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Dawn Levy, News Service: (650) 725-1944,

April 27 memorial set for computer scientist Bob Engelmore

Robert Engelmore, a computer scientist and artificial intelligence pioneer, died March 25 during a family vacation in Kauai. He was a former executive director of the Knowledge Systems Laboratory who applied expert systems technology in scientific, industrial and military domains.

Engelmore, 68, had been swimming in a rock-rimmed shoreline pool with his 5-year-old grandson, Jack, when they and other swimmers were overwhelmed by giant waves. Engelmore helped lift the child to safety but was pulled out to sea by currents. By the time lifeguards reached him, his heart had stopped beating.

A memorial will be held Sunday, April 27, at 2 p.m. at the Quadrus Conference Center, 2400 Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park. For directions, see Those planning to attend should RSVP to Jennifer Hodges at or (650) 723-1740.

"As executive director of the Knowledge Systems Laboratory, Dr. Engelmore administered one of the world's major artificial intelligence laboratories," said Edward Feigenbaum, the Kumagai Professor Emeritus in the School of Engineering. The lab was the third-generation outgrowth of Stanford's pioneering work on knowledge-based, or expert, systems. These computer programs use expert knowledge to help solve complex problems in fields as diverse as chemical analysis, medical diagnosis, engineering design, manufacturing scheduling and computer diagnosis.

Engelmore was born March 7, 1935, in Newark, N.J. He received three physics degrees from Carnegie Mellon University -- a bachelor's degree in 1956, a master's degree in 1958 and a doctorate in 1962.

He was a fellow at General Atomic in San Diego from 1959 to 1961 and a senior staff member there from 1961 to 1967. That year he left to work for Systems, Science & Software Inc., also of San Diego.

Engelmore came to Stanford in 1970 as a research associate in the Computer Science Department. He worked on the first expert system, DENDRAL, which had applications in physical chemistry. In the early 1970s, when the DENDRAL project extended its focus to include areas of biology, medicine and engineering, it was renamed the Heuristic Programming Project (HPP). Engelmore later became its executive director. Its computer programs utilized heuristic reasoning -- a term Stanford mathematician George Polya popularized and defined as "the art of good guessing." Heuristic programs employ a combination of artificial intelligence and knowledge from experts to "reason" through complex issues.

"Dr. Engelmore led the HPP effort to create the first engineering application of expert systems [to structural engineering]," Feigenbaum recalled. "Later, he led the effort to apply powerful new methods to inferring protein structures from X-ray crystallographic data."

As the laboratory grew, and broadened its scientific work in knowledge-based systems science, it was again renamed to become the Knowledge Systems Laboratory in 1984. Engelmore became its executive director in 1985 and served until his retirement from full-time research in 1998.

He authored many technical publications and served as editor-in-chief of one of the premier publications about artificial intelligence from 1981 to 1991.

"In the field of artificial intelligence, he was the widely respected editor who guided the early growth of AI Magazine, the main publication of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence," Feigenbaum explained. "His most influential publication was the anthology Blackboard Systems that he co-edited with A. Morgan." Blackboard systems allow multiple sources of knowledge to cooperate seamlessly in the solution of complex problems.

Engelmore took only two hiatuses during his Stanford career. Between 1979 and 1981, he served as a program manager for intelligent systems research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Washington, D.C. And in 1981, he co-founded Teknowledge Inc. and headed its Knowledge Systems Development division until 1985, before returning to Stanford.

He consulted for many organizations, including NASA and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Engelmore was a longtime member of both the Stanford Symphonic Chorus and the Masterworks Chorale of San Mateo, two of Northern California's premier choral ensembles, in which he sang as a baritone. He also enjoyed tennis, traveling and exploring the wilderness.

Engelmore is survived by his wife, Ellie, of Menlo Park; brother, Anthony, of Mechanicsburg, Pa.; daughters Alice Engelmore of Half Moon Bay, Calif., and Kathryn Rose of Hanalei, Hawaii, and Rebecca Lipski of San Francisco; and grandchildren Marcus and Jake Rose and Jack and Jaye Mindus.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Masterworks Chorale, College of San Mateo, 1700 W. Hillsdale Blvd., San Mateo, CA 94402.


By Dawn Levy

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