Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dr Hamid Lesan

Roy Simpson wrote to me as follows:

"I have just learned that Hamid Lesan died suddenly at his village in Sheering, Essex in August 2006.

There are a very few internet references to him. After leaving STL/BNR he went to Lloyds Register who were a RAISE partner at the time. There are a couple of internet references to work done there on Standards. I wasn't in touch so I don't know whether he had retired yet.

He was obviously active in his local community, but I am guessing that he wasn't too active Internet-wise."

Hamid, an Iranian refugee from SAVAK, joined my AI research group in the mid-1980s, when we all worked at STL in Harlow. He was a logician, and the only person I ever met who confessed to me that his entry into programming had been via the lambda calculus. I think his view was that it was impossible to understand programming by any other route!

He also introduced me to Montague Semantics for natural language processing and was a fan of Situation Semantics in its earlier and more popular days. He developed a fancy natural language interface with successive drop-down menus being used to select an english sentence expressing a valid query. The guys from Cambridge University were pretty impressed when they saw it, and we published a paper.

Hamid was a low-key kind of guy - quiet, friendly, helpful, deeply-erudite and someone who seemed to live most of his life in abstract spaces, through which all of 'real life' was filtered. He wasn't at all conventionally ambitious, and the collapse of programmes at STL at the time of the Nortel take-over in 1990 must have been daunting. I went into telecoms and Hamid stayed in software engineering and left the company. So our paths deviated.