Wallace Feurzeig

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Wallace Feurzeig, longtime designer and advocate of computer learning environments and a Lexington resident since 1961, died on January 4, 2013, after a brief decline from congestive heart failure and lymphoma. His final weeks were shared with his loving family and many friends. Wallys love of mathematics and his early work with computing were devoted, across his professional lifetime, to the educational use of computers. He founded the Educational Technology Department at Bolt Beranek & Newman, where he developed software tools to enhance students self-directed exploration and investigation. He worked extensively with educators in workshops, conferences, and schools to help them implement these new technologies. He was working until his last week, consulting with colleagues who continue on that never-ending mission. Together with colleagues both within and outside BBN, he created some of the first interactive computer programs (Socratic System, Mentor) that sustain investigative dialogue with the student; mathematics learning environments (Algebra Workbench) that help students carry out tedious manipulations so that they can concentrate on strategic issues; Logo, a programming language expressly designed for children, which continues to play a large role in early computer education, particularly in Europe; a language (Function Machines) that represents mathematical functions visually; and computer microworlds. Wally wrote several books, many chapter contributions, and hundreds of research papers and reports. BBN recognized his contributions with the title Principal Scientist. Wally was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. His circle of friends intersected broadly with his expanding set of colleagues, many of whom treasured him as mentor. Every conference doubled as a happy social occasion. Wally was born in Chicago in 1927 to Mandel and Pauline Feurzeig. He earned a PhB and BS from the University of Chicago, then an MS in mathematics from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He worked briefly at Argonne National Laboratory and at the University of Chicago, where he hosted the first computer on campus. He spent more than fifty years at Bolt Beranek & Newman. He continued to study his entire life, gaining fluency in various domains to design computer microworlds that enabled students to explore and experiment with topics such as genetics or relativity. He loved music with a personal, private passion. Wally is survived by his wife Nanni; his brother Don and wife Mary; his daughter Lisa, partner John, and granddaughter April; his daughter Susan; his son David, wife Annelies, and grandchildren Jacob, Zeke, Zoey, and Sam. The funeral was private. There will be a larger celebration of his life on Saturday, May 25, 2013. Remembrances may be made to any organization that supports social justice, including education in all its forms.

Published in The Lexington Minuteman from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5, 2013
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