Other Notable Death

The Baltimore Sun


Artificial intelligence pioneer

Joseph Weizenbaum, a computer programmer who helped advance artificial intelligence only to become a critic of the technology later in his life, died March 5 of complications from stomach cancer at a daughter's home in Groeben, Germany, said Miriam Weizenbaum, one of his four daughters.

Dr. Weizenbaum was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the mid-1960s when he developed ELIZA - named after Eliza Doolittle, the heroine of My Fair Lady - which became his best-known contribution to computer programming.

The program allowed a person to "converse" with a computer, using what the person said to create the computer's reply.

In his 1976 book, Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, Dr. Weizenbaum suggested it could be both dangerous and immoral to assume computers could eventually take over any human role.

"No other organism, and certainly no computer, can be made to confront genuine human problems in human terms," he wrote.

Besides his work at MIT, he held academic appointments at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Bremen, among others. He was the Scientific Council chairman of Berlin's Institute of Electronic Business at the time of his death.

Lazare Ponticelli, 110

French World War I veteran

Lazare Ponticelli, thought to be France's last remaining veteran of World War I, died last week, having outlived 8.4 million Frenchmen who fought in what they called la Grande Guerre.

Mr. Ponticelli, who was born in Italy but chose to fight for France and was a French citizen for most of the past century, died at his home in the Paris suburb of Kremlin-Bicetre, the national veterans office said.

"It is to him and his generation that we owe in large part the peaceful and pacified Europe of today. It is up to us to be worthy of that," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement.

France planned a national funeral ceremony today honoring Mr. Ponticelli and all the poilus, an affectionate term, meaning "hairy" or "tough," that the French use for the soldiers who fought in World War I.

Mr. Ponticelli was born in Bettola, in northern Italy.

At age 9, he trooped off alone to the nearest railway station, where he took a train to join his brothers in France, eventually becoming a French citizen, according to the veterans' office in Versailles.

When war broke out, he was 16, so he lied about his age to enlist, the president's statement said.

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