Hal Abelson Pic

Hal Abelson

Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT

Although Prof. Abelson is not serving as an instructor for the MIT App Inventor course, he maintains an active presence as course director.

Harold (Hal) Abelson is the Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and a Fellow of the IEEE. He holds an AB from Princeton University and a PhD in mathematics from MIT. In 1992, Abelson was designated as one of MIT's six inaugural MacVicar Faculty Fellows in recognition of his significant and sustained contributions to teaching and undergraduate education. Awards include: the 1992 Bose Award (MIT's School of Engineering teaching award), the 1995 Taylor L. Booth Education Award given by IEEE Computer Society — cited for his continued contributions to the pedagogy and teaching of introductory computer science, the 2012 ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education Award for Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education, and the 2011 ACM Karl Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award.

Abelson leads the development of MIT App Inventor, a major focus of the MIT Center for Mobile Learning. App Inventor, originally started by Abelson when he was a visiting faculty member at Google Research, is a Web-based development system aimed at making it easy for young students—or anyone—to create their own mobile applications.

Abelson co-authored the 2008 book Blown to Bits, which describes, in non-technical terms, the cultural and political disruptions caused by the information explosion. Together with MIT colleague Gerald Sussman, Abelson developed the computer science subject, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, which is organized around the notion that a computer language is primarily a formal medium for expressing ideas about methodology, rather than just a way to get a computer to perform operations. This work, through a popular computer science textbook by Abelson and Gerald and Julie Sussman, videos of their lectures, and the availability on personal computers of the Scheme dialect of Lisp (used in teaching the course), has had a world-wide impact on university computer-science education. This work served as MIT's own introductory computer science subject from 1980 until 2007, when it was changed as part of a comprehensive curriculum revision, and Abelson is currently working on the revision as well as the successor introductory subject.