Michie, Donald 1923–2007

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Michie, Donald 1923–2007


See index for CA sketch: Born November 11, 1923, in Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar); died after an automobile accident, July 7, 2007, near London, England. Geneticist, industrial scientist, computer programmer, educator, administrator, and author. From his post at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where he taught for more than twenty-five years, Michie designed and programmed robotic devices that could "learn" from experience. As early as 1960 he designed the Menace (Matchbox Educable Noughts and Crosses Engine), a device that could play the game of tic-tac-toe. At the time, computers were in their infancy, so the first Menace was developed on paper and constructed of 300 matchboxes. Originally trained as a geneticist, Michie (pronounced like "Mickey") taught surgical science. In 1965 the university created an Experimental Programming Unit, and in 1967 Michie was appointed a professor of machine intelligence. In the 1970s, Michie developed ExpertEase, a technique that would enable machines to identify rules based on collected data. He and his colleagues then built a robot called Freddy, which could actually learn by example to assemble an assortment of parts into a working object. Michie was named a professor emeritus in 1984, but soon afterward, as a founding member of the Turing Institute, he resumed his academic career at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. He also appeared as a guest lecturer at prominent universities in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Concurrently with his academic responsibilities, Michie directed the Intelligent Terminals company, a producer of the ExpertEase successor called SuperExpert. Michie was an early fellow of the British Computer Society. Over his long career, he was honored with other awards as well, including the Feigenbaum Medal of the World Congress on Expert Systems. Michie wrote or edited several books, including On Machine Intelligence (1974), Intelligent Systems: The Unprecedented Opportunity (1983), The Creative Computer (1984), and Secrets of Colossus Revealed (2001), a memoir of his World War II experiences as a code-breaker affiliated with the early and very secret computing machine called Colossus. Michie was the founder and longtime editor of the book series "Machine Intelligence," from which he resigned in 2000.



New York Times, July 23, 2007, p. A21.

Times (London, England), July 12, 2007, p. 51.

Washington Post, July 12, 2007, p. B7.

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Michie, Donald 1923–2007

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