Seymour Papert

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Seymour Papert
Born (1928-02-29) February 29, 1928 (age 91)
Residence United States
NationalityFlag of the United States.svg American
Alma materCambridge University
University of Geneva
Known forArtificial intelligence
Logo programming language
Scientific career
FieldsCognitive science
Computer science
Doctoral studentsCarl Hewitt
Gerald Jay Sussman
Terry Winograd

Seymour Papert (born February 29, 1928 in Pretoria, South Africa) is an MIT mathematician, computer scientist, and educator. He is one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, as well as an inventor of the Logo programming language.

Early years

Papert attended the University of Witwatersrand, receiving a B.A. in 1949 and a PhD in mathematics in 1952. He then went on to receive another PhD, also in mathematics, at Cambridge University in 1959.[1] He was a leading figure in the revolutionary socialist circle around Socialist Review while living in London in the 1950s.[citation needed] He worked as a researcher in a variety of places, including St. John's College, Cambridge, the Henri Poincare Institute at the University of Paris, the University of Geneva and the National Physics Laboratory in London before becoming a research associate at MIT in 1963.[1] He held this position until 1967, when he became professor of applied math and director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, until 1981; he also served as Cecil & Ida Green professor of education from 1974-1981.[1]

Research and Theories

At MIT, Papert went on to create the Epistemology and Learning Research Group at the MIT Media Lab[2]. Here, he was the developer of an original and highly influential theory on learning called constructionism, built upon the work of Jean Piaget in Constructivism learning theories. Papert worked with Jean Piaget during the 1960s and is widely considered the most brilliant and successful of Piaget's proteges; Piaget once said that "no one understand's my ideas as well as Papert." Papert has rethought how schools should work based on these theories of learning.

Papert has also been widely known for focusing on the impact of new technologies on learning in general and in schools as learning organizations in particular. To this end, Papert used Piaget's work while developing the Logo programming language while at MIT. He created Logo as a tool to improve the way that children think and solve the problems. A small robot called the "Logo Turtle" was developed and children have been encouraged to solve the problem with the Logo turtle. A main purpose of the Logo Foundation research group is to strengthen the ability to learn knowledge. Papert insists a language or program that children can learn -- like Logo -- does not have to lack functionality for expert users.

As part of his work with technology, Papert has been a proponent of the Knowledge Machine. He is also currently one of the principals for the One Laptop Per Child initiative to manufacture and distribute The Children's Machine in developing nations. He has also been collaborator with Lego on their Logo-programmable Lego Mindstorms robotics kits.

Papert is married to Suzanne Massie Papert, who is a Russian scholar and author of Pavlovsk, Life of a Russian Palace and Land of the Firebird. Papert has been called by Marvin Minsky "the greatest living mathematics educator."[3]


Papert's work has been highly influential to other researchers in the fields of education and computer science. He influenced the work of Uri Wilensky in the design of NetLogo and collaborated with him on the study of knowledge restructurations, as well as the work of Andrea diSessa and the development of dynaturtles. He also influenced the research of Idit Harel Caperton, with whom he collaborated on research grants and published together articles, and the book Constructionism. He has also been the Advisory Board Chair of Caperton's company MaMaMedia. He also influenced Alan Kay and the Dynabook concept, and continues to work with Kay on various projects.

Accident in Hanoi

While attending the 17th ICMI Study conference in Hanoi, Papert was struck by a motorcycle while crossing a road near his hotel on Tuesday December 5, 2006. He underwent brain surgery at the French Hospital of Hanoi on Wednesday December 6 to remove the blood clot that had formed. By the evening of Tuesday December 12, he was in stable but critical condition.[4]

On Dec 16th he was transferred by Air Ambulance to Boston, Massachusetts, and on 23rd January he was transferred to a hospital in his home state of Maine. He is currently undergoing extensive rehab. Though he has regained consciousness, he cannot speak clearly, walk or function on his own. His family reports that he remains hospitalized and his recovery is uncertain.

Selected Bibliography

  • Counter-free automata, 1971, ISBN 0-262-13076-9
  • Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas, 1980, ISBN 0-465-04674-6
  • Perceptrons, (with Marvin Minsky), MIT Press, 1969 (Enlarged edition, 1988), ISBN 0-262-63111-3
  • Papert, S. & Harel, I. (eds). (1991) Constructionism: research reports and essays 1985 - 1990 by the Epistemology and Learning Research Group, the Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ablex Pub. Corp, Norwood, NJ.
  • The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer, 1992, ISBN 0-465-01063-6
  • The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap, 1996, ISBN 1-56352-335-3
  • Trauen wir uns, die Bruchrechnung abzuschaffen? Ein Lackmustest für die Anhänger der Bildungstechnologie (2007). [Engl. Do We Dare Propose Dumping Fractions? A Litmus Test For The Educational Technology Community.] First published in German: In: H. Mitzlaff (Hrsg.)(2007). Internationales Handbuch Computer (ICT), Grundschule, Kindergarten und Neue Lernkultur, S. 19 - 29. Schneider Verlag Hohengehren, ISBN-13: 978-3834001429


  1. ^ a b c Papert, Seymour A. in American Men and Women of Science, R.R. Bowker. (1998-99, 20th ed). p. 1056.
  2. ^ Epistemology and Learning homepage
  3. ^ From the cover of Mindstorms. (date needed).
  4. ^ Tench, Megan. "Top MIT scientist injured in Vietnam." (December 8, 2006). Boston Globe.

See also

External links