Remembering 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." -Dr. Arie Kaufman

It is with great sadness that the Department of Computer Science reports the loss of Dr. Herb Gelernter, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science. Herb, a founding member of the department, passed away May 28, 2015. The department invites you to leave your fond memories of Herb here. 

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 over 30 years, from 1966-1997. During his tenure at SBU, 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. 

To read one of Gelernter's classic papers, Realization of a Geometry-Theorem Proving Machine, click here.  Read Gelernter's spirited editorial about the use of IBM's Blue Gene on Jeopardy in Forbes, Robots on Jeopardy.