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Blackett Memorial Lecture 2016

The Society is pleased to announce that the 2016 Blackett Memorial Lecture will be given by

Prof Andrew Blake

Director of the Alan Turing Institute, London, England

Andrew Blake was appointed as the first director for the Alan Turing Institute in 2015

Lecture Title:  Machines that learn: big data or explanatory models?

Abstract: A leading question about machines that learn concerns two distinct styles of learning. Will they turn out to depend more on probabilistic models that explain the data, or on networks that react to data and are trained on data at ever greater scale? In machine vision systems, for instance, this boils down to the comparative roles of two paradigms: analysis-by-synthesis versus empirical recognisers. Each approach has its strengths, and empirical recognisers especially have made great strides in performance in the last few years, through deep learning. It is a particular challenge to understand how the two approaches could be integrated, and already progress is being made on that.

Bio: Andrew Blake was appointed as the first director for the Alan Turing Institute in 2015. Previously, he was a Microsoft Distinguished Scientist and the Laboratory Director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, England. He joined Microsoft in 1999 as a Senior Researcher to found the Computer Vision group. In 2008 he became a Deputy Managing Director at the lab, before assuming his current position in 2010. Prior to joining Microsoft Andrew trained in mathematics and electrical engineering in Cambridge England, and studied for a doctorate in Artificial Intelligence in Edinburgh. He was an academic for 18 years, latterly on the faculty at Oxford University, where he was a pioneer in the development of the theory and algorithms that can make it possible for computers to behave as seeing machines.
He has published several books including “Visual Reconstruction” with A.Zisserman (MIT press), “Active Vision” with A. Yuille (MIT Press) and “Active Contours” with M. Isard (Springer-Verlag). He has twice won the prize of the European Conference on Computer Vision, with R. Cipolla in 1992 and with M. Isard in 1996, and was awarded the IEEE David Marr Prize (jointly with K. Toyama) in 2001.

In 2006 the Royal Academy of Engineering awarded him its Silver Medal and in 2007 the Institution of Engineering and Technology presented him with the Mountbatten Medal (previously awarded to computer pioneers Maurice Wilkes and Tim Berners-Lee, amongst others.) He was elected Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1998, Fellow of the IEEE in 2008, and Fellow of the Royal Society in 2005. In 2010, Andrew was elected to the council of the Royal Society. In 2011, he and colleagues at Microsoft Research received the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award for their machine learning contribution to Microsoft Kinect human motion-capture. In 2012 Andrew was elected to the board of the EPSRC and also received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Edinburgh. In 2013 Andrew was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering from the University of Sheffield. In 2014, Andrew gave the prestigious Gibbs lecture at the Joint Mathematics Meetings (transcript available here).

on Thursday 17 November 2016
Lecture at 4.30pm

at Central Hall, Westminster, London. SW1H 9NH


Lecture at 4.30 pm

(Tea and biscuits at 4.00 pm; Drinks reception after the lecture)

There is no charge for attendance at this event. To register and receive joining instructions, please CLICK HERE to book online. If you have any queries, please contact Hilary Wilkes on Please note that places are limited, book up very quickly and therefore are on a first come first served basis.


For information on the 2014 and previous lectures, take a look under Watch / Listen / Download. For information on the origins of the lectures see 'Background to Blackett Lectures'.