Karen Spärck Jones

Karen Spärck Jones

Born: 1935, Died: 2007

Born Karen Ida Boalth Spärck Jones Huddersfield, England in 1935.

Karen began working at the Cambridge Language Research Unit in the 1950s. Her PhD thesis,“Synonymy and Semantic Classification” was ahead of its time in the area of Natural Language Processing (NLP). Her early work was a collaboration with Roger Needham, whom she went on to marry in 1958.

In the 1960s Karen began working on Information Retrieval (IR) systems and introduced Inverse Document Frequency (IDF) weighting, numerical statistics that weight words as more or less important within documents allowing for more efficient retrieval of information. This system is still used in search engines today.

Later, Karen returned to working with NLP and her work helped to form Intelligent Knowledge-based Systems as a research area.

Karen became a Fellow of the British Academy and in 1994 became President of the Association for Computational Linguistics. She was the recipient of the ACL Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2007 she won the BCS Lovelace Medal. She received many other awards for her significant contributions to the understanding of information systems over the course of her career.

Karen Spärck Jones was one of the women profiled in our Women in Computing Festival 2017 of entitled Where Did All the Women Go?. Click here for the Women in Computing timeline created for that event.




Photograph of Karen Spärck Jones Click for a larger version

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