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Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS)

On July 1, 2003, the Laboratory for Computer Science and the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory merged to form the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or CSAIL. Rodney A. Brooks served as Director from 2003 to 2007 and Victor W. Zue served as Codirector until 2007, when he became sole Director. Zue served until 2011, when he was succeeded by Anant Agarwal. On Agarwal’s appointment as President of edX in 2012, Daniela Rus was named Director of CSAIL.

Directors of Project MAC and LCS

Robert M. Fano 1963-1968
J. C. R. Licklider 1968-1971
Edward Fredkin 1971-1974
Michael Dertouzos 1974-2001
Victor W. Zue 2001-2003

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS), a laboratory for research in computer science and engineering, was first established in 1963 as Project MAC in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

The name MAC was chosen because the acronym stood for several significant phrases describing the project and its goals. “Machine-aided cognition” was the broad objective, and the principal tool for attaining the objective was to be a “multiple access computer.” MAC was called a project rather than a laboratory because its creators hoped that it would attract MIT personnel with various interests in the use of computers, who could participate in MAC without abandoning their existing lab affiliations.

By 1967 Project MAC had separated from the Department of Electrical Engineering and started reporting directly to the MIT provost as an interdepartmental laboratory. It briefly had the name MAC Laboratory before it was renamed Laboratory for Computer Science in 1976. In 1981, while retaining interdepartmental status, the director began reporting to the dean of the School of Engineering.

The principal research focus for early phases of MAC/LCS was the development and improvement of a computer time-sharing system, work that was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Around 1976 the lab’s focus broadened to embrace a diverse program of research sponsored by various private industries and several government agencies, resulting in a corresponding administrative reorganization of the lab into several divisions, separate but interacting research groups whose name, number, and exact research responsibilities evolved over time.

Prepared by the Institute Archives, MIT Libraries
December 1995; updated 2001, 2008, 2011