to-change-everything/517209/
  15. ^ O'Daly, Britton (25 January 2017). "Gelernter, potential science advisor to Trump, denies man-made climate change". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  16. ^ a b Kabbany, Jennifer (July 30, 2019). "Famed Yale computer science professor quits believing Darwin's theories". The College Fix. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  17. ^ https://www.claremont.org/crb/article/giving-up-darwin/
  18. ^ a b John Markoff, technology writer and New York Times reporter in an interview with David Gelernter
  19. ^ Schwartz, John. New Economy; Selling a Vision of the Future beyond Folders. NY Times, 7/2/01
  20. ^ Daisley, Stephen (June 2012). "Reign of Ignorance". Commentary: 64–65.
  21. ^ "Dreaming of a World Without Intellectuals". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2012-07-16.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]