The VC dimension specifically quantifies the maximum number of training examples that a learning algorithm can shatter, where "shattering" refers to the algorithm's ability to correctly classify all possible label configurations for a given set of points, regardless of the actual labels. This measure is crucial in computational learning theory because it helps in understanding the trade-off between model complexity and the risk of overfitting. A model with a high VC dimension can represent a wide variety of functions and is capable of learning more complex patterns, but it may also require more data to generalize well and avoid fitting noise in the training data.

Historical Overview:

The concept of VC dimension was introduced by Vladimir Vapnik and Alexey Chervonenkis in the early 1970s. It became a cornerstone of statistical learning theory, particularly gaining prominence with the development of Support Vector Machines (SVMs) in the 1990s, which apply principles of VC dimension to optimize the model complexity and generalization ability.

Key Contributors:

Vladimir Vapnik and Alexey Chervonenkis are the principal figures behind the development of the VC dimension. Their work has profoundly influenced the field of statistical learning theory, providing a theoretical framework for understanding the balance between learning model complexity and its ability to generalize from training to unseen data.