On Seymour Papert

in appreciation
Seymour’s 1988 Talk at Purdue can be seen at Revaluation of the Concrete.
NB. this post calls 11 video clips, and takes time to load completely.

Coming to MIT to study Artificial Intelligence with Minsky had the wonderful side effect of introducing me to Seymour Papert, Marvin’s colleague and co-founder of the AI Lab. My research studies began in Seymour’s Logo Project, the “Childrens’ Learning Laboratory.” As I integrate all my studies, it seems appropriate to share with anyone interested some photos and video clips from that common past. The two children who joined me at the lab, eventually, met a wise man who very much enjoyed the pleasures of everyday life.

ready to learn

Rob and Miriam, ready to learn

Robby, making brownies with Seymour
making brownies with Seymour

Seymour played a key role at the beginning of The Intimate Study, both in accepting it as a worthy research project and in pointing out those experiments in the Piagetian repertoire that would be most useful in exploring the issues of the study. Seymour, and two graduate students in the Harvard Psychology department (Lawrence Miller and Sheldon Wagner), used their experiences in Piaget’s Center for Genetic Epistemology to conduct key experiments for the study and to show me their best practices. (Seymour is clean-shaven in the video-clip frame below, having returned recently from his father’s funeral in South Africa.)

Seymour Papert at Logo, 1977

Seymour at Logo, 1977

The video panel here contains six clips of experiments Seymour performed with Miriam. This is TIS04MA-F, Intimate Study tape number 4, in six segments, A through F, below:


Setup & Velocity 7.4mb


Islands 1 19.9mb

Islands 2 16.0mb


Class inclusion 4.8mb

2-bead families 6.5mb


3-bead families 11.0mb

After “taking Logo public” with the start up of Logo Computer Systems, Inc, publishing Mindstorms in 1980 and seeking to create a “movement” during his sabbatical at Rockerfeller University, Seymour seized an opportunity to found in France “The World Center for Computers and the Human Resource.” Papert was the Scientific Director, Negroponte was Administration Director. When I joined them, I was very pleased that my kids were able to take part in explaining and popularizing this initiative of the French government, as presented in this film made for French Television.


Interview with Semour Papert 0:58sec.


Lawler girls demo a word-world 1:49

Lawler on children and computers 0:40sec


Papert Interview conclusion 4:51

Before he left “The World Center,” my colleagues from Senegal (Fatimata Sylla, Mamadou Niang, and Moussa Gnign) gave Seymour a demonstration of our initial word familiarization microworld for children in Wolof, the traditional language of their home country. (Picture by Bob Mohl, originally published with his permission in our article for the Unesco Courier, 1983.)

scientific director Seymour Papert

at "Le Centre Mondial" in Paris

A few years later, Seymour came to Indiana on my invitation to participate as a keynote speaker in a conference at Purdue University. I had the honor of introducing my friend and colleague, as follows: (Bob’s photo, “At Home in the Rain,” is of roughly the same vintage, though not in Indiana.)


The talk, one of Seymour’s best, can be seen at Revaluation of the Concrete.

Over the following decades, we continued to meet. Here are photos from two of those occasions:

Seymour Papert in Boston's North End

Seymour in Boston's North End

Bob & Seymour Papert

with Seymour, near the MIT campus

Yours was such an articulate voice for the power of ideas and developing minds,
we miss you already, even though you are still with us.
With gratitude, Bob

And, finally from the New York Times:

And, from MIT:

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