60 years of computer science and AI
Calton Hill

Celebrating 60 years of computer science and AI research

In 2023, the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh celebrated 60 years of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) research.  

The University of Edinburgh traces the origins of its activities around AI to a small research group established in 1963, led by Donald Michie. The same year the Computer Unit was created and Sidney Michaelson was appointed its Director.

35 years later, in 1998, different activities around the science of information (including computer science, artificial intelligence, cognitive science and others) were brought together and a new Division (later changed to School) of Informatics was formed.

In 2023 a rich programme of events was put together to celebrate the milestone. It included a series of Distinguished Lectures and Milner Lectures scheduled throughout the year, delivered by eminent figures representing both disciplines. Further events delivered by our partners as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival, Pint of Science and Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, were aimed at non-academic audiences, and last but not least, we presented a 5-day film festival that explored the facts behind the fiction in AI depicted on film and encouraged us to build the future we can imagine.

In the words of the former Head of School of Informatics, Professor Jane Hillston, MBE, FRS, FRSE: "The 60 year anniversary is a perfect opportunity for us to reflect on the many research achievements that have originated in Edinburgh over this period, as well as the many, many students we have graduated. Computer science and artificial intelligence from Edinburgh have had significant impact in the world through both our graduates and our research, and continue to do so. The anniversary also encourages us to look forward and contemplate the future, for Edinburgh and for the disciplines more broadly. In the last decade, digital technology has progressed to pervade all aspects of our lives --- research and training in CS and AI are of increasing importance. Thus we have much to celebrate, but also much to do!"

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