The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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10:21am on Thursday, 12th July, 2007:
I read in this morning's Independent that Donald Michie had died.
Most of you will be asking, "who"?
The ones who won't be asking that are people who have studied Artificial Intelligence. Donald Michie was the main driving force behind its founding as an academic discipline in the UK, having been inspired to its possibilities by Alan Turing while the two worked together at Bletchley Park. He set up the Experimental Programming Unit at Edinburgh University, which (as the AI Department) remains to this day the UK's pre-eminent place to study the subject. He also started the highly influential and prestigious Machine Intelligence series of volumes on AI; they contain some of the most important papers in the discipline, and he continued to edit them to his death.
I met him only once, when he came to Essex to give a talk. Actually, I may have met him before then when I went to Edinburgh to see about doing a PhD there, but I didn't know who he was at the time.
No, he was never knighted. This is the UK, remember?
He was, however, once married to Anne McLaren, who was made a Dame for her pioneering work in IVF. They divorced in 1959, but remained life-long friends. This, in fact, is why I decided to blog Michie's death. You see, in The Independent's obituary column, Dame Anne appeared first. She had a whole page to herself. "Oh", I thought, "wasn't she once married to Donald Michie?". I looked at the page opposite and — uh? Donald Michie had a whole page to himself, too. They'd died together in a car crash, while travelling from Cambridge to London.
I wonder how many 84-year-olds die of anything other than being 84?
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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (firstname.lastname@example.org).