School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Ivan Sutherland
  • Ivan Sutherland
  • Born: 1938
  • Field: Computer graphics; computer modeling and simulation; computer-aided design
  • Focus: Considered the father of computer graphics. Introduced such concepts as 3-D computer modeling, visual simulation, computer-aided design, and virtual reality.
  • Country: United States
  • Era: 1970 to 1989

Ivan Sutherland is considered by many to be the father of computer graphics. He introduced such concepts as 3-D computer modeling, visual simulation, computer-aided design (CAD), and virtual reality. Sutherland's work in computer graphics began with his Ph.D. thesis, "SketchPad," the first graphical user interface, which he developed for the arcane TX-2 computer.

After receiving his doctoral degree, Sutherland spent time at the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defense Department's Advanced Research Project's Agency (ARPA), where he commissioned computing projects in concepts such as time-sharing and artificial intelligence. In 1966, he became a professor at Harvard, which he left two years later to become a professor at the University of Utah, where he built that school's reputation for computer graphics. In 1976, he became head of the computer science department at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he helped introduce integrated circuit design to the curriculum, which in turn spurred the explosion of chip design and manufacturing in California's Silicon Valley.

Sutherland co-founded two companies, Evans & Sutherland Computer Corporation and Sutherland, Sproull & Associates. The first is still an independent, publicly traded company producing computer graphics, simulation, and engineering technology. The second was purchased by Sun Microsystems, Inc. after ten years in business and renamed Sun Laboraties; Sutherland is still employed as a vice president and fellow by Sun Microsystems. Among his awards is the A.M. Turing Award of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), which he received in 1988. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the ACM, and he has authored approximately 50 publications.

Sutherland obtained a BS in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1959 and an MS in electrical engineering from CalTech in 1960. He earned a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963. He also has an honorary MA from Harvard.

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