Professor Ivan Sutherland

Engineer, Billionaire,

Entrepreneur, Capitalist

Born: 1938, Hastings, Nebraska

Profession: Engineer, Entrepreneur, Capitalist, Professor

Position: V.P. and Fellow, Sun Microsystems, Inc.


Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
M.S. EE California Institute of Technology
B.S. EE Carneige Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University)

Patents & Publications: See list

Honors & Professional Societies (partial list):
Smithsonian Computer World Award, 1996
AM Turing Award, Association for Computing Machinery, 1988
First Zworykin Award, National Academy of Engineering, 1972

Member, National Academy of Sciences, since 1978
Member, National Academy of Engineering, since 1973
Member, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)
Fellow, Association for Computing Machinery

Latest Accomplishment: Became a historical relic in the Smithsonian

Proudest Accomplishment: Four Grandchildren

Why do I do what I do: It's exciting to figure out how something works

First Computer: SIMON, a relay-based computer with six words of two bit memory - altogether 12 whole bits! (see also TX-2)

Current Computer: Sun SPARCstation 10, 128MB RAM, 2.1GB Hard Disk, Dual Color Displays, Optical Mouse, Solaris 2.4

What I wanted to be when I grew up: An engineer, of course!

Profile: Second-generation engineer of New Zealand and Scottish decent, travels by motorcycle whenever possible, requires a "worthy intellectual opponent."

Hobbies: Motorcycles, Ballroom and Square dancing

Last Book Read: "Chance," by Robert Parker, a Spencer detective novel

Pet Peeve: Email from someone with initials that I don't recognize, and no name

Favorite Car: A motorcycle - BMW - K100


Ivan Sutherland

written by Heather Richter

Dr. Ivan Sutherland is known as the father of computer graphics. His work as a young graduate student pioneered 3D modeling and virtual simulations. When asked why he does what he does he replies, "I just need to figure out how things work." [1]

Born: 1938. Hasting, Nebraska

B.S. in EE from Carnegie Institute of Technology (1959)
M.S. in EE from California Institute of Technology (1960)
Ph.D. in EE from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1963)
Honorary degrees from Harvard, Caltech, and the University of North Carolina

Academic Positions
Professor of Computer Science and head of the Computer Science Department at California Institute of Technology (1976 - 1980)
Professor of Computer Science at the University of Utah
Associate Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University (1966 - 1967)

Industrial Positions
Vice President and Sun Fellow of Sun Microsystems
Vice President of Sutherland, Sproull and Associates, Inc. (1980 - 1991)
Founding partner of Advanced Technology Ventures
Founding partner of Evans & Sutherland Computer Corporation (E&S) (1968)
Director of Information Processing Techniques at ARPA (1964 - 1966)

Price Waterhouse Information Technology Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1996.
AM Turing Award, Association for Computing Machinery, 1988.
Emanuel R. Piore Award for Pioneering Work in Computer Graphics, 1986.

Ivan Sutherland's first computer experience was with SIMON, a mechanical computer that could add up to 15. His first computer program was to make SIMON divide. Ivan's algorithm was the longest program ever written for SIMON -- an eight foot long paper tape.
Ivan continued his computer work in college on the TX-2 at MIT, one of the first interactive computers available. It was on this computer that Ivan developed the first interactive computer graphics system, called Sketchpad. Sketchpad created highly precise engineering drawings that could be manipulated, duplicated, and stored. It was a "model for totally new ways of operating computers; by changing something on the display screen, it was possible, via Sketchpad, to change something in the computer's memory."[2]

Dr. Sutherland also introduced virtual reality with his work on heads up displays at Harvard. In 1965, he described the "ultimate display" that included full-color, stereoscopic display that filled the user's entire field of view. [3] Working with his student Bob Sproull at Harvard, they created the "Remote Reality" system where they turned a a helicopter environment built from cameras into a virtual environment using only computers for the images.

During his two years at ARPA, Dr. Sutherland was responsible for funding most of the academic research in advance computer science in the country. Examples of such projects were Project MAC at MIT and the Illiac 4 project at the University of Illinois. During this time he also made key contacts with Dave Evans. In 1968, Sutherland and Evans founded Evans & Sutherland Computer Corporation (E&S) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Evans & Sutherlands develops and manufactures hardware and software for highly visual systems for simulation, training, and virtual reality applications. While in Salt Lake City, Sutherland was also a professor at the University of Utah, where his research in computer graphics helped make the university one of the top graphics research institutions in the country.

Dr. Sutherland stopped doing graphics research just after the paper "A Characterization of Ten Hidden Surface Algorithms" where he and his colleagues "discovered that the task of computing which surfaces of a solid object are hidden and which are visible is a sorting problem."[4] So he moved on to other topics such as introducing integrated circuit design into college curriculums while at the University of California and working on a walking robot with Carnegie Mellon University. He also co-founded Sutherland, Sproull, and Associates, Inc., independant consultants in computer hardware and software, and Advanced Technology Ventures, private investors in high-technology start-up companies. Dr. Sutherland holds 8 patents in computer graphics and hardware and is the author of numerous publications. He continues to research advanced hardware technology and is currently the Vice President and a Sun Fellow at Sun Microsystems.

Ivan Sutherland: Profile.

Rheingold, Howard. Tools for Thought. Prentice Hall, 1985.

Virtual Reality.

Rashid, Richard; ed. CMU Computer Science
. A 25th Anniversary Commemorative. ACM Press, 1991.