On This Day … 26 November

People (Births)

  • 1895 – Bill W., American activist, co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous (d. 1971).
  • 1936 – Margaret Boden, English computer scientist and psychologist.

People (Deaths)

  • 1987 – J. P. Guilford, American psychologist and academic (b. 1897).

Bill Wilson

William Griffith Wilson (26 November 1895 to 24 January 1971), also known as Bill Wilson or Bill W., was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

AA is an international mutual aid fellowship with about 2 million members worldwide belonging to approximately 10,000 groups, associations, organizations, cooperatives, and fellowships of alcoholics helping other alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety.

Following AA’s Twelfth Tradition of anonymity, Wilson is commonly known as “Bill W.” or “Bill.” In order to communicate among one another, members of “AA” will often ask those who appear to be suffering or having a relapse from alcoholism if they are “friends of Bill”. Although this question can be confusing, because “Bill” is a common name, it does provide a means of establishing a rapport with those who are familiar with the saying and in need of help. After Wilson’s death in 1971, and amidst much controversy within the fellowship, his full name was included in obituaries by journalists who were unaware of the significance of maintaining anonymity within the organisation.

Wilson’s sobriety from alcohol, which he maintained until his death, began 11 December 1934. In 1955 Wilson turned over control of AA to a board of trustees. Wilson died of emphysema complicated by pneumonia in 1971. In 1999 Time listed him as “Bill W.: The Healer” in the Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.

Margaret Boden

Margaret Ann Boden, OBE, ScD, FBA (born 26 November 1936) is a Research Professor of Cognitive Science in the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex, where her work embraces the fields of artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, and cognitive and computer science.

Boden was appointed lecturer in philosophy at the University of Birmingham in 1959. She became a Harkness Fellow at Harvard University from 1962 to 1964, then returned to Birmingham for a year before moving to a lectureship in philosophy and psychology at Sussex University in 1965, where she was later appointed as Reader then Professor in 1980. She was awarded a PhD in social psychology (specialism: cognitive studies) by Harvard in 1968.

She credits reading “Plans and the Structure of Behaviour” by George A. Miller with giving her the realisation that computer programming approaches could be applied to the whole of psychology.

Boden became Dean of the School of Social Sciences in 1985. Two years later she became the founding Dean of the University of Sussex’s School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences (COGS), precursor of the university’s current Department of Informatics. Since 1997 she has been a Research Professor of Cognitive Science in the Department of Informatics, where her work encompasses the fields of artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, and cognitive and computer science.

Boden became a Fellow of the British Academy in 1983 and served as its vice-president from 1989 to 1991.[9] Boden is a member of the editorial board for The Rutherford Journal.

In 2001 Boden was awarded an OBE for her services in the field of cognitive science. The same year she was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Sussex. She also received an honorary degree from the University of Bristol. A PhD Scholarship that is awarded annually by the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex was named in her honour.

J.P. Guildford

Joy Paul Guilford (07 March 1897 to 26 November 1987) was an American psychologist best remembered for his psychometric study of human intelligence, including the distinction between convergent and divergent production.

Developing the views of L.L. Thurstone, Guilford rejected Charles Spearman’s view that intelligence could be characterised in a single numerical parameter. He proposed that three dimensions were necessary for accurate description: operations, content, and products. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Guilford as the 27th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

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