Ivan Sutherland


Information and Communication Technologies

11th Edition

The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Information and Communication Technologies category has gone in this eleventh edition to American computer engineer Ivan Sutherland, for “pioneering the move from text-based to graphical computer displays,” in the words of the citation.


The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Information and Communication Technologies goes, in this eleventh edition, to Ivan Sutherland, for laying the foundations for intuitive and powerful humancomputer interaction.

The “father of computer graphics,” Dr. Sutherland pioneered the move from text-based to graphical computer displays. Over a 60-year career, he has continually focused on pairing a deep knowledge of technology with an understanding of human behavior to transform computer interaction. Everybody using a computer or a smartphone today benefits from his vision and contributions.

The Sketchpad program, which he developed in his doctoral thesis, provided a light pen and commands to draw directly on a computer display, zoom in and out, and transform objects. These ideas were revolutionary when most users still keyed in commands on teletypes or punch cards.

As a professor at Harvard University, Sutherland and his students created “the Sword of Damocles,” considered to be the first “virtual reality” system, with potential to track the user’s gaze. Later, at the University of Utah, his students included Jim Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics and Netscape, and Edwin Catmull, who went on to found Pixar.

Holder of more than sixty U.S. patents, among his various business ventures, he was a founder of Evans and Sutherland, which pioneered 3D graphics hardware, and Sutherland, Sproull, and Associates, purchased by Sun Microsystems to seed the fledgling Sun Labs, where he worked on large-scale computer servers and the theory and implementation of asynchronous circuits.