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Allen Newell (March 19, 1927 - July 19, 1992) was a researcher in computer science and cognitive psychology at the RAND corporation and at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science. He contributed to the Information Processing Language (1956) and two of the earliest AI programs, the Logic Theory Machine (1956) and the General Problem Solver (1957) (with Herbert Simon).

Soar is an attempt to realize some of the considerations from Newell's plea for a unified theory of cognition, titled, “You can’t play twenty questions with nature and win,” (1973). There exist other cognitive architectures in this vein, in particular, John Anderson’s ACT theory, which has become a widely popular unified architecture, successfully employed by cognitive scientists today to model human behavior in a wide range of tasks.

He was awarded the ACM's A.M. Turing Award along with Herbert Simon in 1975 for In joint scientific efforts extending over twenty years, initially in collaboration with J. C. Shaw at the RAND Corporation, and subsequently with numerous faculty and student colleagues at Carnegie-Mellon University, they have made basic contributions to artificial intelligence, the psychology of human cognition, and list processing.

Newell was a graduate student at Princeton during 1949-1950 when he studied mathematics. Due to the exposure to a new field known as game theory and the experiences from the study of mathematics, he was convinced that he would prefer "a combination of experimental and theoretical research to pure mathematics" (Simon). Soon after, he left Princeton and joined the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica where he worked for "a group that was studying logistics problems of the Air Force" (Simon). His work with Joseph Kruskal led to the creation of two theories: A Model for Organization Theory and Formulating Precise Concepts in Organization Theory.

Afterwards, Newell "turned to the design and conduct of laboratory experiments on decision making in small groups" (Simon). However, he ran into a problem. He was dissatisfied with the small-group experiments because of his disbelief, which was that the small experiments performed by the group were not good enough to provide accurate and good results. He joined with fellow RAND teammates John Kennedy, Bob Chapman, and Bill Biel at an Air Force Early Warning Station to perform a full-scale simulation “to study the organizational processes of the crews” and received funds from the Air Force in 1952 (Simon). The focus of the experiment was to examine and analyze the interactions between the crew members, the crew members and their radar screens, and with an interception aircraft, which were all processes of decision-making and information-handling. From this experiment, he came to believe that information processing is the central activity in organizations.

In the September of 1954, Newell enrolled in a seminar where Oliver Selfridge "described a running computer program that learned to recognize letters and other patterns" (Simon). This was when Allen came to believe that systems may be created and contain intelligence and have the ability to adapt. With this in mind, Allen, after a couple months, wrote in 1955 The Chess Machine: An Example of Dealing with a Complex Task by Adaptation, which "outlined an imaginative design for a computer program to play chess in humanoid fashion" (Simon).


  • 1971 — John Danz Lecturer, University of Washington
  • 1971 — Harry Goode Memorial Award, American Federation of Information Processing Societies
  • 1972 — National Academy of Sciences
  • 1972 — American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1975 — A. M. Turing Award (with H. A. Simon), Association for Computing Machinery
  • 1976-77 — John Simon Guggenheim Fellow
  • 1979 — Alexander C. Williams Jr. Award (with William C. Biel, Robert Chapman and John L. Kennedy), Human Factors Society
  • 1980 — National Academy of Engineering
  • 1980 — First President, American Association for Artificial Intelligence
  • 1982 — Computer Pioneer Award, Charter Recipient, IEEE Computer Society
  • 1985 — Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, American Psychological Association
  • 1986 — Doctor of Science (Honorary), University of Pennsylvania
  • 1987 — William James Lectures, Harvard University
  • 1989 — Award for Research Excellence, International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence
  • 1989 — Doctor in the Behavioral and Social Sciences (Honorary), University of Groningen, The Netherlands
  • 1989 — William James Fellow Award (charter recipient), American Psychological Society
  • 1990 — Emanuel R. Piore Award, Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers
  • 1990 — IEEE W. R. G. Baker Prize Award
  • 1992 — National Medal of Science
  • 1992 — Franklin Institute’s Louis E. Levy Medal



Newell, A. (1994).Unified Theories of Cognition, Harvard University Press; Reprint edition, ISBN 0-674-92101-1. Newell, A. (1973). "You can’t play 20 questions with nature and win: Projective comments on the papers of this symposium". In W. G. Chase (ed.), Visual Information Processing. New York: Academic Press. (Read article online.)

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