Thursday, February 07, 2008
Josh Lederberg, whose pioneering work laid foundation stones for modern genetics and biotech -- and then for space biology and artificial intelligence -- passed away on February 2. His creative and deep thinking on these subjects helped generations of scientists blaze trails in information and bio-sciences. Even more important, his thoughtful approach to new ideas has contributed to dialog on such critical matters as disarmament, genetic engineering, and public health policy.
In technology circles, he'll be remembered among other things for the expansion of the role of computers for scientific research. While at Stanford he and Edward Feigenbaum developed a computer program called DENDRAL, now recognized as the first expert system for use in science. He was also an early proponent of Digital Libraries. I have benefited in many ways from his tutelage. At one point, after briefing him on the possibilities of the idea of a Digital Library, he looked at me and said “Do something!” I could not have had better advice.
As a child, Josh said he wanted to be "like Einstein." His Nobel Prize and National Medal of Freedom attest to just how far he got. We will miss him greatly, but his legacy of thoughtful advice will sustain many friends and colleagues well into the 21st century.