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Carnegie Mellon University researchers Allen Newell and Herbert Simon (the founding father of AI) playing chess together as they develop AI and chess software in the 1950s.

The History of AI at CMU

The origins of AI at CMU date back to our founding as a comprehensive research university in 1967, when the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research, founded by Richard and Andrew Mellon, merged with Carnegie Tech to create Carnegie Mellon University. In this fertile ground for ground-breaking research, CMU researchers Alan Newell, Herb Simon, Allen Perlis and Raj Reddy came to dominate the emerging field of computer science and establish artificial intelligence as the next frontier in human progress.

At a time when computers were barely understood, we were among the very first to recognize the power of computing, and we made some big bets. In 1965, we established our department of computer science. In 1979, we founded the first robotics institute at a U.S. university. In 1984, we attracted funding from the government to launch the Software Engineering Institute. And in 1988, we announced the first college in the world devoted solely to computer science. Ours is still the model that others follow.

In the process, we have created new fields of inquiry — such as machine learning and the science of learning—and have magnified our societal impact through technologies like autonomous vehicles and additive manufacturing.

Exploring the History of CMU AI Through University Libraries

New AI technologies have emerged at record speed over the past year, bringing undeniable changes to the academic landscape. And yet, AI is not new to Carnegie Mellon — or the University Libraries. By holding historic records, integrating the latest tools and strategies into the research lifecycle and helping the CMU community navigate developments in the field, the Libraries has an important role in preserving the rich past and pursuing the future potential of AI.

The Libraries stewards significant material documenting the history of AI on campus, and has worked to make it accessible to researchers and the entire CMU community. The University Archives is home to more than 100 years of CMU history, including groundbreaking AI research dating back to the earliest days of the field. The Libraries also sees AI as a key area for growth to support the rapid transformation of scholarship. To keep up AI developments and offer more comprehensive guidance, staff and faculty are continuing to engage in the space.

University Archives

As a center for research and creativity, the University Archives(opens in new window), home to more than 100 years of CMU history, promotes translational and innovative uses of primary sources.

The Robotics Project

The Robotics Project(opens in new window) is a multi-phase, multi-year partnership between the University Libraries and the School of Computer Science to create a home for the past, present and future of robotics.

Oral History Program

The Carnegie Mellon University Oral History Program(opens in new window) records the real-life memories and perspectives of those who experienced the history of CMU and includes interviews related to artificial intelligence(opens in new window).

Oral History Highlights: