Dr. Elman left a legacy from his pioneering work in artificial neural networks, and as an internationally recognized scholar in the field of language processing and learning. His early TRACE model of speech perception, with Jay McClelland, remains one of the major theories in the field. In 1990, he developed the Simple Recurrent Network architecture (the so-called “Elman net”) that is today widely used in many fields to model behaviors that unfold over time. In his last research, he used a wide range of scientific methods, including computational simulations, neuroimaging, and behavioral measures. Elman earned his bachelor’s degree in social relations from Harvard and his Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. A member of the UC San Diego faculty since 1977, Elman was a founding member of the Department of Cognitive Science, the first of its kind in the world, as well as founding director of the Center for Research in Language. He was founding co-director of the university’s Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind. He served as dean of the Division of Social Sciences from 2006 – 2014. Among his honors is the prestigious David E. Rumelhart Prize, which he received in 2007 in recognition of his groundbreaking contributions to the theoretical foundations of cognitive science. Elman was elected a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016.
The Cognitive Society established Jeffrey L. Elman Prize in his honor in 2020.