Karen Spärck Jones

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Karen Spärck Jones
Karen Spärck.jpg
Karen Spärck Jones in 2002
Born (1935-08-26)26 August 1935
Huddersfield, Yorkshire
Died 4 April 2007(2007-04-04) (aged 71)
Willingham, Cambridgeshire
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality British
Fields Computer science
Institutions University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Thesis Synonymy and Semantic Classification (1964[1])
Doctoral advisor Richard Braithwaite[2]
Known for work on information retrieval and natural language processing, in particular her probabilistic model of document and text retrieval
Notable awards ACL Lifetime Achievement Award, BCS Lovelace Medal, ACM-AAAI Allen Newell Award, ACM SIGIR Salton Award, American Society for Information Science and Technology’s Award of Merit
Spouse Roger Needham

Karen Spärck Jones FBA (26 August 1935 – 4 April 2007) was a British computer scientist.[3][4]

Personal life[edit]

Karen Ida Boalth Spärck Jones was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England. Her father was Owen Jones, a lecturer in chemistry, and her mother was Ida Spärck, a Norwegian who moved to Britain during World War II. They left Norway on one of the last boats out after the German invasion in 1940.[2] Spärck Jones was educated at a grammar school in Huddersfield and then Girton College, Cambridge from 1953 to 1956, reading History, with an additional final year in Moral Sciences (philosophy). She briefly became a school teacher, before moving into Computer Science. During her career in Computer Science, she campaigned hard for more women to enter computing.[2] She was married to fellow Cambridge computer scientist Roger Needham until his death in 2003. She died 4 April 2007 at Willingham in Cambridgeshire.


She worked at the Cambridge Language Research Unit from the late 1950s,[5] then at Cambridge's Computer Laboratory from 1974, and retired in 2002, holding the post of Professor of Computers and Information, which she was awarded in 1999.[2] She continued to work in the Computer Laboratory until shortly before her death. Her main research interests, since the late 1950s, were natural language processing and information retrieval.[6][7] One of her most important contributions was the concept of inverse document frequency (IDF) weighting in information retrieval, which she introduced in a 1972 paper.[6][8] IDF is used in most search engines today, usually as part of the tf-idf weighting scheme.[9]

There is an annual BCS lecture named in her honour.[10]



Karen Spärck Jones Award[edit]

To commemorate her achievements, the Karen Spärck Jones Award was created in 2008 by the BCS and its Information Retrieval Specialist Group (BCS IRSG), which is sponsored by Microsoft Research.[12]

The recipients are:


  1. ^ Karen Spärck Jones (1986). Synonymy and Semantic Classification (thesis published as a book). Edinburgh Information Technology series. 1. Edinburgh University Press. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Jones, Karen Ida Boalth Spärck (1935–2007), Computer Scientist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Tait, J. I. (2007). "Karen Spärck Jones". Computational Linguistics. 33 (3): 289–291. doi:10.1162/coli.2007.33.3.289. 
  4. ^ Robertson, S.; Tait, J. (2008). "Karen Spärck Jones". Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 59 (5): 852. doi:10.1002/asi.20784. 
  5. ^ "Computer Laboratory obituary". 
  6. ^ a b Spärck Jones, K. (1972). "A Statistical Interpretation of Term Specificity and Its Application in Retrieval". Journal of Documentation. 28: 11–21. doi:10.1108/eb026526. 
  7. ^ Tait, John I., ed. (2005). "Charting a New Course: Natural Language Processing and Information Retrieval, Essays in Honour of Karen Spärck Jones". The Kluwer International Series on Information Retrieval. 16. ISBN 1-4020-3343-5. doi:10.1007/1-4020-3467-9. 
  8. ^ Spärck Jones, K. (1973). "Index term weighting". Information Storage and Retrieval. 9 (11): 619–633. doi:10.1016/0020-0271(73)90043-0. 
  9. ^ Maybury, M. T. (2005). "Karen Spärck Jones and Summarization". Charting a New Course: Natural Language Processing and Information Retrieval. The Kluwer International Series on Information Retrieval. 16. pp. 99–10. ISBN 1-4020-3343-5. doi:10.1007/1-4020-3467-9_7. 
  10. ^ "Karen Spärck Jones lecture". BCS Academy of Computing. British Computer Society. Retrieved 3 October 2013. 
  11. ^ "ACL Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients". ACL wiki. ACL. Retrieved 16 August 2014. 
  12. ^ Microsoft BCS/BCS IRSG Karen Spärck Jones Award An Award to Commemorate Karen Spärck Jones

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Makoto Nagao
ACL Lifetime Achievement Award
Succeeded by
Martin Kay