Ken Knowlton, a Father of Computer Art and Animation, Dies at 91

Kenneth C. Knowlton (June 6, 1931 – June 16, 2022) was an American computer graphics pioneer, artist, mosaicist and portraitist. In 1963, whilst working at Bell Labs, he developed the BEFLIX programming language for creating bitmap computer-produced movies, which laid the groundwork for today’s computer-generated imagery in film and on TV. As an engineer, computer scientist and artistHe helped pioneer the science and art of computer graphics and made many of the first computer-generated pictures, portraits and movies

His son, Rick Knowlton, said the cause of death, at a hospice facility, was unclear.

In 1962, after finishing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, Dr. Knowlton joined Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., a future-focused division of the Bell telephone conglomerate that was among the world’s leading research labs. After learning that the lab had installed a new machine that could print images onto film, he resolved to make movies using computer-generated graphics.

He outlined his vision in a 1968 talk:

We are further obliged, I think, to try to extend the use of computers into the area of more profound art – that which helps us to appreciate, understand, and enhance our humanity. If we are successful in this pursuit, then the computer will have been helpful, not only directly, but it will have helped us psychologically to perceive it as a friend – as an instrument not necessarily of regimentation but one which can significantly help us to experience and assert our humanity.

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