Robert LeChevalier, Bob LeChevalier, la lojbab.
Founder and president of the LLG, and chief engineer of Lojban.
Biography of Robert LeChevalier
Bob started the effort to create Lojban in 1987 along with Nora Tansky, Gary Burgess and Tommy Whitlock. He later created the The Logical Language Group (LLG) - the organization behind the language, and incorporated it the following year. Previously, he had worked with James Cooke Brown in the development of Lojban's predecessor – Loglan.
Between 1987 and 2002, he first served as the President of LLG. During this period, Bob was heavily involved in both the development of the language as well as the management of the LLG.
In 2002, he withdrew from active involvement in the LLG while remaining on the Board of Directors. He was re-elected to the Presidency in April, 2010.
Bob has a B.S degree in Astrophysics from Michigan State University, and a career backgound in software systems contracting. He lives with his wife, Nora Tansky, near Washington DC in the USA.
Autobiography of Robert LeChevalier
I was one of 4 people who got together late May 1987, and set out the phonology and rules for word-making for the re-engineering of the Loglan language, into what came to be known as Lojban. The other Founders were Nora Tansky (now my wife), Gary Burgess, and Tommy Whitlock. A few months later, Nora, I and a few others founded The Logical Language Group, Inc. as an organizational embodiment of the Loglan/Lojban user community, in order to promote the study of Loglan/Lojban and its various applications.
I was born in 1953 in California, and obtained a B.S degree in Astrophysics in Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University. I had little or no skill in languages, and no knowledge of, or interest in, linguistics. I got a minimal passing grade in the only logic class I took. After graduating, I was living in San Diego, California in 1979 when Gary Burgess came to town, and the two of us visited Dr. James Cooke Brown (JCB), who also lived in San Diego. Thus I learned about Loglan.
For the next several years, I occasionally dabbled in helping JCB in various projects, never becoming seriously involved in Loglan, though a couple of my ideas made it into the language at that point. I moved to Washington DC area, and JCB moved to Gainesville, Florida. Finally, in 1986, I volunteered to lead an effort to produce a new Loglan dictionary.
While attempting to recruit people from the Loglan user community to help on the dictionary, my actions caused JCB to think that I was trying some sort of power play. JCB adopted a dictatorial stance, claiming that I was an "unpaid employee" and either had to follow JCB's orders or he would "fire" me - which he eventually did, while claiming intellectual property rights over everything I had done.
In the meantime, I had met Nora, who had been involved in Loglan since 1976, and worked with her to convert her flashcard program, written in Basic to run on an IBM-PC. This became the LogFlash program. But JCB asserted intellectual property rights over this as well as the word lists of the language, leading to an untenable situation.
I had started a local Lojban study group, and when faced with the claim of copyright on the words of the language, one of the students suggested remaking the words from scratch to be independent of JCB's copyright claims. Thus was Lojban born, mostly as a bargaining tool to show the impracticality of JCB's position. But JCB never gave in, until finally I and LLG took one of his intellectual property claims to court, winning the case in 1992 after JCB appealed an earlier decision. I have continued to press for reconciliation between the two communities, but JCB was never able to accept what he viewed as my betrayal.
I had worked as a software systems contractor for the US Defense Department, until I was laid off in May 1987 after one of the nuclear arms reduction treaties was signed. Because I was actively working on Lojban, I never went back to work, and have lived in semi-retirement, parenting two children who were adopted from Russia in 1992. Other than Lojban, my hobbies include genealogy, role-playing games, and reading science fiction and history.
After starting work on Lojban, I engaged in serious self-study of linguistics through textbooks and attending a few linguistics conferences. One of my early goals was to ensure that Lojban was sufficiently well specified and designed, so as to meet the severe skepticism of the project I encountered from the linguistics academic community.
Nora, Gary, Tommy and I worked through 1987 creating the words of Lojban, and debuted the language (then called Loglan-88) at the Evecon science fiction convention at the beginning of 1988. In the meantime, Nora and I were married in October 1987, speaking wedding vows written in the earliest form of Lojban, using the new gismu and cmavo borrowed from Loglan.
At Evecon, Athelstan became interested in Lojban, and eventually became a major volunteer and the earliest significant writer in the language. Athelstan lived in a group home in Maryland, and when I called, his housemates would take messages from "Lojban Bob" to distinguish them from other Bob's who called, later shortened to Lojbob, which was Lojbanized to "lojbab".
I was editor and publisher of the early Lojban news journals, Ju'i Lobypli and le lojbo karni. I wrote 6 chapters of a proposed Lojban textbook (since rewritten into 22 lessons by John Cowan). Later I started a major rewrite of that textbook, but did not finish the first chapter. I am known for having promised a Lojban dictionary "in a few more months" almost since the founding of the project, but the task proved to be too difficult for me while serving all of my other roles in the community.
I served as President of The Logical Language Group from 1986 until 2002, and also performed most of Nora's work as Secretary/Treasurer. But after publishing John Cowan's The Complete Lojban Language in 1997, managing the business and serving in too many other roles burned me out as an active leader. Nora and I stepped down from office, though I remained on the Board of Directors, and served as Archivist and as the State of Virginia representative of the corporation required by law. In April 2010, I was again elected President of LLG, and am slowly resuming an active leadership role in the community. I am a moderately skilled speaker and writer of Lojban, and have non-fluent skills in Russian as well.
My current Lojban goal, other than to become active again, is to translate the Scheherazade story and perhaps some others from Richard Burton's "Thousand Nights and a Night" into Lojban, preserving the poetic style of the original.