Gerald Jay Sussman

Award Recipient
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Gerald Jay Sussman is the Panasonic (formerly Matsushita) Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). He received the S.B. and the Ph.D. degrees in mathematics from M.I.T. in 1968 and 1973, respectively, and joined the faculty in 1973. He has worked in Artificial Intelligence research at M.I.T. since 1964.

Sussman’s contributions to Artificial Intelligence include problem solving by debugging almost-right plans and various language structures for expressing problem-solving strategies. With Richard Stallman he developed propagation of constraints and dependency-based explanation and backtracking.

Sussman and his former student Guy L. Steele Jr. invented the Scheme programming language in 1975.  Sussman and Hal Abelson (with Julie Sussman) wrote the introductory computer science textbook, “Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs,” which uses Scheme. This book was used at M.I.T. from 1984 to 2007. Sussman and Jack Wisdom developed a subject and a textbook “Structure and Interpretation of Classical Mechanics,” with Meinhard Meyer, that uses programming to communicate a deeper understanding of Analytical Mechanics.

Sussman developed, with graduate students, sophisticated computer-aided design tools for VLSI. Sussman was the principal designer of the Digital Orrery and the Supercomputer Toolkit, machines designed to do high-precision integrations for orbital-mechanics experiments. Using the Digital Orrery, Sussman and Jack Wisdom discovered numerical evidence for chaotic motions in the outer planets. The Digital Orrery is now retired at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Sussman has done research in theoretical astrophysics and has been involved in the engineering of both amateur and professional telescopes.

Sussman is a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).  He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and a fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). Sussman is a founding director of the Free Software Foundation. He has been a bonded locksmith. He is a member of the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute, the Massachusetts Watchmakers-Clockmakers Association, the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston, and the American Radio Relay League.


2024 Taylor L. Booth Education Award
“For providing a novel, long-lasting, and inspirational approach to the teaching of computer science through functional programming that has impacted students from a broad range of STEM disciplines.”
Learn more about the Taylor L. Booth Education Award