Richmond Thomason's Brief Biography

Date of this version: August 5, 2001

Richmond H. Thomason was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1939. He attended high school in Hinsdale, Illinois and spent his undergraduate years at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, majoring in mathematics and philosophy and graduating in 1961.

Specializing in symbolic logic, he received a Ph.D. degree from Yale University's Philosophy Department in 1965 and stayed at Yale in that department as an Instructor, Assistant Professor, and tenured Associate Professor. He moved to the University of Pittsburgh in 1973, with appointments in both the Philosophy and the Linguistics Departments. In the 1980s he became interested in computer science and engaged in a number of projects with computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University. He was a founder of the Intelligent Systems Program at the University of Pittsburgh, and from 1987 to 1994 he served as its co-director.

In 1999, he moved to the University of Michigan, where he holds a primary appointment in Philosophy, with joint appointments in Linguistics and Computer Science.

Thomason's central interests are in logic; he has published over thirty-five articles and a textbook in this area, and has served for over ten years as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Philosophical Logic. He has been particularly concerned with adapting logical theories for applications beyond the purely mathematical sciences. This has led into an abiding interest in linguistics, a field in which he has been active as a researcher and teacher since 1971; his main linguistic specialties are semantics and pragmatics.

During the last fifteen years, he has become increasingly concerned with issues relating to theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. His chief research interests in computer science are knowlege representation (especially inheritance, nonmonotonic reasoning, and reasoning about knowledge), and the design of effective communication systems. Beginning in 1986, with NSF support and working with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Maryland, he has worked to develop and apply a theory of inheritance systems. In 1994, he engaged in a research project concerned with the development of architectures for natural language interpretation and generation.

Since the move to Michigan, he has renewed his interests in philosophy, and has begun new projects in philosophy of language, the logic of context, the theory of practical reasoning, and the formalization of reasoning about the attitudes of other agents.