Talk:John McCarthy (computer scientist)

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I am sorry[edit]

I am sorry that Professor Hewitt feels that my mention of the less obsequious, but no less affectionate, designation of "Uncle John" McCarthy, as Prof. McDuck ([1]) was intended in the spirit of destruction. I have restored McCarthy's Usenet credentials, already insinuated in the previous versions of this article. I hope that our celebrities' watchdogs, be they duly accredited or self-apppointed, will recognize their importance to a well-rounded account of our subject's character. Larvatus 09:27, 14 December 2005 (UTC)larvatus


He calls himself an atheist on this page, so someone should add something about that.Black Lab (talk) 22:43, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

Why does the "regious stance" of this person have any significance?
Why does the religious stance of anyone on Wikipedia have any significance? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:14, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
People's religious beliefs are relevant to their lives; hence they are relevant to their biographies. Jim Michael (talk) 15:51, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Then the same should apply to this biography. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:40, 26 October 2011 (UTC)


I have worked with John (who is currently Emeritus at Stanford), have also read much of his commentary, and I believe that the characterization "with a right-wing perspective" is too simplistic to do him justice. Since it is also arguably subjective, I believe it merits default-omission. If there is a consensus to re-introduce it, I will not object.

Jewish credentials[edit]

"Born in Boston in 1927 to Communist party activists, McCarthy lived in a family on the move. While his Irish Catholic father worked as a carpenter, fisherman, and union organizer, the family kept migrating , from Boston to New York and then to Los Angeles. His Lithuanian Jewish mother worked as a journalist for The Federated Press wire service then for a Communist newspaper and finally as a social worker." Dennis Shasha and Cathy Lazere, Out of their Minds: The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists, Springer Verlag, 1998, pp. 22-23. Accordingly, as a child of a Jewish mother, John McCarthy is halakhically Jewish.

I am not sure he should be classified as a Jewish American scientist unless he himself says so. His own opinion should be more important than the viewpoint of a religion he did not follow. Tsf (talk) 20:03, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

It's general policy on wikipedia to include people as [Jewish American] regardless of their personal beliefs, as it's an ethnic group. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:55, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

In the same way that President Obama is included as [English American] as this was the ethnicity of his mother. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:11, 13 June 2012 (UTC)

Biography quality[edit]

JMC's wikipedia page has a long way to go considering it doesn't even mention his wives (mentioned elsewhere) nor his kids. (talk) 00:29, 7 May 2009 (UTC) ~While I generally agree with you (this page has a long way to go), some biographic pages on other people have posters expressing opinions NOT caring for family life and sticking to professional attributes. Personally, I think that extreme. John's personal web page actually made for great search engine test case fodder. But that was John. (talk) 17:43, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

Bad link?[edit]

Francis Morris seems too old to be his student Septagram (talk) 06:43, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

Attention needed[edit]

It seems a lot of material from the 60s and 70s could be added - for example the Lighthill controversy and his founding of the phrase AI in 1952 and first use in 1956 ? (see "BBC Controversy - Lighthill" from the Royal Institution) Chaosdruid (talk) 02:45, 2 August 2010 (UTC)

does anybody know books written by him? Balmarok (talk) 17:44, 11 October 2017 (UTC)

Sadly, he has died[edit]

I realize that a number of individuals seem to feel that without a web page saying that McCarthy is dead that we can't have Wikipedia confirm it, but his family has indeed announced it -- it just isn't online yet. There is a reason so many people are adding the information, and no, we're not sock puppets. --Pmetzger (talk) 20:03, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

None the less, it's still sound policy to not have a claim on Wikipedia that can't be widely verified or referenced. Estel (talk) 20:10, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Here, have a reference --Pmetzger (talk) 20:11, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
That reference cites the HN thread that links to this article, leaving just a tweet as a reference. Per WP:BLP, that's not sufficient to update this article. Estel (talk) 20:14, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

I protected the page. We can't include mention of his death until some reliable source covers it. Protonk (talk) 20:17, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Wendy Grossman is both a journalist and a friend of the family. This set of rules is ridiculous -- a large number of people have personal knowledge of his death but until some other web site announces it with no greater reliability than what you have so far (doubtless based on Wendy's say-so to someone at the New York Times) Wikipedia has to pretend this isn't real. --Pmetzger (talk) 20:19, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

This isn't about pretending it isn't real. We can't add claims like that based on a single tweet and every other source I've found in the past hour eventually leads back to the old revisions of this article. That means people are checking rumors of his death with this page and we cannot be part of reinforcing a potentially inaccurate claim. As soon as a source like Wired or Stanford or NYT makes mention of his death, I'll unprotect the page. Protonk (talk) 20:43, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

I am saddened to hear this news but rules like WP:BLP are designed so that we won't rush to make an edit about a person about his/her death. We and Wikipedia can wait for a verifiable update from a publication.– Kempton "Ideas are the currency of the future." - a quote by Kevin Roberts 20:35, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

News here: if that's a suitable source. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 20:48, 24 October 2011 (UTC).

I find the original tweet to be the better source, now that @wendyg has clarified where she heard the news. The Brazilian article cites Steven Levy as their source, who in turn broke the news through twitter it seems. --Felipe D. —Preceding undated comment added 21:44, 24 October 2011 (UTC).

I spoke to the Associate Director of Communications at Stanford School of Engineering, and Dan Stober of Stanford News Service. Both have confirmed that Professor McCarthy passed away this weekend. They both said there were not a lot of details available at this time. An obituary will be issued by Stanford soon. -- I apologize for bad formatting. I'm not a regular Wiki editor. Joseph Chiu 24 October 2011, 2:11 PDT. I have not edited the article page.

Just to add - the obit from Stanford might be a couple days in coming. The person I spoke to (Andy Meyer) said that he's most likely going to be writing the obit, but it might be a few days before it comes out. Joseph Chiu 24 October 2011, 3:09 PDT. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Toybuilder (talkcontribs) 22:09, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Waiting for sourcing[edit]

I appreciate the efforts from Joseph and Pmetzger, but we can afford to wait until there is reliable news of his passing from a reliable source. Almost all of the claims out there now all lead back to edits made to this article (Note also this). If we cannot make that claim in the article without couching it in caveats (e.g. "reportedly") then we shouldn't be making the claim. McCarthy is a huge figure in CS/AI and we don't need to break the news of his death from a Brazilian blog with no particular claim to accuracy. Protonk (talk) 21:52, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

The Register confirms it: John McCarthy Dies. Quanticle (talk) 01:59, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
TechCrunch has confirmed as well. Quanticle (talk) 02:01, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

I think that the date of death on the page is off(!/stanfordeng/status/128615022044790784) Stanford suggests that he died on the 23rd, not the 24th. Thoughts? --MillenniumB (talk) 10:16, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

Edit request from Anuj Tewari (anuj at eecs dot berkeley dot edu)[edit]

John McCarthy passed away this morning. Kindly update the page. (talk) 21:12, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

  • It has been added, but the source is hardly what I would like. Protonk (talk) 21:43, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Edit request from , 24 October 2011[edit]

I would like to be added in the list of John McCarthy's Doctoral students. My Wikipedia page is I finished my phd thesis under him in 1991. (talk) 21:34, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

  • Not right now. The protection on the article will be removed in a few hours as news articles on his passing are written. You can add it then if you like, but please remember that we aren't a directory of academic relationships. Protonk (talk) 21:45, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
TechCrunch, Wendy Grossman, and have already written about his death. I think it's pretty well established by now. Guha, I'm sorry for your loss, and I hope your son is growing up well. Kragen Javier Sitaker (talk) 21:53, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
And as I said above, TC cites only the HN thread which cites us as their source. I'm not going to insert circular references into our articles. Protonk (talk) 21:57, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

(Never mind .. I didn't correlate TC with TechCrunch .. already addressed) Alanf777 (talk) 22:13, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

  • I'm talking to the TC writer on twitter now. Evidently they confirmed it w/ Stanford but for some reason haven't updated the post with that information. Protonk (talk) 22:55, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Edit request from , 24 October 2011[edit]

Creator Of Lisp, John McCarthy, Dead At 84 october 25, 2011

A2usmani (talk) 22:39, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

  • Covered above. All of the current news coverage is based either on this page or a tweet (which was confirmed as being the source for changes to this page). when a source appears where we can confirm it is reliable or not a circular reference, we'll add it. Protonk (talk) 22:41, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Protection removed, death info added[edit]

Three sources (as well as a confirmation from the TC author that they spoke w/ faculty) work well enough. Protonk (talk) 23:02, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Date of Death[edit]

There seems to be some confusion about the date of the death, because some twitter message states the 23rd. However, most reliable sources agree that it was Monday, October 24th. See e.g. Stanford University News, NYT, WaPo. I'll add the Stanford U. source and revert to the 24th. Please discuss here before changing it again. --Stephan Schulz (talk) 15:35, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Yep, we use the official date declared by medical personnel, presumably the one announced in Stanford's press release. The original departmental tweet [2] stated 23rd, and Techcrunch, posted on the 24th, stated "last night" - that's where the confusion came in. We don't use anecdotally reported dates, only official ones. --Lexein (talk) 20:55, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Computer Scientist Coined 'Artificial Intelligence' Remembrances WSJ resource[edit] by STEPHEN MILLER (talk) 23:35, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

"Coined" is a better word than "invented"[edit]

The page should use "coined."

The page should note that John did not believe that chess playing machines like Deep Blue nor the DARPA autonomous vehicle constituted artificial intelligence. He was a little annoyed by what he thought was disproportionate attention on these. He called what he wanted "human-level AI". These were his last AI-oriented lectures. (talk) 20:13, 18 May 2012 (UTC)

Copyright problem removed[edit]

Prior content in this article duplicated one or more previously published sources. The material was copied from: Infringing material has been rewritten or removed and must not be restored, unless it is duly released under a compatible license. (For more information, please see "using copyrighted works from others" if you are not the copyright holder of this material, or "donating copyrighted materials" if you are.) For legal reasons, we cannot accept copyrighted text or images borrowed from other web sites or published material; such additions will be deleted. Contributors may use copyrighted publications as a source of information, but not as a source of sentences or phrases. Accordingly, the material may be rewritten, but only if it does not infringe on the copyright of the original or plagiarize from that source. Please see our guideline on non-free text for how to properly implement limited quotations of copyrighted text. Wikipedia takes copyright violations very seriously, and persistent violators will be blocked from editing. While we appreciate contributions, we must require all contributors to understand and comply with these policies. Thank you. SchreyP (messages) 05:55, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

"See also" link "Architect (The Matrix)" seems unrelated, perhaps a joke?[edit]

Although the picture on both pages depict a superficially similar looking person, and perhaps the character in the film is based on John McCarthy, but I find no such statement on either page. So until the relevance is made explicit, I assume this reference was added as a joke... (as if John McCarthy (would have) created the Matrix from the movie The Matrix) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:38, 17 February 2013 (UTC)

Removed. Thanks for pointing it out. Yworo (talk) 22:50, 17 February 2013 (UTC)

Archived pages[edit]

I've added archived pages of McCarthy's pages (replacing the recently-substituted tribute sites links and other offsite links). --Lexein (talk) 05:08, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

Health, talks[edit]

The claim below is unsupported in any sources found so far:

In his final years, he had to use a walker, and his colleagues and graduate students at Stanford still came to listen to him. His talks were mostly about how software was on the verge of displaying a human-like intelligence.[citation needed]:A<ref name="watson">Markoff, John (February 15, 2011). "A Fight to Win the Future: Computers vs. Humans". New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2013. (subscription required)</ref>

The included citation says nothing about his health, talks, or their topics, and so was removed. Might be usable later, for some other purpose. --Lexein (talk) 05:38, 26 November 2013 (UTC)


I believe "credited with developing an early form of time-sharing" is too broad and vague. McCarthy's early advocacy of time-shared computing may justify the sentence that follows, which says he "initiated the development", but I think it would be more accurate to say "spurred the development". Although he was involved, the CTSS project (which should be referenced) was led by others. The NAS memoir listed among the references says he also participated in the development of some subsequent systems. Mdmi (talk) 02:42, 19 May 2016 (UTC)


does anybody know books written by him? Balmarok (talk) 17:45, 11 October 2017 (UTC)