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 in Lenham, Kent, England. His father was Henry H. L. Longuet-Higgins and his mother was Albinia Cecil Bazeley.[12] He was educated at The Pilgrims' School, Winchester, and Winchester College. 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.[citation needed] As an undergraduate he proposed the correct structure of the chemical compound diborane (B2H6), 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.[13] He completed a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1947[14] at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Charles Coulson.[citation needed]

Career and research[edit]

After his PhD, he did postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago and the University of Manchester.[citation needed] 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,[15] and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, 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.

He later[when?] moved to the experimental psychology department 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:[16]

Longuet-Higgins et al (1994):[17]

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[citation needed] a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) in 1969,[citation needed] 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]

His younger brother is Michael S. Longuet-Higgins.[citation needed] 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.[18]


  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 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. 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. 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Longuet-Higgins, Hugh Christopher (1947). Some problems in theoretical chemistry by the method of molecular orbitals. (DPhil thesis). University of Oxford.
  15. ^ Venn Cambridge University database Archived 14 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Longuet-Higgins, H. C. (1979). "Review Lecture: The Perception of Music". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 205 (1160): 307. Bibcode:1979RSPSB.205..307L. doi:10.1098/rspb.1979.0067.
  18. ^ "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