School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Herbert Simon
  • Herbert Simon
  • Born: June 15, 1916
  • Died: February 9, 2001
  • Field: Artificial intelligence; computer science; cognitive psychology; economics
  • Focus: Conducted groundbreaking research and developed revolutionary theories, including work that spawned the field of artificial intelligence. Recipient of both Nobel Prize and Turing Award.
  • Country: United States
  • Era: 1950 to 1969

Herbert Simon was a world-renowned researcher in the fields of computer science, artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, and economics. He spent 52 years at Carnegie Mellon University as a member of the faculty of the school of psychology and the graduate school of industrial administration, and he was instrumental in the creation of the computer science department and the robotics institute.

With Alan Newell and J.C. Shaw, he developed in 1955 the Logic Theorist, the first program capable of "thinking" to discover proofs of geometric theorems. Their program marked the beginning of the field that came to be known as artificial intelligence. They followed this up two years later with the General Problem Solver, which first realized the approach of separating problem-solving strategy from information about a specific problem. They developed both programs in their own Information Processing Language.

In the field of cognitive psychology, Simon's research in the human decision-making process led him and Newell to develop a theory of symbol manipulation in which the human mind expresses understanding in the same way that a computer does. This spurred the quest to emulate the thinking process with computers.

In economics, Simon posited the view of human beings as creatures who make intuitive leaps based on limited uncertainty and often settle for a solution that is "good enough." He theorized that too many choices and too little time caused people to opt for the first choice that satisfies their needs. He coined the terms "bounded rationality" and "satisficing" for these twin concepts.

In 1975, Simon, Newell, and Shaw received the A.M. Turing Award for their "basic contributions to artificial intelligence, the psychology of human cognition, and list processing." In 1978, Simon was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences "for his pioneering research into the decision-making process within economic organizations." And he was awarded the U.S. National Medal of Science in 1986 from President Reagan. Simon earned his bachelor's degree and his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago. He authored numerous publications in a variety of fields.

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