Edwin Catumull


New York Tech Pioneer Researcher Awarded “Nobel Prize of Computing”

March 20, 2020

Edwin Catmull, Ph.D., founder the Computer Graphics Lab (CGL) at New York Institute of Technology and former president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, has been named this year’s recipient of the prestigious A.M. Turing Award. Often referred to as the “Nobel Prize of Computing,” the award includes a $1 million prize and is presented by the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM).

Catmull was recognized by the ACM for his pioneering contributions to 3-D computer graphics and the impact these techniques have had on computer-generated imagery in filmmaking and other applications. He shares the Turing Award with co-recipient Patrick Hanrahan, Ph.D., who also worked briefly at New York Tech’s CGL before Catmull hired him at Pixar. During their tenure at the CGL, one of the earliest computer animation labs in the United States, they developed a flood of groundbreaking technologies including the 24-bit first full-color graphics system, the first full-color paint program, the first scan-and-paint system, the alpha channel digitally controlled video editor, and the first digitally created TV advertisements.

“Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan have fundamentally influenced the field of computer graphics through conceptual innovation and contributions to both software and hardware. Their work has had a revolutionary impact on filmmaking, leading to a new genre of entirely computer-animated feature films beginning 25 years ago with Toy Story and continuing to the present day,” according to an announcement issued by ACM.

"The profound impact Ed Catmull has made on the cultural and technological landscape around the globe has perhaps never been more pronounced, and the award never more deserved,” said New York Tech President Hank Foley, Ph.D. “Right now, millions of families across all borders are bonding together around a movie, game, or virtual experience influenced by the ground-breaking innovations he and Pat pioneered decades ago.”

“We at New York Institute of Technology are proud of the role we played in his initial quest for discovery. Today, our university is thriving and educating others to accomplish new feats and innovations and follow in his footsteps, and his CGL legacy continues to inspire all our students, faculty, and staff on their quest to reinvent the future, ” Foley added.

The ACM A.M. Turing Award is made possible with financial support from Google, Inc. It is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who influenced the development of theoretical computer science and formalized the use of algorithms and computation using the Turing machine. Previous recipients have included Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and Catmull’s advisor, Ivan Sutherland. The first A.M. Turing Award was bestowed in 1966.