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Remembering Herb Gelernter

Herb gelernter

“Herb will be greatly missed by his colleagues in the department, the many students who benefited from his great wisdom, and the entire Stony Brook community.” — Distinguished Professor Arie Kaufman, Chair, Department of Computer Science

herb gelernter
Herb Gelernter

Herb Gelernter, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science and a founding member of the department, passed away on May 28, 2015.

Described by Professor Scott Smolka as a “historical figure in computer science,” Gelernter’s research encompassed the areas of theoretical physics, artificial intelligence, expert systems and machine learning.

Gelernter earned his PhD from the University of Rochester in 1957 and was a faculty member at Stony Brook University for more than 30 years, from 1966 to 1997. During his tenure, his most ambitious effort was the SYNCHEM expert problem-solving system for the discovery of potential routes to the total synthesis of organic molecules through a self-guided intelligent search and application of its large knowledge base of graph transforms, rules and sophisticated heuristics representing organic reactions organized around recognized groups. In 1958, as a pioneer in artificial intelligence, Gelernter teamed with Nathaniel Rochester to consider the case of a machine that can prove theorems in elementary Euclidean plane geometry. In that study, the device relied on rudimentary mathematics and “ingenuity” at the level of a “clever” high school student.

Read Gelernter’s spirited editorial about the use of IBM’s Blue Gene on Jeopardy in Forbes, Robots on Jeopardy.

To read one of his classic papers, “Realization of a Geometry-Theorem Proving Machine,” click here.

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