In Memoriam: Pamela Ann McCorduck, 1940-2021

Pamela McCorduck, who taught at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia University and was the author or co-author of 11 books, died on October 18. She was 80 years old.

A native of Liverpool, England, McCorduck came to the United States at the age of 6 and lived for a brief time in New Jersey before moving to the West Coast. McCorduck graduated from high school at the age of 15 and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She also held a master’s degree in English literature from Columbia University.

McCorduck met her husband Robert Traub at Stanford University. When Dr. Traub took a position in the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, she taught English literature at the University of Pittsburgh. There she was an eyewitness to the birth and growth of the field of artificial intelligence., which became a focus of her writing. She was possibly best known for her 1979 book, Machines Who Think.

Raj Reddy, a pioneer in robotics, artificial intelligence, and speech recognition who serves as the Moza Bint Nasser University Professor of Computer Science and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, the founding director of the university’s Robotics Institute, and a former dean of the School of Computer Science, noted that  “Many encountered AI for the first time through her writings, and she influenced what people thought about the field as it was developing.”

When her husband was offered the position of founding chair of the computer science at Columbia University in 1979, the couple moved to New York. Macoduck taught creative writing at Columbia and continued her writing career, publishing three novels. Her most recent book was the memoir This Could Be Important: My Life and Times with the Artificial Intelligentsia.

Profesor McCorduck spent her final years back in California. Her papers and archives are housed at Carnegie Mellon University.

Filed Under: In Memoriam


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