The world lost one of its brightest minds to a brain hemorrhage recently; Marvin Minsky was 88 when he passed on Sunday night. A World War II veteran, his life's work was essentially creating and advancing the field of artificial intelligence. The New York Times has eulogized the Turing Award winner, writing that when Minsky was choosing his career path he "ruled out genetics as interesting but not profound, and physics as mildly entertaining, he chose to focus on intelligence itself."
This is a man who, in 1951, built the premiere "randomly wired neural network learning machine" which you can hear him talk about in the video below. He also built the first confocal scanning microscope (read: extremely powerful) at Harvard in 1956.
Two years later, along with John McCarthy (the man credited with naming "artificial intelligence"), he cofounded and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's venerable A.I. lab. The man who wants to resurrect his father as an AI construct via paper records, Ray Kurzweil, was one of his students there too. Hell, director Stanley Kubrick even consulted him during pre-production on 2001: A Space Odyssey to get his take on whether or not computers would be able to speak by the year 2001.
Saying he was brilliant would be a vast understatement, and I can't possibly list all of his accomplishments here. But, that's what NYT's exhaustive memorial is for. Godspeed, sir.