Ivy League rivalry is about the only thing unredacted in Marvin Minsky's FBI file

Ivy League rivalry is about the only thing unredacted in Marvin Minsky’s FBI file

Bureau interviewed the AI pioneer as part of an investigation into a suspected Soviet spy

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

The Federal Bureau of Investigation file on famed artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky documents what appears to be a 1964 investigation into the wife of one of Minsky’s acquaintances, whom the Bureau suspected of being a Soviet spy. Though details are scarce and redactions heavy, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor does manage to add some fuel to an ancient Ivy League rivalry.

The Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau’s Boston Field Office first crossed paths with Minsky while on the trail of a woman they believed to be posing a grad student in pathology in order to gain access to classified scientific information. The suspect’s husband was an acquaintance of Minsky’s from the academic conference, and after determining that Minsky’s record contained no darker blots than a couple minor traffic violations …

the Bureau decided to sit down with Minsky and see what he knew about the couple. For his part, Minsky appeared unfazed by the request, and he even strongly suggested that the FBI wasn’t the only intelligence agency interested in the couple.

Geopolitical intrigue notwithstanding, when the acquaintance asked Minsky if he had any suggestions for where his wife might study pathology in the States, Minsky rattled off a few recommendations, including his alma mater, Harvard University.

With a palpable horror than can still be felt a half century later, Minsky related that she, “for reasons unknown to him,” chose Yale.

An adopted Cantabrigian to the end, Minsky further noted that during the suspect’s later visit to Massachusetts, Minsky did manage to squeeze in a brief drive-by to Harvard, if just to let her know what she was missing.

Minsky was unable to provide any additional information on the case, and while the Bureau’s pursuit of the pathology student might have continued, Minsky small section was closed out. Read the full file embedded below, or on the request page.

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