A. Newell and H. A. Simon were two of the most influential scientists in the emerging field of artificial intelligence (AI) in the late 1950s through to the early 1990s. This paper reviews their crucial contribution to this field, namely to symbolic AI. This contribution was constituted mostly by their quest for the implementation of general intelligence and (commonsense) knowledge in artificial thinking or reasoning artifacts, a project they shared with many other scientists but that in their case was theoretically based on the idiosyncratic notions of symbol systems and the representational abilities they give rise to, in particular with respect to knowledge. While focusing on the period 1956-1982, this review cites both earlier and later literature and it attempts to make visible their potential relevance to today's greatest unifying AI challenge, to wit, the design of wholly autonomous artificial agents (a.k.a. robots) that are not only rational and ethical, but also self-conscious.