It was black day yesterday for the AI community as it lost one of the most celebrated AI pioneers and visionary, Nils John Nilsson. Nilsson passed away at the age of 86 and he was the first Kumagai Professor of Engineering (Emeritus) in the Computer Science department at Stanford University. He is known for inventing A* algorithm for path finding and also for leading the Shakey project at SRI which was one of the first mobile robots with visual projection and trajectory planning.
AAAI mourns the passing of #AI pioneer Nils Nilsson. Nilsson was a leader of the SRI Shakey project, and is known for A* search and the STRIPS planner. Nilsson wrote the first influential textbook on AI. He was a founding fellow of AAAI, and served as AAAI president (82-83). pic.twitter.com/pR7aT6WLSz
— AAAI (@RealAAAI) April 23, 2019
Professor Nilsson has published five textbooks on artificial intelligence, namely, Problem-Solving Methods in Artificial Intelligence (1971), Principles of Artificial Intelligence (1980), Artificial Intelligence: A New Synthesis (1998), The Quest for Artificial Intelligence: A History of Ideas and Achievements (2010), and Understanding Beliefs (2014).
Truly a remarkable man for his creation of the modern robotics field. I remember learning about A* at Caltech and recognizing that algorithms could contain a simplicity that unfolded to solutions in higher and higher dimensions. He felt like aerospace and fluid dynamics in 1960.
— David Bernat (@astrorobotic) April 23, 2019
Nils Nilsson (former Stanford CS Chair) has passed away. He lead the Shakey robot project at SRI in the 1960s, *after* his 1965 book "Learning Machines". My 1972 introduction to AI research was his 1971 book "Problem-Solving Methods in AI". Thank you Nils!!! RIP.
— Rodney Brooks (@rodneyabrooks) April 23, 2019
He has also served on the editorial boards of the journal Artificial Intelligence and of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research. His contributions to the field of planning, search, knowledge representation, and robotics have been respected worldwide.
Nilsson was the Chairman of the Computer Science department at Stanford, where he taught artificial intelligence and machine learning. He served the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Center for twenty-three years. He also carried out his research on how robots react to the dynamic world, plan actions based on it, and learn from experience. He has worked on statistical and neural-network approaches to pattern recognition at Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Center. Additionally, he has contributed towards the STRIPS automatic planning system.
In one of the books, The Quest for Artificial Intelligence: A History of Ideas and Achievements, Professor Nilsson wrote, “Clues about what might be needed to make machines intelligent are scattered abundantly throughout philosophy, logic, biology, psychology, statistics, and engineering. With gradually increasing intensity, people set about to exploit clues from these areas in their separate quests to automate some aspects of intelligence.”
He also defined Artificial Intelligence in the same book, “Artificial intelligence (AI) may lack an agreed-upon definition… For me, artificial intelligence is that activity devoted to making machines intelligent, and intelligence is that quality that enables an entity to function appropriately and with foresight in its environment.”
Computer Science professor, Andrew Ng expressed his condolences and said that he lost a friend. He appreciated his efforts on A* algorithm and believes that a lot of researchers rely on this wonderful invention.
RIP to my friend, colleague, and AI visionary Nils Nilsson. Your work on the A* algorithm has improved countless lives (this is how we find the shortest path from A to B). I will always remember your work, but even more importantly your kindness. https://t.co/ftfijmQgeW
— Andrew Ng (@AndrewYNg) April 23, 2019
I'm sorry for this loss to Stanford and thankful for his contribution to his field of study. Thank you for sharing, Yann.
— Daniel J. Dick (@danieljdick) April 23, 2019
Researchers, engineers, and AI enthusiast are mourning and expressing their condolences throughout on internet. Professor Nilsson’s contribution to the field of AI will be remembered always.
I was saddened to hear Nils Nilsson has passed away. RIP. He was my undergraduate advisor in Symbolic Systems and my career got its start in his classes and his research group. He invented the A* algorithm for getting from one point to another. https://t.co/xrFKSY1Eeh
— David Andre (@dandre) April 23, 2019
Early AI figure Nils Nilsson has passed away at age 86. What I remember most about him (aside from his numerous seminal contributions to AI, and his textbooks from which many of us initially learned about AI) was his unusual warmth. https://t.co/WfJGTkA42H
— Haym Hirsh (@haymhirsh) April 23, 2019
Nils Nilsson passed away today but A* will remain for ever. That’s what I call a life’s masterpiece.
— Afshin Sadeghi (@Sadeghi_Afshin) April 23, 2019
To know more about this news, check out Stanford’s page.