John Henry Holland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Henry Holland
Born(1929-02-02)February 2, 1929
DiedAugust 9, 2015(2015-08-09) (aged 86)
Alma materUniversity of Michigan
Known forResearch on genetic algorithms
AwardsMacArthur Fellow (1992)
Harold Pender Award (1999)
Fellow of the World Economic Forum
Scientific career
FieldsComplex systems
Electrical engineering
Computer science
InstitutionsUniversity of Michigan
Santa Fe Institute
Doctoral advisorArthur Walter Burks
Doctoral studentsEdgar Codd[1]

Melanie Mitchell[2]

Rick L. Riolo

John Henry Holland (February 2, 1929 – August 9, 2015) was an American scientist and professor of psychology and electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He was a pioneer in what became known as genetic algorithms.


John Henry Holland was born on February 2, 1929 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the elder child of[3] son of Gustave A. Holland (b. July 24, 1896, Russian Poland) and Mildred P. Gfroerer (b. July 1, 1901, Columbus Grove, Ohio).[4] He had one younger sister, Shirley Ann "Hollie" Holland (born c. 1931).

Holland studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a B.S. degree in 1950. He then studied Mathematics at the University of Michigan, receiving an M.A. in 1954.[5] In 1959, he received the first computer science Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He was a Professor of psychology and Professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He held visiting positions at the Rowland Institute for Science and the University of Bergen.[citation needed]

According to Carl Simon, professor of mathematics, economics, complex systems and public policy, "Holland is best known for his role as a founding father of the complex systems approach. In particular, he developed genetic algorithms and learning classifier systems. These foundational building blocks of an evolutionary approach to optimization are now included in all texts on optimization and programming."[6]

Holland was a member of the Board of Trustees and Science Board of the Santa Fe Institute and a fellow of the World Economic Forum.[7]

Holland received the 1961 Louis E. Levy Medal from The Franklin Institute, and the MacArthur Fellowship in 1992.[8][9]

He was profiled extensively in chapters 5 and 7 of the book Complexity (1993), by M. Mitchell Waldrop.[10]

Holland died on August 9, 2015, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.[11]


Holland frequently lectured around the world on his own research, and on research and open questions in complex adaptive systems (CAS) studies. In 1975, he wrote the ground-breaking book on genetic algorithms, "Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems". He also developed Holland's schema theorem.


Holland authored a number of books about complex adaptive systems, including:

  • Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems (1975, MIT Press)
  • Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity (1995, Basic Books); reviewed by Mark S. Miller in Reason
  • Emergence: From Chaos to Order (1998, Basic Books)
  • Signals and Boundaries: Building Blocks for Complex Adaptive Systems (2012, MIT Press)
  • Complexity: A Very Short Introduction (2014, Oxford University Press)

Articles, a selection:

  • "A universal computer capable of executing an arbitrary number of subprograms simultaneously", in: Proc. Eastern Joint Comp. Conf. (1959), pp. 108–112
  • "Iterative circuit computers", in: Proc. Western Joint Comp. Conf. (1960), pp. 259–265
  • "Outline for a logical theory of adaptive systems", in: JACM, Vol 9 (1962), no. 3, pp. 279–314
  • "Hierarchical descriptions, universal spaces, and adaptive systems", in: Arthur W. Burks, editor. Essays on Cellular Automata (1970). University of Illinois Press
  • "Using Classifier Systems to Study Adaptive Nonlinear Networks", in: Daniel L. Stein, editor. Lectures in the Sciences of Complexity (1989). Addison Wesley
  • "Concerning the Emergence of Tag-Mediated Lookahead in Classifier Systems", in: Stephanie Forrest, editor. Emergent Computation: self-organizing, collective, and cooperative phenomena in natural and computing networks (1990). MIT Press
  • "The Royal Road for Genetic Algorithms: Fitness Landscapes and GA Performance", in: Francisco J. Varela, Paul Bourgine, editors. Toward a Practice of Autonomous Systems: proceedings of the first European conference on Artificial Life (1992). MIT Press
  • "Echoing Emergence: objectives, rough definitions, and speculations for ECHO-class models", in: George A. Cowan, David Pines, David Meltzer, editors. Complexity: metaphors, models, and reality (1994), Addison-Wesley
  • "Can There Be A Unified Theory of Complex Adaptive Systems?", in: Harold J. Morowitz, Jerome L. Singer, editors. The Mind, The Brain, and Complex Adaptive Systems (1995). Addison-Wesley
  • "Board Games", in: John Brockman, editor. The Greatest Inventions of the Past 2000 Years (2000). Phoenix
  • "What is to Come and How to Predict It.", in: John Brockman, editor. The Next Fifty Years: science in the first half of the twenty-first century (2002). Weidenfeld & Nicolson


  1. ^ John Henry Holland at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ "Adaptive Computation: The Multidisciplinary Legacy of John H. Holland" (PDF). Communications of the ACM. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 28, 2016. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  3. ^ John Henry Holland, Indiana State Board of Health. Birth Certificates, 1907-1940. Microfilm. Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis, Indiana. Accessed via paid subscription site, August 31, 2020.
  4. ^ Ily S. Gfroerer Obituary, Arizona Daily Star, February 11, 1952. Tucson, Arizona, USA (accessed via paid subscription site, August 31, 2020).
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 11, 2008. Retrieved March 2, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Obituary: John Henry Holland, The University Record, August 14, 2015. Accessed August 31, 2020.
  7. ^ "Profile: John H. Holland". Santa Fe Institute. Archived from the original on February 2, 2013.
  8. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database - Louis E. Levy Medal Laureates". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
  9. ^ "John H. Holland".
  10. ^ Waldrop, M.Mitchell (1993). Complexity - The emerging science at the edge of order and chaos. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-87234-6.
  11. ^ Complexity science pioneer John Holland passes away at 86 at

External links[edit]