Posted by Danny TarlowNils Nilsson is a Professor Emeritus in Computer Science at Stanford. Anybody who has taken a course on algorithms knows about A* search -- Nils co-invented it. He was also instrumental in developing one of the earliest mobile robots, SHAKEY, back in 1966. It's pretty amazing to look at the old pictures and read about the project.
If you're looking for somebody who lived through and helped shape modern robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better exemplar than Nils.
He's also an extremely friendly and interesting guy. I know because I spent the summer after my third year of undergrad as one of his two research assistants. We were looking at how to do unsupervised learning in an incremental way, so that we could use what we'd already learned to build up progressively richer and more meaningful representations of the world, but that's a story for another day.
While I was working with him -- which was about four years ago now -- Nils told me about a book project he was working on, trying to round up information and write a history of artificial intelligence and robotics. I learned today that he's finished the book, which is set to be published later in the year. The best part is that the book is available free online in the meantime: