Ivan Sutherland, a former University of Utah computer science professor
(1968-1974) and co-founder of Salt Lake City’s Evans & Sutherland has
won the 2012 Kyoto Prize for “pioneering achievements in the development
of computer graphics and interactive interfaces.”

Awarded by Kazuo Inamori, the founder of Japanese electronics and
ceramics manufacturer Kyocera Corp., the Kyoto Prize recognizes
outstanding works in the categories of advanced technology, basic
sciences, and arts and philosophy. Within each category, the prize
rotates among disciplines (electronics, biotechnology, materials science
and engineering, and information science are part of the “advanced
technology” rotation). Each Kyoto Laureate receives a diploma, a 20-karat gold medal, and
prize money of 50 million yen (currently worth almost $629,000).

Often considered a precursor to the Nobel Prize, Kyoto Laureates are
internationally recognized scholars considered to be leaders in their
fields whose works have contributed to humanity. Sutherland is a pioneer
for his fundamental contributions to computer graphics, most notably for
Sketchpad, an interactive and graphical interface to a computer.

“Sketchpad was the foundation on which graphics, graphical user
interfaces, object-oriented programming, automated computer-aided design
and interactive computing was built,” says Al Davis, department chair
and professor of computer science at the University of Utah. “All of
these are ubiquitous in today’s computing environment.”

Born in Nebraska in 1938, Sutherland received a Ph.D. in electrical
engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963
before joining the faculty of Harvard University in 1965. After
establishing the computer science division at the University of Utah,
computer science professor David Evans recruited Sutherland from Harvard
University to the U. Together they founded pioneering computer graphics
company Evans & Sutherland in 1968.

For the next two decades, the duo helmed the development of computer
systems for simulations using computer graphics, including simulators
for commercial flight training, digital projectors for planetariums and
other entertainment applications. After leaving the U in 1974,
Sutherland was on the faculty at Caltech and was vice-president at Sun
Microsystems until 2009. He is currently a visiting scientist at
Portland State University.

“Ivan was a role model who inspired an entire generation of students at
Utah to do things that others believed to be either too hard or maybe
even impossible,” Davis adds. “Ivan and Dave (Evans) launched a culture
at Utah: ‘Think of what is needed in ten years and make it happen
today.’ Much of this culture persists today.”

Read more in the Inamori Foundation’s Press Release