Many people seem to agree that Arthur Samuel wrote or said in 1959 that machine learning is the "Field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed".

For example the quote is contained in this page, that one and in Andrew Ng's ML course. Several articles also contain this quote, and the reference is always the following article, which doesn't actually contain the quote.

Samuel, A. L. (1959). Some studies in machine learning using the game of checkers. IBM Journal of research and development, 3(3), 210-229.

Is there a reliable source? Or is this actually not a quote, but rather an interpretation of Samuel's article?

  • $\begingroup$ Have you found any reliable source by now? $\endgroup$
    – Seppi
    Mar 7, 2019 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ The link that you have provided is the [second version][1], meaning the site has mistakenly used the title of first one. The first version is [here][2]. [1]: ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/5391906 [2]: ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/5389202 $\endgroup$
    – Esmailian
    Mar 7, 2019 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ Great spotting, just took note of this myself... $\endgroup$
    – Archie
    Apr 3, 2019 at 12:06

1 Answer 1


The exact quote exists in neither the 1959 paper nor the 1967 paper (second version).

These are the closest quotes from the 1959 paper:

A computer can be programmed so that it will learn to play a better game of checkers than can be played by the person who wrote the program.


Programming computers to learn from experience should eventually eliminate the need for much of this detailed programming effort.

Also, Wiki page of Arthur Samuel states that:

He coined the term "machine learning" in 1959

and references the 1959 paper.

Either the quote is created as a gist of Arthur Samuel's 1959 paper, or it is said but not written by him. In my opinion, the former is more probable, since it is not even remotely mentioned in the 1967 paper.


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