John Holland

13 May 1998 17:58

First Ph.D. in computer science, ever; one of the inventors of evolutionary computation, more particularly genetic algorithms; one of the Middle-Aged Turks at the Santa Fe Institute.

I first learned about John Holland browsing in a bookstore; Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems had just come out in its second edition, with a cover which was more striking than it has any right to be, and was cheap (for a technical book), so I bought it. I spent the next half a year working my way through it --- not because it was badly written or unclear (quite the reverse), but because it I was way out of my depth statistically. By the time he came to speak in Madison I thought I understood it pretty well, and <brag>he even said the questions I asked after his talk were ``very good'' ones,</brag> and I got him to sign my copy of Adaptation. He is, in short, one of my scientific idols, and one of the best people ever to put pen to papyrus on the subjects of adaptation and learning. (Though his fondness for the phrase ``complex adaptive systems'' baffles me.)