Biography:Ivan Sutherland

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Short description: American computer scientist and Internet pioneer
Ivan Sutherland
Ivan Sutherland at CHM.jpg
Sutherland in 2008
Ivan Edward Sutherland

(1938-05-16) May 16, 1938 (age 85)
Hastings, Nebraska, United States
Alma mater
Known forFather of computer graphics
Direct linear transformation
Interactive computing
Zooming user interface
Cohen–Sutherland algorithm
Sutherland–Hodgman algorithm
Marly Roncken (m. 2006)
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
Computer graphics
InstitutionsHarvard University
University of Utah
Evans and Sutherland
California Institute of Technology
Carnegie Mellon University
Sun Microsystems
Portland State University
Advanced Research Projects Agency (1964–1966)
ThesisSketchpad, a Man–Machine Graphical Communication System (1963)
Doctoral advisorClaude Shannon[2]
Doctoral students

Ivan Edward Sutherland (born May 16, 1938)[3] is an American computer scientist and Internet pioneer, widely regarded as a pioneer of computer graphics.[4] His early work in computer graphics as well as his teaching with David C. Evans in that subject at the University of Utah in the 1970s was pioneering in the field. Sutherland, Evans, and their students from that era developed several foundations of modern computer graphics. He received the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery in 1988 for the invention of the Sketchpad, an early predecessor to the sort of graphical user interface that has become ubiquitous in personal computers. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, as well as the National Academy of Sciences among many other major awards. In 2012, he was awarded the Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology for "pioneering achievements in the development of computer graphics and interactive interfaces".[5][6]

Education and early life

Sutherland's father was from New Zealand; his mother, Anne Sutherland, was from Scotland. His family moved to Wilmette, Illinois, then Scarsdale, New York, for his father's career. Bert Sutherland was his elder brother.[7] Ivan Sutherland earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, his master's degree from Caltech, and his Ph.D. from MIT in Electrical Engineering in 1963.[8][2]

Sutherland invented Sketchpad in 1962 while at MIT. Claude Shannon signed on to supervise Sutherland's computer drawing thesis.[2] Among others on his thesis committee were Marvin Minsky and Steven Coons. Sketchpad was an innovative program that influenced alternative forms of interaction with computers. Sketchpad could accept constraints and specified relationships among segments and arcs, including the diameter of arcs. It could draw both horizontal and vertical lines and combine them into figures and shapes. Figures could be copied, moved, rotated, or resized, retaining their basic properties. Sketchpad also had the first window-drawing program and clipping algorithm, which allowed zooming. Sketchpad ran on the Lincoln TX-2 computer and influenced Douglas Engelbart's oN-Line System. Sketchpad, in turn, was influenced by the conceptual Memex as envisioned by Vannevar Bush in his influential paper "As We May Think".[citation needed]

Career and research

From 1963 to 1965, after he received his PhD, he served in the U.S. Army, commissioning as an officer through the ROTC program at Carnegie Institute of Technology. As a first lieutenant, Sutherland replaced J. C. R. Licklider as the head of the US Defense Department Advanced Research Project Agency's Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), when Licklider took a job at IBM in 1964.[9][10][11]

From 1965 to 1968, Sutherland was an associate professor of electrical engineering at Harvard University. Work with student Danny Cohen in 1967 led to the development of the Cohen–Sutherland computer graphics line clipping algorithm. In 1968, with his students Bob Sproull, Quintin Foster, Danny Cohen, and others he created the first head-mounted display that rendered images for the viewer's changing pose, as sensed by The Sword of Damocles, thus making the first virtual reality system. A prior system, Sensorama,[12][13] used a head-mounted display to play back static video and other sensory stimuli. The optical see-through head-mounted display used in Sutherland's VR system was a stock item used by U.S. military helicopter pilots to view video from cameras mounted on the helicopter's belly.

From 1968 to 1974, Sutherland was a professor at the University of Utah. Among his students there were Alan Kay, inventor of the Smalltalk language, Gordon W. Romney (computer and cybersecurity scientist), who rendered the first 3D images at U of U, Henri Gouraud, who devised the Gouraud shading technique, Frank Crow, who went on to develop antialiasing methods, Jim Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics, Henry Fuchs, and Edwin Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and now president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.

In 1968 he co-founded Evans & Sutherland with his friend and colleague David C. Evans. The company did pioneering work in the field of real-time hardware, accelerated 3D computer graphics, and printer languages. Former employees of Evans & Sutherland included the future founders of Adobe (John Warnock) and Silicon Graphics (Jim Clark).

From 1974 to 1978 he was the Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science at California Institute of Technology, where he was the founding head of that school's computer science department. He then founded a consulting firm, Sutherland, Sproull and Associates, which was purchased in 1990 by Sun Microsystems to form the seed of its research division, Sun Labs.[14][15]

Sutherland was a fellow and vice president at Sun Microsystems. Sutherland was a visiting scholar in the computer science division at University of California, Berkeley (fall 2005 – spring 2008). Since 2009, Sutherland and Roncken have led the research in Asynchronous Systems at Portland State University.[16][8]

Awards and honors

1973 "for creative contributions in computer science and computer graphics, particularly in the study of the interfaces between men and machines"[27]

  • Kyoto Prize 2012, in the category of advanced technology.[28]
  • National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee, 2016.[29]
  • Washington Award, 2018 [30]
  • BBVA Fronteras del conocimiento 2019.[31][32]


  • "A display connected to a digital computer gives us a chance to gain familiarity with concepts not realizable in the physical world. It is a looking glass into a mathematical wonderland."[33]
  • "The ultimate display would, of course, be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal."[33]
  • When asked: "How could you possibly have done the first interactive graphics program, the first non-procedural programming language, the first object oriented software system, all in one year?", Sutherland replied: "Well, I didn't know it was hard."[34]
  • "It’s not an idea until you write it down."[35]
  • "Without the fun, none of us would go on!"[36]


Sutherland has more than 60 patents, including:


Personal life

On May 28, 2006, Ivan Sutherland married Marly Roncken.[citation needed] He has two children.[citation needed] His elder brother, Bert Sutherland, was also a computer science researcher.[37]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Ivan E. Sutherland". 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Ivan Sutherland at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. Elizabeth H. Oakes (2007). Encyclopedia of World Scientists. Infobase Publishing. p. 701. ISBN 978-1-4381-1882-6. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  4. "Ivan E. Sutherland Display Windowing by Clipping Patent No. 3,639,736". "Sutherland is widely regarded as the “father of computer graphics.”" 
  5. "The 2012 Kyoto Prize Laureates". Inamori Foundation. 
  6. Ivan Sutherland on IMDb
  7. Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Sutherland, Bert (February 21, 2020) [Interview took place on May 25, 2017]. "Oral History of Bert Sutherland" (Interview). Interviewed by David C. Brock and Bob Sproull. Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California: YouTube. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
  8. 8.0 8.1 CV of Ivan Sutherland, Portland State University
  9. Moschovitis Group; Hilary W. Poole; Laura Lambert; Chris Woodford; Christos J. P. Moschovitis (2005). The Internet: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-659-6. 
  10. Page, Dan; Cynthia Lee (1999). "Looking Back at Start of a Revolution". UCLA Today (The Regents of the University of California (UC Regents)). 
  11. Waldrop, M. Mitchell (2018). The Dream Machine (Fourth ed.). Stripe Press. p. 251. ISBN 978-1-7322651-1-0. 
  12. Stereoscopic-television apparatus for individual use, 1957-05-24, US2955156A,, retrieved 2018-05-17 
  13. Brockwell, Holly (April 3, 2016). "A Gear VR for from the 1950s? - Forgotten genius: the man who made a working VR machine in 1957" (in EN-GB). 
  14. "Ivan Sutherland" (in en). 
  15. "VLSI Research". 
  16. "About ARC". Asynchronous Research Center. Portland State University. 
  17. "Ivan E. Sutherland".,Sutherland/. 
  18. "Proximity Communication Garners Prestigious Awards". 
  19. "IEEE John von Neumann Medal Recipients". 
  20. "Ivan E Sutherland". 
  21. EFF Pioneer
  22. "Software System Award". ACM Awards. Association for Computing Machinery. 
  24. "Ivan Sutherland – A.M. Turing Award Laureate". 
  25. "Computerworld Leadership Award". 
  26. "IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award Recipients". IEEE. Retrieved March 20, 2021. 
  27. "Dr. Ivan E. Sutherland". 
  28. "US computer scientist wins Kyoto Prize". Jun 22, 2012. 
  29. "Ivan E. Sutherland Display Windowing by Clipping Patent No. 3,639,736". 
  30. "Washington Award Recipients". Western Society of Engineers. 
  31. "Ivan Sutherland, Premio BBVA por revolucionar la interacción humano-máquina a través de la realidad virtual". Europa Press. 19 February 2019. 
  32. "Ivan Sutherland, "padre de los gráficos por ordenador", Premio "Fronteras del Conocimiento" de la Fundación BBVA". 19 February 2019.  (Spanish)
  33. 33.0 33.1 Sutherland, Ivan E. (1965). "The Ultimate Display". Proceedings of IFIP Congress. pp. 506–508. 
  34. Alan Kay (Speaker) (1987). Doing with Images Makes Symbols (Videotape). University Video Communications, Apple Computer. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  35. Burton, Robert (2012). "Ivan Sutherland". A.M. Turing Awards. 
  36. Sutherland, Ivan (April 1996), Technology and Courage 
  37. "Ivan Sutherland - A.M. Turing Award". ACM Association for Computing Machinery.