Skip to main content

Alice K. Hartley personal archives

Identifier: MC-0754

  • Staff Only
  • Select item to request

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the early life and career of Alice K. Hartley, an American computer scientist and businesswoman. Materials, dating from before Hartley’s birth in 1937 to the late 1990s, include some photographs, report cards, and newspaper clippings about her extracurricular activities and academic accomplishments throughout high school, which are found in box 1, as well as correspondence, papers, source codes, and research data from her work at various companies and firms, which are held in boxes 1-5 in chronological order. In addition, materials from Hartley’s time at MIT, including her acceptance letter, diploma, notes from math courses, such as 18.21 and 18.22, and some papers are located in box 1 . The majority of materials from her professional life are from when she worked for BBN and Palladian Software Inc., throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and depict her extensive work with Lisp, a programming language. In boxes 5 and 6, there are bound materials, including a mathematics textbook and manuals for Lisp.


  • Creation: 1905 - 1999


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.

Biographical Note

Alice Katherine Hartley (December 13, 1937 – June 29, 2017) was born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She consistently earned high grades throughout her elementary and secondary schooling, and was often recognized in the local newspaper for her academic accomplishments. She participated in extracurricular activities such as swimming, cheerleading, and French Club. 1955 was an especially notable year for Hartley, as she was one of the 40 finalists out of 16,033 applicants (and one of only 8 girls) in the Fourteenth Annual Westinghouse Science Talent Search, received a scholarship from General Motors and a Homemaker of Tomorrow Award from Betty Crocker, was admitted to MIT, and graduated as valedictorian of her class.

After graduating from MIT with a BS Physics in 1959, Hartley started working full-time for Melpar, an American government contractor during the 20th century Cold War period, where she stayed until 1961. There, she worked on stock market averages for S&P, helicopter simulation, and numerical utilities. From 1961 to 1963, she worked for Litton Industries, where she co-authored “A Study Program of Pattern Recognition Research” and implemented a matrix manipulation package used for pattern recognition research and development. For a short period from 1966 to 1967, she worked for Medinet, where she implemented programming tools for a hospital time sharing system. In 1967, Hartley started working for Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) as a Senior Scientist. At BBN, she worked on a range of things, such as designing and implementing the core of Interlisp, a programming environment built around a version of Lisp, and a window system for Lisp; writing proposals and reports for Interlisp research and development contracts; and developing a language for speech experts to use in speech recognition research.

Hartley resigned from BBN on November 7th, 1984, to start working for Palladian Software Inc., a new AI engineering firm, where she was the Director of AI Technology from 1984-1985 and Vice President of Technology from 1985-1988. During that time, she helped design and implement the Management Advisor (MA), which helped managers without financial expertise to analyze the financial impact of management decisions, and the Operations Advisor (OA), which was a manufacturing planning tool. Both products were initially delivered on Symbolics Lisp machines. After taking a year-long vacation from working with computers, she joined Apple Computer Inc. in 1989 as a Principal Scientist and became an engineering manager for Macintosh Common Lisp (MCL). Although she only worked for Apple until July of 1993, Hartley continued to oversee MCL, almost single handedly, until she announced that the code would be open sourced in 2007. Alice was also known to be an avid hobby gamer, and she advised on early computer games in the 1970s and 1990s. One of these was an interactive soap opera game called Lyfe Bytes. She was also an antiques collector, importer, and dealer, and she co-owned an antiques store called Elephant & Castle in Boston with Anthony Bell, whom she was married to from 1970 to 1980.


8 Cubic Feet (8 record cartons)

Language of Materials



This collection documents the early life and career of Alice K. Hartley, an American computer scientist and businesswoman. She was academically talented from an early age, which earned her several awards and recognition throughout her teenage years, including a place as a finalist in the nationwide Westinghouse Science Talent Search. She graduated from MIT in 1959 with a BS Physics and went on to work at various companies and firms, such as Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), Palladian Software Inc., and Apple Computer Inc., with a main focus on the programming language Lisp. On the side, Hartley liked to play and create computer games, as well as collect and deal antiques. This collection contains materials from Hartley’s early life such as photographs, report cards, and newspaper clippings about her extracurricular activities and academic accomplishments throughout high school, as well as work-related correspondence, papers, source codes, and research data.


Organized into 7 series: Series 1. Biographical materials; Series 2. MIT materials; Series 3. Correspondence; Series 4. Research materials; Series 5. Lisp, MacLisp and Interlisp materials; Series 6. Palladian Software; Series 7. Handbooks, manuals, and publications

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Material has some mold damage. Access to collection will be facilitated by the Wunsch Conservation Lab and may need up to 5 business days to schedule access.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. At least two business days notice is required for use.


Excess duplicate materials were weeded.

Processing Information

During processing archivist and student assistants foldered unfoldered material, removed Pendeflex, added dates to folders, and created titles for folders if ones were not provided. Materials were arranged chronologically with intellectual arrangement imposed in the resource record.

A Guide to the Alice K. Hartley personal archives
Alex McGee, Ibuki Iwasaki
2019 July
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US