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in memoriam

A Tribute to Seymour Papert

This week visionary educator and mathematician Seymour Papert passed away at the age of 88. In 1969 he coauthored Perceptrons: An Introduction to Computational Geometry (with Marvin Minsky), which has become a classic text on artificial intelligence. Beginning in the 1980s he published books on children, technology, and learning. In this post, Yasmin Kafai, for whom Dr. Papert served as a mentor and thesis advisor, pays tribute to his work and enduring legacy. Yasmin Kafai is coauthor of Connected Code (dedicated to Seymour Papert) and the forthcoming Connected Gaming.

After writing his groundbreaking ideas on children, computers, and learning in Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas, Seymour Papert started working on the sequel. The years following the 1980 publication were heady times where many of the ideas previously kept under lock and key in the laboratory were moving out into the world: an inner-city elementary school in Boston called Project Headlight demonstrated how teachers and students could engage with computers by making their own software games, a robotics kit with which children could accessorize their Lego blocks with motors and sensors at home and in school developed at the MIT Media Lab became available to the public, and a gigantic Walk-Through Computer at the Computer History Museum made tangible the inner workings of the new machine. Seymour's vision in Mindstorms was becoming reality.

In memoriam: Leo Beranek

In memoriam: Leo Beranek

We note, with sadness, the death on October 10 of Leo Beranek, at the age of 102. A pioneer in modern acoustics, Beranek’s career touched on everything from concert hall design to television broadcasting to the development of the internet. Seldom has an enthusiasm for technology left a mark on so many varied aspects of modern life.

Beranek told the story of his life and career in Riding the Waves, an autobiography that recounted his upbringing in a small town in Iowa; his journey to Cambridge to attend Harvard; the founding of the acoustics and technology firm Bolt, Beranek & Newman; his work on numerous concert venues, including Philharmonic Hall in New York and the Koussevitzky Shed at Tanglewood; and his philanthropic work, especially for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.