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Dr. Allen Kent, Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Passed Away at 92 Years

Age 92, on Thursday, May 1, 2014, helped change the world through his pioneering work in computer technology. Born in Harlem, New York, in 1921, Kent was the son a a tailor. He attended City College of New York. Studying chemistry and served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. Following the war, he became an editor of technical manuscripts, which led to a legendary career in information science. Enlisted to participate in a classified project at MIT, he helped develop a system for mechanically encoding key words to help find specific bits of information within large documents, the precursor of today’s internet search engines. At Western Reserve University, he helped establish the first academic program in the field of mechanized information retrieval, first using cards, then utilizing new reel-to-reel tape technology. Kent’s 1959 article for Harper’s Magazine, “A Machine That Does Research,” was among the first pieces in the national popular press explaining to Americans how their lives would soon be changed by electronic information technology. In 1963, he founded and became Director of the Knowledge Availability Systems Center at the University of Pittsburgh. He was also Chairman of the Interdisciplinary Department of Information Science and Head of Communications Programs. Early in his Pitt tenure, he served as an advisor to the Kennedy White House regarding the creation of a National Information Storage and Retrieval Network. A prolific writer and editor, Kent edited the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, the Encyclopedia of Computer Science and Technology, and the Encyclopedia of Microcomputers.