Nils John Nilsson
Nilsson in 2017
|Died||April 23, 2019 (aged 86)|
|Alma mater||Stanford University|
|Institutions||SRI International |
|Doctoral advisor||Willis Harman|
|Doctoral students||Leslie P. Kaelbling|
Nils John Nilsson (February 6, 1933 – April 23, 2019) was an American computer scientist. He was one of the founding researchers in the discipline of artificial intelligence. He was the first Kumagai Professor of Engineering in computer science at Stanford University from 1991 until his retirement. He is particularly known for his contributions to search, planning, knowledge representation, and robotics.
Starting in 1966, Nilsson, along with Charles A. Rosen and Bertram Raphael, led a research team in the construction of Shakey, a robot that constructed a model of its environment from sensor data, reasoned about that environment to arrive at a plan of action, then carried that plan out by sending commands to its motors. This paradigm has been enormously influential in AI. Textbooks such as (Charniak & McDermott 1985), (Ginsberg 1993) and the first edition of (Russell & Norvig 1992) show this influence in almost every chapter. Although the basic idea of using logical reasoning to decide on actions is due to John McCarthy (McCarthy), Nilsson's group was the first to embody it in a complete agent, along the way inventing the A* search algorithm (Hart, Nilsson & Raphael 1968) and founding the field of automated temporal planning. In the latter pursuit, they invented the STRIPS planner (Fikes & Nilsson 1971), whose action representation is still the basis of many of today's planning algorithms. The subfield of automated temporal planning called classical planning is based on most of the assumptions built into STRIPS.
In 1985, Nilsson became a faculty member at Stanford University, in the Computer Science Department. He was chair of the department from 1985 to 1990. He was the Kumagai Professor of Engineering from the foundation of the Chair in around 1991 until his retirement, and remained Kumagai Professor Emeritus until his death.
He was the fourth President of the AAAI (1982-83) and a Founding Fellow of that organization. Nilsson wrote or coauthored several books on AI, including two that have been especially widely read (Nilsson 1980, Genesereth & Nilsson 1987).
On July 19, 1958, Nilsson married Karen Braucht, with whom he had two children. Braucht died in 1991. In 1992 he married Grace Abbott, who had four children from a previous marriage.