Biography / Administrative History
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Guide to the Herbert Stoyan collection on LISP programming
Bulk Dates: 1957-1990
Collection number: X5687.2010
105 linear feet
Computer History Museum
Abstract: The Herbert Stoyan collection on LISP programming contains materials documenting the origins, evolution, and use of the LISP
programming language and many of its applications in artificial intelligence. Stoyan collected these materials during his
career as a researcher and professor, beginning in the former German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik)
and moving to the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) in 1981. Types of material collected by Stoyan
include memoranda, manuals, technical reports, published and unpublished papers, source program listings, computer media (tapes
and flexible diskettes), promotional material, and correspondence. The collection also includes manuscripts of several books
written by Stoyan and a small quantity of his personal papers.
Languages represented in the collection:
Collection is open for research.
The Computer History Museum can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Users are responsible for satisfying any
claims of the copyright holder. Permission to copy or publish any portion of the Computer History Museum's collection must
be given by the Computer History Museum.
[Identification of Item], [Date], Herbert Stoyan collection on LISP programming, Lot X5687.2010, Box[#], Folder[#], Computer
The Herbert Stoyan collection on LISP programming was donated by Herbert Stoyan to the Computer History Museum in 2010. These
are materials Herbert Stoyan collected during his career as a researcher, professor, author, and consultant.
Biography / Administrative History
Herbert Stoyan was born in 1943 in what was to become East Germany. Stoyan received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Technical
University Dresden in 1970 and joined an artificial intelligence (AI) group led by Egbert Lehmann at Robotron. Stoyan implemented
the LISP system that was used for all AI work in East Germany, working only from the book The Programming Language LISP: Its
Operation and Applications (see Bibliography below). In 1977 he became interested in LISP history; publishing a book on LISP
and its history in 1979. In 1981 he moved to West Germany and changed his career from industrial research to university teaching.
In 1986 he became Professor of Information Sciences at the University of Konstanz, in 1989 he became Professor of Interdisciplinary
Studies in Darmstadt, and in 1990 he became Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Erlangen. He published
papers on LISP history in 1984 and 1991 and a two-volume book Programmiermethoden der Künstlichen Intelligenz [Programming
Methods of Artificial Intelligence] in 1991. Stoyan retired in 2008.
The programming language LISP was originally designed and implemented by John McCarthy and his group at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT) as a tool for exploring the then-new field of artificial intelligence. McCarthy received a Ph.D.
from Princeton University in 1951 and became an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Dartmouth College in 1955. In the summer
of 1956, he, Marvin Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester, and Claude Shannon organized the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial
Intelligence; it was around this time that McCarthy began thinking about the programming language requirements for artificial
intelligence applications. In 1958 McCarthy became Assistant Professor of Communication Science at Massachusetts Institute
of Technology; it was there that his thoughts on AI programming began to coalesce into the LISP language. In 1962, McCarthy
became Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, where he stayed until his retirement in 2000.
LISP spread widely and informally as institutions around the world ported or re-implemented it for their local computing environment.
In the 1980s a dialect called Common Lisp was introduced with the hope of facilitating the creation of commercial artificial
intelligence applications that could run on any Common LISP implementation. In the late 1980s Common Lisp underwent international
standardization, but the AI Winter resulting from reduced investment in artificial intelligence at the end of the Cold War
substantially impacted the demand for artificial intelligence applications and interest in LISP.
For more information on the history of LISP and LISP programming see the bibliography.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Herbert Stoyan collection on LISP programming contains materials assembled by Herbert Stoyan in order to document the
origins, evolution, and use of the LISP programming language and many of its applications in artificial intelligence. The
records span 1955 through 2001 with the bulk of the collection being from 1957 (the gestation of LISP at MIT) through 1990
(onset of AI Winter). The collection includes deep coverage of the original development of LISP at MIT and its use for artificial
intelligence at MIT and Stanford, but also includes very broad coverage of the spread of LISP implementation and use to research
institutions around the world. Of special interest to computer scientists are a number of source program listings and magnetic
media believed to contain source code of LISP implementations (interpreters and compilers) and applications, mostly artificial
The collection is arranged in 7 series reflecting Stoyan's own arrangement scheme:
- Series 1: LISP history by year
- Series 2: Manuals, manuscripts, and assorted subjects
- Series 3: Source program listings
- Series 4: Computer media
- Series 5: Technical reports
- Series 6: Conference proceedings
- Series 7: Books
Unless otherwise noted dates are inclusive.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
McCarthy, John, 1927-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
LISP (Computer program language)
Berkeley, Edmund C. and Daniel G. Bobrow, ed.
The Programming Language Lisp : Its Operation and Applications.
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1966.
Information Technology - Programming Language - Common Lisp, edited by Kent M. Pitman, et al. ANSI INCITS 226-1994 (R2004).
McCarthy, John, et al.
1.5 Programmer's Manual. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1962.
Steele, Jr., Guy L.
Common LISP: The Language. Newton, Mass.: Digital Press, 1984.
Stoyan, Herbert. "The Influence of the Designer on the Design - J. McCarthy and Lisp," in
Artificial Intelligence and Mathematical Theory of Computation, edited by V. Lifschitz, 409-426. San Diego: Academic Press Professional, 1991.
LISP-Anwendungsgebiete, Grundbegriffe, Geschichte = LISP Application, Basic Concepts, History. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1980.
John McCarthy Papers (SC0524). Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford,
Physical objects and packaged commercial software were separated from the collection. The physical objects include two integrated
circuits, Scheme-79 and Scheme-81, whose accession numbers are, respectively, 102716327 and 102716328. To view catalog records
for the physical objects and media items go to the CHM website at