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March 31, 2011

Obituary: Harry E. Pople Jr.

Harry E. Pople Jr., professor emeritus at the Katz Graduate School of Business, died March 26, 2011. He was 76.

Pople graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1956 from MIT, where he also worked as a research engineer in the Servomechanics Laboratory, 1956-58.

He joined the Pitt faculty in 1967 as an instructor in business and computer science while he was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned his PhD in systems and communication sciences in 1969.

In 1969, Pople was promoted to assistant professor of business administration and computer science and in 1972 he was named associate professor. In 1976, he was named co-director of Pitt’s Decision Systems Laboratory, now part of the School of Information Sciences, and in 1979 he served as special adviser to the chancellor for the University Computer Center and chaired the management systems task force.

In 1985 he was named professor of business administration with a secondary appointment as assistant professor of neurology in the School of Medicine. He retired in 1993 as an emeritus professor.

Pople taught courses in artificial intelligence (AI) and structure and interpretation of computer programs.

A Pittsburgh native, Pople founded Seer Systems in the late 1980s as a local contractor to coordinate his AI research projects with the government and private agencies. He oversaw research projects in systems analysis and decision-making processes for NASA, the National Security Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, among others.

Considered by peers to be a pioneer in artificial intelligence expert systems, he was widely published in the AI field and is credited with helping to develop in the late 1970s the INTERNIST/CADUCEUS program, a general internal medicine consultation system that at the time was considered state of the art.

He was a charter member of the National Library of Medicine’s board of scientific counselors and in 1981 he chaired a National Institutes of Health study section for review of computer-related grants.

Pople is survived by his wife of 50 years, Martha Trondle Pople; his children, Laura Elizabeth Pople, Richard Lewis Pople and George Harris Pople; and grandchildren, Haley, Morgan, Grace and James Pople.

Memorial donations can be made to Seer Farms,  a nonprofit animal sanctuary, P.O. Box 91, Jackson, N.J. 08527.

—Peter Hart

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