Sylvia Weir

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Sylvia Weir
Born(1925-07-01)July 1, 1925
DiedOctober 13, 2018(2018-10-13) (aged 93)
Alma materUniversity of the Witwatersrand
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Edinburgh
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sylvia Weir (1925–2018) was a paediatrician who worked on artificial intelligence.[1] She pioneered the use of robotics in autism therapy.

Early life and education[edit]

Weir was born in Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa.[2] Her parents, Rachel Smith and Abraham Leiman, ran a shop. Weir studied medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand, graduating with a degree in medicine in 1950.[2] She was a resident in Coronation Hospital, specialising in internal medicine and paediatrics.[3] She worked as a paediatrician in South Africa.[3] She became an activist and protested against apartheid, and left South Africa for the UK.[2]


Weir was a medical resident in Scotland,[2] joining the University of Edinburgh in 1974 as a researcher working on artificial intelligence.[2] She moved to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978 to work with Seymour Papert.[2] Here she looked at initiatives to bring computers to education, particularly for exceptional children; the physically handicapped, autistic and those with specific learning disabilities.[3] She was a pioneer in how robotics can be used for autism therapy. She demonstrated that the communication of a seven year old autistic child was catalysed by using a LOGO programmed remote control device.[4] She worked with MIT and the Technical Education Research Centers.[2] She looked at the Brookline LOGO Project, a computer based learning system for people with disabilities, and how children used it in elementary schools.[5][6] From 1985 to 1986 she held weekly meetings to look at how young people could study fractions.[7] She looked at how children with cerebral palsy could use computer based learning.[8] One of the non-verbal students she helped went on to study at the University of Massachusetts Boston.[6] She was a member of the Cerebral Palsy project, looking at how to maximise spatial and linguistic skills.[9]

She met Aaron Motsoaledi and discussed opening the Mathematics, Science and Technology Education College for South African teachers.[2] Weir moved back to Pietersburg at the age of 76. She was present for the first graduation of teachers. She retired to East Sussex. Weir established the charity Friends of Mponegele AIDS Orphans (FOMAO).[10]


  1. ^ Sylvia Weir at DBLP Bibliography Server Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Weir, Michael (2018-10-29). "Sylvia Weir obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-31.
  3. ^ a b c Weir, Sylvia (1982). "The Computer as a Creative Educational Tool". American Annals of the Deaf. 127 (5): 690–692. doi:10.1353/aad.2012.1096. ISSN 1543-0375.
  4. ^ K., Dautenhahn, (2000). "Design issues on interactive environments for children with autism". hdl:2299/1944. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  5. ^ Others, Papert, Seymour (1978). "Interim Report of the LOGO Project in the Brookline Public Schools: An Assessment and Documentation of a Children's Computer Laboratory. Artificial Intelligence Memo No. 484". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ a b Manzo, David; Peters, Elizabeth Campbell (2008). Cotting School. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738557656.
  7. ^ Kafai, Yasmin B. (2012). Minds in Play: Computer Game Design As A Context for Children's Learning. Routledge. ISBN 9781136482465.
  8. ^ A., Papert, Seymour; Sylvia, Weir, (1978-09-01). "Information Prosthetics for the Handicapped". hdl:1721.1/6308. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  9. ^ Sylvia, Weir, (1979-10-01). "The Evaluation and Cultivation of Spatial and Linguistic Abilities in Individuals with Cerebral Palsy". hdl:1721.1/6336. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  10. ^ Evans, Judy. "Friends of Mponegele AIDS Orphans: Home Page". Friends of Mponegele AIDS Orphans. Retrieved 2018-10-31.