Roger Schank

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Roger Schank
Born(1946-03-12)March 12, 1946
New York City, U.S.
DiedJanuary 29, 2023(2023-01-29) (aged 76)
Alma mater
  • Diane Levine
    (div. 1998)
  • Annie Payeur (m. c. 1999)
Scientific career
ThesisA Conceptual Dependency Representation for a Computer-Oriented Semantics (1969)
Doctoral advisorJacob L. Mey
Doctoral students

Roger Carl Schank (March 12, 1946 – January 29, 2023) was an American artificial intelligence theorist, cognitive psychologist, learning scientist, educational reformer, and entrepreneur. Beginning in the late 1960s, he pioneered conceptual dependency theory (within the context of natural language understanding) and case-based reasoning, both of which challenged cognitivist views of memory and reasoning. He began his career teaching at Yale University and Stanford University. In 1989, Schank was granted $30 million in a ten-year commitment to his research and development by Andersen Consulting, through which he founded the Institute for the Learning Sciences (ILS) at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Early life[edit]

Schank was born in Manhattan, New York, in 1946, and he attended Stuyvesant High School.[3]

Academic career[edit]

For his undergraduate degree, Schank studied mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University[4] in Pittsburgh PA, and later was awarded a PhD in linguistics at the University of Texas in Austin and went on to work in faculty positions at Stanford University and then at Yale University.[5] In 1974, he became professor of computer science and psychology at Yale University. In 1981, Schank became Chairman of Computer Science at Yale and director of the Yale Artificial Intelligence Project.[6]

In 1989, Schank was granted $30 million in a ten-year commitment to his research and development by Andersen Consulting, allowing him to leave Yale and set up the Institute for the Learning Sciences (ILS) at Northwestern University in Chicago, bringing along 25 of his Yale colleagues.[7][8] ILS attracted other corporate sponsors such as IBM and Ameritech, as well as government sponsors such as the U.S. Army, EPA and the National Guard,[9] leading to a focus on the development of educational software,[5] especially in employee training.[9] ILS was later absorbed by the School of Education as a separate department.

When Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus was established in 2002, Schank came to serve as Chief Educational Officer at the institution.[10]


While at Yale in 1979, Schank was among the first to "capitalize on the expected boom"[11] in AI when he founded Cognitive Systems, a company that went public in 1986. Schank resigned as chairman and chief executive in 1988 for personal reasons, but stayed as a board member and advisor.[12]

In 1994, Schank founded Cognitive Arts Corporation[10] (originally named Learning Sciences Corporation) to market the software developed at ILS, and led the company until it was sold in 2003.

From 2005 to 2007, Schank was the chief learning officer of Trump University.[13]

In 2001 he founded Socratic Arts, a company that sells e-learning software to both businesses and schools.[9]

In 2008, Schank built a story-centered curriculum (SCC) at the Business Engineering School of La Salle International Graduate School of Ramon Llull University, Barcelona to teach MBA students to launch their own businesses or to go to work.[9]

In 2012, Schank founded XTOL (Experiential Training Online) which "designs learn-by-doing experiential short courses for use by universities, corporations and professional organizations, as well as Master's programs in partnership with degree-granting universities around the world".[14]

Educational reform[edit]

Schank believed that the educational system is fundamentally broken and that software will need to replace conventional teaching methods.[15] To serve this purpose, he founded Engines for Education in 2001, a not-for-profit organization which designs and implements curricula for primary and secondary schools[9] and hosts the Virtual International Science and Technology Academy (VISTA).


In 1969 Schank introduced the conceptual dependency theory for natural language understanding.[16] This model, partly based on the work of Sydney Lamb, was extensively used by Schank's students at Yale University, such as Robert Wilensky, Wendy Lehnert, and Janet Kolodner.

Case-based reasoning (CBR) is based on Schank's model of dynamic memory[17] and was the basis for the earliest CBR systems: Janet Kolodner's CYRUS[18] and Michael Lebowitz's IPP.[19]

Other schools of CBR and closely allied fields emerged in the 1980s, investigating such topics as CBR in legal reasoning, memory-based reasoning (a way of reasoning from examples on massively parallel machines), and combinations of CBR with other reasoning methods. In the 1990s, interest in CBR grew, as evidenced by the establishment of an International Conference on Case-Based Reasoning in 1995, as well as European, German, British, Italian, and other CBR workshops.

CBR technology has produced a number of successful deployed systems, the earliest being Lockheed's CLAVIER,[20] a system for laying out composite parts to be baked in an industrial convection oven. CBR has been used extensively in help desk applications such as the Compaq SMART system[21] and has found a major application area in the health sciences.[22]

Personal life and death[edit]

Schank was married twice. His first marriage, to Diane Levine, ended when they divorced in 1998; he then married Annie Payeur in or around 1999.[3][23] He had two children.[3]

Schank had homes in Palm Beach, Florida and Quebec. In Florida, he was a neighbor of Jeffrey Epstein, and attended an artificial intelligence conference sponsored by him on his island in 2002, six years before Epstein was convicted of sex offenses in 2008.[24][25] After the conviction, Schank showed public support for him.[3]

After a period of failing health, Schank died from heart failure under hospice care in Shelburne, Vermont, on January 29, 2023, at the age of 76.[3][23]


  • Schank, Roger. Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools. New York: Teachers College Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-8077-5266-1 (paper) and ISBN 978-0-8077-5267-8 (hardcover).
  • Schank, Roger, Dimitris Lyras and Elliot Soloway. The Future of Decision Making: How Revolutionary Software Can Improve the Ability to Decide. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. ISBN 978-0-230-10365-8
  • Schank, Roger. Lessons in Learning, e-Learning, and Training: Perspectives and Guidance for the Enlightened Trainer. Pfeiffer, 2005. ISBN 0-7879-7666-0.
  • Schank, Roger. Scrooge Meets Dick and Jane. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001, ISBN 0-8058-3877-5.
  • Schank, Roger. Dynamic Memory Revisited, 2nd Edition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-521-63398-2.
  • Schank, Roger, Virtual Learning: A Revolutionary Approach to Building a Highly Skilled Workforce. New York: McGraw Hill 1997. ISBN 0-7863-1148-7
  • Schank, Roger and Gary Saul Morson. Tell Me A Story: Narrative and Intelligence. Northwestern Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8101-1313-9.
  • Schank, Roger and Chip Cleary, Engines for Education. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1995.
  • Schank, Roger. The Connoisseur's Guide to the Mind: How we think, How we learn, and what it means to be intelligent. Summit Books, 1991.
  • Schank, Roger. Tell Me A Story: A new look at real and artificial memory. Scribner's, 1990.
  • Schank, Roger and Peter Childers. The Creative Attitude: Learning to Ask and Answer the Right Questions. MacMillan Publishing Company, 1988, ISBN 0-02-607170-3.
  • Schank, Roger. The Cognitive Computer: On Language, Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Reading: Addison Wesley, 1984.
  • Schank, Roger. Dynamic Memory: A Theory of Learning in Computers and People. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
  • Schank, Roger; Abelson, Robert P. (1977). Scripts, plans, goals and understanding: An inquiry into human knowledge structures. New Jersey: Erlbaum. ISBN 0-470-99033-3.
  • Schank, Roger. Conceptualizations underlying natural language. In Computer Models of Thought and Language, R. Schank & K. Colby, eds. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1973.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Roger Schank at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ Hunter, Lawrence E. (1989). Knowledge acquisition planning: Gaining expertise through experience (PhD thesis). Yale University. hdl:10079/bibid/9838922. OCLC 24116492. ProQuest 303852846.
  3. ^ a b c d e Lohr, Steve (February 20, 2023). "Roger C. Schank, Theorist of Artificial Intelligence, Dies at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  4. ^ Freedman, David. "The Schank Tank". Wired. Wired. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b Freedman, David H. (August 1994). "The Schank Tank". Wired. Vol. 2, no. 8. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  6. ^ "Biography: Part 1 of 2". 2009. Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  7. ^ Henderson, Harold (December 14, 1989). "Northwestern's New A.I. Hotshot". Chicago Reader.
  8. ^ Rifkin, Glenn (September 6, 1992). "Andersen Consulting's Culture of 'Clones'". New York Times. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Biography: Part 2 of 2". 2009. Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Roger Schank". Socratic Arts. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  11. ^ Pollack, Andrew (September 13, 1982). "Selling artificial intelligence". New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  12. ^ "Top officer resigns at Cognitive Systems". New York Times. June 24, 1988. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  13. ^ "Trump University; I was there; state accreditation is not the issue".
  14. ^ "XTOL (Experiential Training Online)". XTOL Corp. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  15. ^ Green, Joshua (August 11, 2000). "No Lectures or Teachers, Just Software". New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  16. ^ Schank, Roger (1969). "A conceptual dependency parser for natural language". Proceedings of the 1969 conference on Computational linguistics. Sång-Säby, Sweden. pp. 1–3.
  17. ^ Roger Schank, Dynamic Memory: A Theory of Learning in Computers and People (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982)
  18. ^ Janet Kolodner, "Reconstructive Memory: A Computer Model", Cognitive Science 7 (1983): 4.
  19. ^ Michael Lebowitz, "Memory-Based Parsing", Artificial Intelligence 21 (1983), 363–404.
  20. ^ Bill Mark, "Case-Based Reasoning for Autoclave Management", Proceedings of the Case-Based Reasoning Workshop (1989).
  21. ^ Trung Nguyen, Mary Czerwinski, and Dan Lee, "COMPAQ QuickSource: Providing the Consumer with the Power of Artificial Intelligence", in Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Conference on Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence (Washington, DC: AAAI Press, 1993), 142–151.
  22. ^ Begum, S.; M. U Ahmed; P. Funk; Ning Xiong; M. Folke (July 2011). "Case-Based Reasoning Systems in the Health Sciences: A Survey of Recent Trends and Developments". IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics - Part C: Applications and Reviews. 41 (4): 421–434. doi:10.1109/TSMCC.2010.2071862. ISSN 1094-6977. S2CID 22441650.
  23. ^ a b "Dr. Roger Schank". Paperman & Sons. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  24. ^ Engber, Daniel (August 2, 2019). "The "Girls" Were Always Around: What it was like to be a scientist in Jeffrey Epstein's circle". Slate.
  25. ^ "Jeffrey Epstein's Prison Party", The Intelligencer, New York Magazine, August 12, 2008

External links[edit]