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


Dr. stayed at Bell Labs until 1982, experimenting with everything from -generated music to technologies that allow deaf people to read sign language over the phone. He later joined Wang Laboratories where, in the late 1980s, he helped develop a personal that allowed users to annotate documents with synchronized voice messages and stylus strokes.

In 2008, after retiring from tech research, he joined a magician and inventor named Mark Setteducati to create a jigsaw puzzle called Ji Ga Zo that could be edited to resemble anyone’s face. “He had a mathematical intelligence combined with a great sense of aesthetics,” Mr. Setteducati said in a telephone interview.

In addition to his son Rick, Dr. Knowlton is survived by his two sons, Kenneth and David, from his first marriage, which ended in divorce; one brother, Fredrick Knowlton; and a sister, Marie Knowlton. Also from his first marriage, his two daughters, Melinda and Suzanne Knowlton, and his second wife, Barbara Bean-Knowlton, died.

While at Bell Labs, Mr. Knowlton collaborated with many well-known artists, including the experimental filmmaker. Stan VanDerBeek, computer artist Lillian Schwartz, and electronic music composer Laurie Spiegel. She saw herself as an engineer helping others create , as Mr. Rauschenberg’s EAT project envisioned.

Later, however, he began creating, displaying and selling his own art, creating traditional analog displays with dominoes, dice, seashells and other materials. When engineers collaborated with artists, he soon realized that they were more than just engineers.

“In the best cases, they become more complete people, partly by understanding that all behavior comes not from logic, but from the lowest, inherently untenable emotions, values, and impulses,” he said. Wrote in 2001. “Some eventually become artists.”



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