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Fwd: Re: OWL by name...

From: Jim Hendler <hendler@cs.umd.edu>
Date: Tue, 8 Jan 2002 23:54:56 -0500
Message-Id: <p05101004b8617cbc9b24@[]>
To: webont <www-webont-wg@w3.org>
As Tim Finin mentioned, there is history to the OWL name -- Peter 
Patel-Schneider suggested we contact Peter Szolovits of MIT, who 
worked on the project, and he and I did so.  Here's a copy of a 
response that Peter Sz. sent to me talking about the OWL project and 
some of its history.  I thought I would share it (and we might want 
to put some of this in an acknowledgement when we get to our 

>X-Sender: psz@medg.lcs.mit.edu
>Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2002 17:03:49 -0500
>To: Jim Hendler <hendler@cs.umd.edu>
>From: Peter Szolovits <psz@mit.edu>
>Subject: Re: OWL by name...
>I heard this from Peter P.-S., and certainly have no objection.  As 
>you suggest, a footnote to Bill's work and memory would be a good 
>tribute.  Here are two references to his papers describing some of 
>the ideas.  Alas, a long book that was in the works at the time of 
>his death could not be completed.
>Martin, W. A. (1979). Descriptions and the Specialization of 
>Concepts. Artificial Intelligence:  An MIT Perspective. P. H. 
>Winston and R. H. Brown. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press: 379-419.
>Martin, W. A. (1981). "Roles, Co-Descriptors, and the Formal 
>Representation of Quantified English Expressions." American Journal 
>of Computational Linguistics 7(3): 137--148.
>In addition, Lowell Hawkinson and I wrote an overview paper with him:
>Szolovits, P., L. Hawkinson, W. A. Martin. (1977). An Overview of 
>the OWL Language for Knowledge Representation. Proceedings of the 
>Workshop on Natural Language Interaction with Databases, Schloss 
>Laxenburg, Austria.  Also appeared as MIT/LCS/TM-86(1977).
>Bill succumbed to colon cancer in June 1981, a few years later than 
>Tim remembered.  He was active in teaching and research until 
>shortly before his death.  There are a couple of photos of Bill on 
>my web site at http://medg.lcs.mit.edu/photos/, as well as a link to 
>his obituary in the MIT paper.  He had been one of the trio of 
>people who built the Macsyma system (his PhD thesis formed a part of 
>it), the first and arguably most successful symbolic mathematics 
>system.  As you say, his approach to knowledge representation was 
>very "modern" in that he recognized that language was in a technical 
>sense self-defining; i.e., the meaning of descriptions was 
>determined by the meaning of the rest of the language.  I believe 
>the following scrap is from one of Ron Brachman's review papers from 
>the late 1970's, and captures the novely of the OWL approach:
>Finally going one step higher, we might consider networks whose 
>primitive elements are language-specific. The only formalism that I 
>know of at the current time that embodies this view is OWL, whose 
>elements are expressions based on English. In such a formalism, one 
>would presumably "...take seriously the Worfian hypothesis that a 
>person's language plays a key role in determining his model of the 
>world and thus in structuring his thought" [Martin 1977, p. 985]. In 
>OWL, there is a basic concept-structuring scheme (see [Hawkinson 
>1975]) which is used to build expressions, and strictly speaking, 
>the principles of "specialization", "attachment", and "reference" 
>are the primitives of the language. However, these primitives are 
>neutral enough to be considered implementational, and thus the 
>knowledge itself can be considered to form the structure of the data 
>base. This seems operationally reasonable when OWL is looked at in 
>detail -- the two expressions, (HYDRANT FIRE) and (MAN FIRE), while 
>both specialized by FIRE, can have the specializations "mean" 
>different things based on the rest of the network structure. This 
>linguistic level represents perhaps the most radical view of 
>semantic nets, in that the "primitives" are language-dependent, and 
>are expected to change in meaning as the network grows. Links in 
>linguistic level networks stand for arbitrary relationships that 
>exist in the world being represented.

Professor James Hendler				  hendler@cs.umd.edu
Director, Semantic Web and Agent Technologies	  301-405-2696
Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Lab.	  301-405-6707 (Fax)
AV Williams Building, Univ of Maryland		  College Park, MD 20742
Received on Tuesday, 8 January 2002 23:55:05 UTC

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