Posts in “People”

May 6, 2007

Karen Spärck Jones

Years ago I got up to speed on the field of information science by spending a couple days at a university library flipping through every journal in the field. I took each bound volume off the shelf in order and read the table of contents for each issue, and then every article that looked interesting.

Skimming 50+ years of journals is a great way to get an overview of a field – and to see some long term patterns. One of those patterns was Karen Spärck Jones, whose name seemed on to be on, or referenced by, many of the most helpful and interesting articles.
She was also the editor of Readings in Information Retrieval, which I was delighted to discover collected all the best articles in one handy volume.

I didn’t know anything else about her, though, until I saw her obituary today. It only served to impress me more. She developed and explored many concepts at the foundation of modern computing and won a stack of awards for a lifetime of achievement. All the more difficult, I imagine, in a field dominated by men. (“Computing is too important to be left to men,” she said in an interview this year.)

Karen Spärck Jones worked in language and information processing research for five decades, and if you have searched the Internet – or Logos Bible Software – you have been a beneficiary of her work.

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