Laurence Shafe

I developed this website because of my love of art history and artificial intelligence. After obtaining a doctorate in AI I worked in business, starting out as a systems programmer at Marconi Research and then working on the Atlas computer at London University Computer Services. I founded an AI company called Intelligent Environments Ltd and floated it on the London AIM market in 1996. In 2002 I semi-retired and started a degree in art history followed by a masters at the Courtauld and finally a doctorate in art history at Bristol University. I now give talks in art history, I am a Tate guide and I am researching the relationship between natural language conceptual structures, rule-based systems and large language models.


After completing a degree in Physics and an MSc in computer science I obtained a doctorate in artificial intelligence at Queen Mary College, University of London entitled ‘A Conversational Problem-Solving System Represented as Procedures with Natural Language Conceptual Structure‘. My PhD supervisor was the renowned computer scientist Peter Landin.

I worked in the computer industry from 1968 until 2002 and in the 1980s I founded a company called Intelligent Environments which became the first internet company to float on the London AIM market in 1996.

When I retired from full-time work in 2002 I started a degree in art history while working part-time as Head of IT at a building society, as IT Manager at Harrods Bank and then as a mergers & acquisitions advisor at Catalyst Group.

My undergraduate art history degree was at Birkbeck College and I submitted a number of essays and during my final year I specialised in Victorian landscape art and the Pre-Raphaelites with Dr. Carol Jacobi, now a well-known and respected curator in British Art 1850–1915 at Tate Britain.

After obtaining a first-class degree in art history I studied nineteenth-century British and French art at the Courtauld Institute and I completed a dissertation on Albert Moore and other coursework. I obtained my masters degree in 2008 and started a PhD at the University of Bristol.

My doctorate was awarded in 2013 and my research area was ‘Darwin and Beauty‘, that is the way in which beauty and related concepts such as form, progress and nature were regarded by Charles Darwin and by artists and critics between 1850 and 1890. I investigated the ways in which contemporary ideas about beauty and gender influenced Darwin’s theory of natural selection, principally his theory of sexual selection, and how those ideas influenced art movements, such as the Aesthetic Movement. My supervisor was the world-renowned expert on the Aesthetic Movement Professor Elizabeth Prettejohn, who, at the time, was Professor and Head of Department at the University of Bristol. I would like to thank her for all the help and encouragement she gave.

Publications and Dissertations

  • Darwin and Beauty (PhD thesis, University of Bristol, 2013), supervised by Professor Elizabeth Prettejohn
  • ‘Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts’, organized by the Fitzwilliam Museum in association with the Yale Center for British Art, The Burlington Magazine (October 2009), a review of the Cambridge and New Haven exhibitions
  • Albert Moore and the Science of Beauty (unpublished MA dissertation, Courtauld Institute, 2008), supervised by Dr. Caroline Arscott
  • John Constable’s The Hay Wain: A Case Study Comparing the English and French Attitudes to Landscape Painting in the 1820s (unpublished BA dissertation, Birkbeck College, 2007), supervised by Professor Lynda Nead
  • Client/Server: A Manager’s Guide (London: Addison-Wesley, 1994)
  • A Conversational Problem-Solving System Represented as Procedures with Natural Language Conceptual Structure (PhD thesis, Queen Mary College, 1977), supervised by Professor Peter Landin


  • October 2010, ‘The Quantification of Beauty’, By the Numbers, Victorians Institute Conference, University of Virginia
  • September 2010, ‘Darwin, Fashion and the Science of Beauty’, ‘Beauty will save the world’: An interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference on Art and Social Change, University of Bristol
  • June 2010, ‘Darwin and Beauty’, The Art of Collaboration: Interdisciplinary Approaches to History, Postgraduate Conference, The University of Nottingham
  • June 2009, ‘Whistler’s One-Man Exhibitions and His Use of Double Coding’, Reading Images: Frames and Frameworks, Summer Symposium, Association of Art Historians, University of Bristol
  • February 2009, ‘Charles Darwin, Contingent Form and Whistler’s Nocturnes’, Natural Dialogues: Art, Science, & Material Culture, Graduate Student Symposium, Yale Center for British Art

Business Career

  • Founded Intelligent Environments in 1985 and floated the company on the London Alternative Investment Market (AIM) in 1996.
  • Independent consultant advising banks and building societies on IT security.
  • Head of IT at Chesham Building Society.
  • IT Manager at Harrods Bank.
  • Mergers and acquisitions advisor at The Catalyst Group.


  • PhD, History of Art, University of Bristol, 2013
  • PhD, Computer Science, Queen Mary College, University of London, 1976
  • MSc, Computer Science, Birkbeck College, University of London, 1972
  • MA, Courtauld Institute, University of London, 2008
  • BA, Birkbeck College, University of London, 2007
  • BSc, University of Surrey, 1968