Seymour Papert

Seymour Papert

name = Seymour Papert

image_width = 150px
caption =
birth_date = Birth date and age|1928|2|29|mf=y
birth_place = Pretoria, South Africa
death_date =
death_place =
residence = USA
nationality =
field = Cognitive science Education Mathematics Computer science
work_institutions = MIT
alma_mater = Cambridge University University of Geneva
doctoral_advisor =
doctoral_students = Marina Bers David Cavallo Idit Harel Caperton Carl Hewitt Fred Martin Uri Wilensky Mitchel Resnick David Williamson Shaffer Gerald Jay Sussman Terry Winograd
known_for = Artificial intelligence Logo programming language OLPC
prizes =
religion =
footnotes =

Seymour Papert (born February 29, 1928 in Pretoria, South Africa) is an MIT mathematician, computer scientist, and educator. He is one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, as well as an inventor of the Logo programming language.

Early years

Papert attended the University of Witwatersrand, receiving a B.A. in 1949 and a PhD in mathematics in 1952. He then went on to receive another PhD, also in mathematics, at Cambridge University in 1959. Papert, Seymour A. in "American Men and Women of Science", R.R. Bowker. (1998-99, 20th ed). p. 1056.] He was a leading figure in the revolutionary socialist circle around Socialist Review while living in London in the 1950s.Fact|date=April 2007 He worked as a researcher in a variety of places, including St. John's College, Cambridge, the Henri Poincare Institute at the University of Paris, the University of Geneva and the National Physical Laboratory in London before becoming a research associate at MIT in 1963. He held this position until 1967, when he became professor of applied math and director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, until 1981; he also served as Cecil & Ida Green professor of education from 1974-1981.

Research and Theories

At MIT, Papert went on to create the Epistemology and Learning Research Group at the MIT Media Lab [ [ Epistemology and Learning homepage] ] . Here, he was the developer of an original and highly influential theory on learning called constructionism, built upon the work of Jean Piaget in Constructivism learning theories. Papert worked with Jean Piaget during the 1960s and is widely considered the most brilliant and successful of Piaget's proteges; Piaget once said that "no one understand's my ideas as well as Papert." Papert has rethought how schools should work based on these theories of learning.

Papert has also been widely known for focusing on the impact of new technologies on learning in general and in schools as learning organizations in particular. To this end, Papert used Piaget's work in his development of the Logo programming language whilst at MIT. He created Logo as a tool to improve the way that children think and solve the problems. A small robot called the "Logo Turtle" was developed and children used it to solve problems. A main purpose of the [ Logo Foundation] research group is to strengthen the ability to learn knowledge. Papert insists a language or program that children can learn -- like Logo -- does not have to lack functionality for expert users.

As part of his work with technology, Papert has been a proponent of the Knowledge Machine. He is also currently one of the principals for the One Laptop Per Child initiative to manufacture and distribute The Children's Machine in developing nations. He has also collaborated with Lego on their Logo-programmable Lego Mindstorms robotics kits.

Papert's first wife was Sherry Turkle, and together they wrote the influential paper "Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete." [cite journal
title = Epistemological Pluralism and Revaluation of the Concrete
last = Turkle
first = Sherry
coauthors = Papert, Seymour
year = 1992
journal = Journal of Mathematical Behavior
volume = 11
issue = 1
year = 1992

Papert is married to Suzanne Massie Papert, who is a Russian scholar and author of "Pavlovsk, Life of a Russian Palace" and "Land of the Firebird." Papert has been called by Marvin Minsky "the greatest living mathematics educator." [ From the cover of "Mindstorms." (date needed).]


Papert's work has been highly influential to other researchers in the fields of education and computer science. He influenced the work of Uri Wilensky in the design of NetLogo and collaborated with him on the study of knowledge restructurations, as well as the work of Andrea diSessa and the development of dynaturtles. In 1981, Papert along with several others in the Logo group at MIT, started Logo Computer Systems Inc., of which he was Board Chair for over 20 years. Working with LCSI, Papert designed a number of award-winning programs, including LogoWriter and Lego/Logo. He also influenced the research of Idit Harel Caperton, with whom he collaborated on research grants and published together [ articles] , and the book "Constructionism." He has also been the Advisory Board Chair of Caperton's company MaMaMedia. He also influenced Alan Kay and the Dynabook concept, and continues to work with Kay on various projects.

Accident in Hanoi

While attending the [ 17th ICMI Study conference] in Hanoi, Papert was struck by a motorcycle while crossing a road near his hotel on Tuesday December 5, 2006. He underwent brain surgery at the French Hospital of Hanoi on Wednesday December 6 to remove the blood clot that had formed. By the evening of Tuesday December 12, he was in stable but critical condition. [ Tench, Megan. "Top MIT scientist injured in Vietnam." (December 8, 2006). [ Boston Globe] .]

On December 16 2006 he was transferred by air ambulance to Boston, Massachusetts, and on January 23 2007 he was transferred to a hospital in his home state of Maine. In March 2007, he suffered an attack of septicemia, which required treatment in the hospital until May. Another problem occurred in April, when he had to have a heart valve replaced due to the septicemia. As of 2008, he has fully recovered from the septicemia and heart operation, and can think clearly, walk "almost unaided", and communicate. However, he still has some "some complicated speech problems", and is still undergoing extensive rehab, although he is at home. [ [] ( [ copy] ) (aka. the Seymour Papert Institute) (verified through the IRS as being a 501(c)3, as they claim)]

His rehabiliatation team is using some of the very principles of experiential, hands-on learning which he pioneered to aid him in recovery. [cite news |author=Linda Matchan |title=In search of a beautiful mind |url= |work=Boston Globe |date=2008-07-12 |accessdate=2008-07-16 ]

elected Bibliography

* "Counter-free automata", 1971, ISBN 0-262-13076-9
* "", 1980, ISBN 0-465-04674-6
* "Perceptrons", (with Marvin Minsky), MIT Press, 1969 (Enlarged edition, 1988), ISBN 0-262-63111-3
* Papert, S. & Harel, I. (eds). (1991) "Constructionism: research reports and essays 1985 - 1990" by the Epistemology and Learning Research Group, the Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ablex Pub. Corp, Norwood, NJ.
* "The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer", 1992, ISBN 0-465-01063-6
* "The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap", 1996, ISBN 1-56352-335-3
* "Trauen wir uns, die Bruchrechnung abzuschaffen? Ein Lackmustest für die Anhänger der Bildungstechnologie" (2007). [Engl. "Do We Dare Propose Dumping Fractions? A Litmus Test For The Educational Technology Community".] First published in German: In: H. Mitzlaff (Hrsg.)(2007). Internationales Handbuch Computer (ICT), Grundschule, Kindergarten und Neue Lernkultur, S. 19 - 29. Schneider Verlag Hohengehren, ISBN-13: 978-3834001429


ee also

* Papert's principle
* Constructivism (learning theory)
** Constructionism (learning theory)

External links

* [ Seymour Papert] short biography at MIT
* [ Professor Seymour Papert:] home page; includes a list of works by Papert
* [ Planet Papert] articles by and about Papert
* [,_Seymour/ Open Directory: Computers: History: Pioneers: Papert, Seymour]
* [ the Learning Barn / Seymour Papert Institute] -- has updates on his recovery from his 2006 accident

* [ Logo Foundation]
* [ LEGO Mindstorms]
* [ Logo Computer Systems Inc.] firm cofounded by Papert
* [ MaMaMedia Inc.] firm cofounded by Papert
* [ World Wide Workshop Foundation] nonprofit advised by Papert

* [ Interview] from 11 July 2004, on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation network
* [ Video Interview with Seymour Papert] from the Association for Computing Machinery

NAME= Papert, Seymour
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Cognitive science, Education, Mathematics, Computer science
DATE OF BIRTH= March 1, 1928
PLACE OF BIRTH= Pretoria, South Africa

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