Licklider, J. C. R.

Licklider at the University of Maryland April 1979
Licklider visits the University of Maryland, College Park in April 1979.

J.C.R. Licklider (1915 – 1990) is often referred to as “the father of the Internet” and “the Johnny Appleseed of computing.” A pioneer in the advancement of computer science, Licklider had revolutionary vision for the relationship between humans and computers. At a time when most computers were large, cumbersome machines, Licklider saw the potential for computers to become desktop tools that would empower individuals, promote creativity, and facilitate communication and information sharing around the world.

Licklider at the University of Maryland
Licklider speaking at the University of Maryland, College Park in April 1979.

Throughout his career, he advocated a human-centered approach to interactive systems design. His groundbreaking 1960 essay on “Man-Computer Symbiosis” emphasized how users “will set the goals, formulate the hypotheses, determine the criteria, and perform evaluations. Computing machines will do the routinizable work that must be done to prepare the way for insights and decisions in technical and scientific thinking.”

Licklider at the University of Maryland in April 1979
Licklider talks with a colleague at the University of Maryland, College Park in April 1979.

Licklider also envisioned a computer network that would easily transfer and retrieve information. His idea led to the creation of ARPANET, which would evolve to become today’s Internet.

Licklider’s dream of “human-computer symbiosis” changed the course of computer science, paved the way into the modern landscape of computing, and ushered in the Internet age. However, given his humility and soft-spoken nature, Licklider never sought or achieved great recognition or widespread acclaim. He died in 1990 from complications following an asthma attack.


J.C.R. Licklider, known as “Lick,” was a computer visionary who had great influence on research directions though his leadership at ARPA and then MIT’s Project MAC. He was soft spoken, but clear in promoting a human-centered approach to interactive systems design. – Ben Shneiderman



  • Ph.D. in Psychoacoustics, University of Rochester (1942)
  • M.A. in Psychology, Washington University (1938)
  • B.A.s in Physics, Mathematics, and Psychology, Washington University (1937)


  • Professor Emeritus, MIT (1986 – 1990)
  • Professor, MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (1975 – 1986)
  • Director, MIT Project MAC and Professor of Electrical Engineering, MIT (1968 – 1970)
  • Manager of Information Sciences, Systems, and Applications, Thomas J. Watson Center of International Business Machines (1964 – 1967)
  • Director, Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) at the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) (1962)
  • Vice President for psycho-acoustics, engineering psychology, and information systems, Bolt Beranek and Newman (1957 – 1962)
  • Participant, Project Charles, an Air Force study of air defense (1952 – 1953)
  • Associate professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1950 – 1957)
  • Lecturer, Harvard University (1943 – 1950)

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