JCR Licklider (1915-1990)
1915 Born March 11 in St. Louis, Mo
193?-1937 Studied math, physics and psychology at Washington
Univ., St. Louis. BA 1937
1937-1938 Masters study [?????] Washington Univ., St. Louis. MA
19??-1942 Graduate study University of Rochester. Ph.D. 1942
Thesis "An Electrical Investigation of Frequency-
Localization in the Auditory Cortex of the Cat."
Early WWII Research Associate at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
Studied Gestalt psychology with Wolfgang Koeller
1943-1946 Research Fellow in the Psycho-Acoustics Laboratory, Harvard
University, Cambridge, MA, advancing "theories of pitch
perception and the intelligibility of speech" (NYT 7/3/90)
"Interested in high-altitude communication,
particularly in ways of compressing speech to increase
the carrying power of radio and stuff like that."
(Annals, 14, 2, p. 16.) Fano said, "There was some very
substantial work that he did during the war .... He did
something called "clipped speech"-- he invented [it]:
it worked very well." (Annals) Numerous scientific
papers published e.g., Jour. Acous. Soc. Am.
1946-1949 Lecturer at Harvard "mainly doing research, but also a
little bit of teaching ... statistics and physiological
psychology ... subjects like that" (Babbage interview)
"At that time Norbert Wiener ran a circle that was very
attractive to people all over Cambridge, and on Tuesday
nights I went to that." (Annals, Vol 14 no 2 p.16)
1950-1957 Went as Associate Professor to Massachusetts Institute of
Technology to "start up a psychology section which we
hoped would eventually become a Psychology Department
... in the Electrical Engineering Department ...
taught a little bit of electrical engineering."
Summer '51 Participated in Project Hartwell (Navy supported
research concerning underseas warfare and overseas
1952-1953 Participant in Project Charles (Air Force study of air
defense). "At that time, some of the more impressionable
ones of us were expecting there would be 50,000 Soviet
bombers coming in over here." (Annals) Lead to the
creation of Lincoln Laboratories. "I was trying to
model how the brain works in hearing with an analog
computer .... My time was divided a third time
acoustics lab, a third time trying to build a
psychology section ..., and one third in the Lincoln
Laboratory... really had to learn digital computing,
because I couldn't do this stuff with analog computers" (Annals)
1957 Franklin V. Taylor Award, Society of Engineering
1957-1962 Vice President for psycho-acoustics, engineering
psychology and information systems at Bolt Beranek and
1958 President of the Acoustical Society of America
1959-1962 Did research and management work at BBN using DEC PDP-I
Worked under Council on Library Resources grant (1991-3)
"I was having such a marvelous time at BBN, working on
computer based library stuff and all kinds of aural
radar." (Annals) Did "a little study ... on how I would
spend my time. It showed that almost all my time was
spent on algorithmic things that were no fun, but they
were all necessary for the few heuristic things that
seemed important. I had this little picture in my mind
how we were going to get people and computers really
thinking together." (Annals)
1960 Published "Man-Computer Symbiosis"
1962-1964 Directed ARPA information processing technology and
behavioral sciences section (IPTO 1963-4). Encouraged
research into time-sharing at MIT, SDC, Berkeley, UCLA, etc
and distributed enough money to incubate the formation
of computer science departments that eventually would
be linked up via the ARPNET. (Funding for Project MAC
started in 1963.) Fano said, Licklider was "very
different from most heads of branches of the
government, .... not sitting in your office waiting for
proposals to arrive after sending out a brochure ...
running around the country trying to generate
1964-1967 Manager of Information Sciences, Systems and Applications
at the Thomas J. Watson Center of International Business Machines.
Lived near Mt. Kisco, NY.
1965 Published Libraries of the Future
Summer 1966 Participant in EduCom Summer Study on Information
Networks at Boulder Colorado planning EduNet.
1968 Published with Robert Taylor "The Computer as
1968-1970 Director of MIT Project MAC concurrently as Professor
of Electrical Engineering.
1974-1975 Director of IPTO
1975-1986 Professor at MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS)
1986-1990 Professor Emeritus at MIT (1988 had 8MB RAM 150MB HD
computer on his desk.)
1990 Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service
6/26/90 Died in Arlington, MA from complications after an asthma
Family: Louise (wife), Tracy (son of Cambridge, MA), Linda Smith
(daughter of Arlington, MA)
Memberships: National Academy of Sciences, Acoustic Society of
America, Academy of Arts and Sciences, Association for
1) "J.C.R. Licklider's work affected many people, most of whom will
never be aware of him. But his spirit endures in the people who
knew him and who were effected by him. Few people who knew Lick
will forget him." Robert F. Rosin (quoted in Computer Pioneers
edited by J.A.N. Lee, p. 444)
2) "I think I first met Licklider at the recommendation of Minsky
and McCarthy, who worked together in artificial intelligence at
MIT. Lick was a delightful enthusiast. Sometime after the
symposia he went to work for ARPA to head up an information
systems office. In that position, he managed to convince the
Department of Defense to allocate a very tidy sum to support the
development of time sharing. Then, instead of dispensing money
around the country, he asked us to mount a concentrated effort at
MIT to do the R&D and evangelize the technology worldwide, which
we were glad to do. Lick was a dreamer with his feet on the
ground. He knew how to inspire and he knew how to get resources.
In other words, he knew how to make dreams become reality. In my
estimation, no one deserves more credit than he for making good
on the visions of that era." "Martin Greenberger, Technology's
Marathon Man," in Educom Review, Vol 31 no 2, March/April 1996,
pp. 20-26. p. 22
3) "Lick had a vision of a better way of computing.... Lick
believed we could do better and, more than any other single
individual, saw to it that we did."
Speaking about graduate programs in computer science at "U.C.
Berkeley, CMU, MIT, and Stanford.... Their success would have
been impossible without the foundation put in place by Lick in
"Lick's vision provided an extremely fruitful, long-term
direction for computing research.... And he laid the foundation
for graduate education in the newly created field of computer
science. All users of interactive computing and every company
that employs computer people owe him a great debt."
Preface by Robert W. Taylor "In Memoriam: J.C.R. Licklider 1915-
1990," Digital Research Center Research Report #61, Palo Alto,
CA, August 7, 1990.