Michael Lesk Photo


Emeritus Professor of Library and Information Science

Emeritus Faculty


Michael Lesk received the Ph.D. degree in Chemical Physics in 1969, and went on to Bell Labs, Bellcore, NSF, and Rutgers. He has worked in digital libraries, Unix software, information economics, and digital preservation.


Harvard University
Ph.D. , Chemical Physics

Harvard University

Harvard University
B.A., Chemistry and physics


Mike Lesk is a computer scientist who worked for the SMART Information Retrieval System project, did many of the retrieval experiments, and wrote much of its retrieval code. Lesk participated with the group at Bell Labs that built Unix, created Unix tools for word processing, developed LEX for compiling in UNIX, introduced the Lesk algorithm, a classical algorithm for word sense disambiguation, authored the Portable I/O Library, and assisted in the development of the C language preprocessor.

Selected Publications

Lesk, Michael. "Salmon, Songs, and Blankets: Creativity on the Northwest Coast," IEEE Security & Privacy 9(3): 78-81 (2011).

Lesk, Michael. "Automatic sense disambiguation using machine readable dictionaries: how to tell a pine cone from an ice cream cone," SIGDOC '86 Proceedings documentation, pages 24-26.

Lesk, M.E., Elliot, R. J. "Route Finding in Street Maps by Computers and People," Proceedings of the Second National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI 1982) AAAI 1982, pp 258-261.

 Lesk, Michael. Understanding Digital Libraries. Elsevier - 2004.

Practical Digital Libraries: Books, Bytes, and Bucks Michael Lesk - Morgan Kaufmann Publishers -1997

Awards & Recognitions

Fellow of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), for outstanding contributions to Unix, research in Information Retrieval, and the design and implementation of multimedia Digital Libraries, 2006

Elected to the National Academy of Engineering, 2005

Recipient of the "Flame" award for lifetime achievement from Usenix, 1994

Research Keywords