Newell, Alan

Newell at CHI 1993
Alan Newell at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Amsterdam, Netherlands in April 1993.

Alan Newell, an Emeritus Professor at Dundee University, has conducted research in the field of human-computer interaction for more than 40 years, primarily focusing on supporting the elderly and people with disabilities. He founded the University’s School of Computing and established its Queen Mother Research Centre, one of the largest academic groups in the world dedicated to researching systems for the elderly and disabled people.

Together with colleagues, Newell developed stenograph transcription systems, television subtitling systems for deaf and hearing-impaired people, and a wide range of communications systems for non-speaking people. As technology became increasingly pervasive in everyday life, Newell took notice of the people – particularly older people – who found those new technologies frightening, confusing, and difficult to use.

Newell at CHI 2011
Mary Beth Rosson, Alan Newell, and Wendy Kellogg at CHI 2011 in Vancouver, BC Canada, in May 2011.

Newell asserted that designers must be aware of the needs and characteristics of all user groups, including “digitally disadvantaged people,” in order to develop successful technologies. In collaboration with theatre professionals, Newell and other HCI researchers produced a range of films and interactive live theatre productions as part of requirements gathering exercises, to raise awareness of the challenges that “digitally disadvantaged people” face and to encourage students and designers to develop empathy for them.

Newell is widely published and has delivered numerous keynote lectures at conferences in North America, Europe, and Japan. He was named an ACM Fellow in 2006 for his “contribution to computer-based systems for people with disabilities” and was awarded the CHI Social Impact Award in 2011. The CHI Academy inducted Newell in 2012.

“Alan’s long history of research and design for older adults and users with disabilities inspired me and many others.  In writing the foreword for his book that summarized his career, I learned even more about his varied contributions and appreciated the value of his work.  His smiling cheerful spirit is infectious.” – Ben Shneiderman


  • Ph.D. in Engineering and Experimental Psychology, University of Birmingham, England (1965)
  • B.S. in Electrical Engineering, University of Birmingham, England (1962)


  • Emeritus Professor, Dundee University, Scotland
  • Deputy Principal, Dundee University
  • Member, Order of the British Empire
  • Fellow, The British Computer Society
  • Fellow, The Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • Honorary Fellow, The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy.



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