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Oliver Selfridge 1926 - 2008

On Wednesday December 4 I had an appointment to have lunch with Oliver Selfridge. I had met Oliver a few years ago when I was visiting a mutual friend, Wally Feuzeig, at BBN Educational Technologies, and had recently written him reminding him of our mutual interest in mathematics education. Oliver was enthusiastic, and send me some of his work: A Math Quiz that offers some very challenging problems for older children, and a list of Abstracts of 23 booklets that he had written (or was writing) to help interest children in mathematics. I had hoped to talk with Oliver about these projects as well as to mention to him some initial thoughts I had about writing a geometry book, and to find out if he might be interested in some sort of collaboration.

When Oliver did not show up for lunch, I went to his nearby office, and met Wally who told me that Oliver had been badly injured in a fall at his home the night before, and it was not known whether he would survive. In fact, he had just died.

If the name Oliver Selfridge is familiar to you, it is probably because of his pioneering work in Artificial Intelligence at MIT. You can read about it, and some other aspects of his fascinating life in the NY Times obituary. I would like to add that he was extremely generous, devoted to the education of children, and had kept a very child-like sense of wonder. I will miss him.

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