Kyoto Prize honors “father of computer graphics” Ivan Sutherland

The Japanese equivalent of the Nobel Prize honors Sutherland for his pioneering work which created today’s computer graphics industry.

Dr. Ivan Sutherland. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Dr. Ivan E. Sutherland, widely regarded as the father of computer graphics, is one of three 2012 laureates of the Kyoto Prize.

Sutherland shares the award with molecular cell biologist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi and literary critic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Each laureate will receive a diploma, a 20-karat gold Kyoto Prize medal and a cash gift of 50 million yen (approximately $630,000) in recognition of lifelong contributions to society. The three laureates will be honored at a ceremony in Kyoto, Japan in November.

Sutherland, 74, is an American computer scientist. He is widely regarded as the “Father of Computer Graphics” for his lifetime of pioneering work in developing visual methods of interacting with computers. Dr. Sutherland is perhaps best known for developing Sketchpad in 1963, a graphical interface program that allowed the user to directly manipulate figures on a screen through a pointing device. Sketchpad’s interactive interface was years ahead of its time; today’s computer-aided design (CAD) systems are just one common example of how this innovation has contributed to the field. Numerous computer graphic-based applications—ranging from films, games and virtual reality systems to educational materials, scientific and technological simulations, and other design aids for engineers—are descendants of Dr. Sutherland’s original work on Sketchpad.

In 1968 he co-founded Evans and Sutherland, an early computer company focused on accelerated graphics. He was a Fellow at Sun Microsystems, and has been appointed to teaching or research positions at Harvard, University of Utah, Cal Tech, Carnegie Mellon University, and Portland State University. He was awarded a Ph.D. from MIT in 1963. Other awards Sutherland has received over the years include Turing Prize, the IEEE John von Neumann Medal, the title of ACM Fellow from the Association for Computing Machinery, and membership in the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences.

The Kyoto Prize is an international award bestowed by The Inamori Foundation to honor those “who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of humankind.”

Ivan Sutherland working with Sketchpad. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The other laureates

Ohsumi, 67, is currently a professor at the Frontier Research Center of the Tokyo Institute of Technology. He is being honored for his research into cell autophagy, demonstrating how a cell degrades its own proteins in order to adapt to nutritional deficiency and other influences. His research is seen as vital to on-going efforts to find treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and other age-related ailments.

Chakravorty Spivak, 70, is currently University Professor at Columbia University (the highest honor for professors at Columbia), where she is also a founder of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. The Inamori Foundation says “she exemplifies the modern intellectual through her theoretical work for the humanities based on comparative literature and her devotion to multifaceted educational activities, especially in developing regions.”