SIGGRAPH 1991 Steven Anson Coons Award: Dam

  • ©1991, Andries (Andy) van Dam



    Steven Anson Coons Award


    The 1991 Steven A. Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions is presented to Dr. Andries van Dam for his unwavering pursuit of excellence in the field of computer graphics, his contributions to computer graphics education and related fields. He is a stimulator and a leader, as shown by his key role in founding SIGGRAPH.

    Van Dam entered the computing field in 1960 via pattern recognition and focused his doctoral dissertation on digital processing of pictorial data, inspired by Ivan Sutherland’s seminal Sketchpad film. From the beginning, dealing with pictures has been central to his interests in computing. As a consequence of his early work, he always had a keen interest in the synthesis of the two areas: computer graphics and image processing. This led to his role in the establishment of the Journal of Computer Graphics and Image Processing, of which he was an editor from 1971 to 1981.

    As one of the founders of the Computer Science Department at Brown University, and, as the first and two-term chairman, van Dam has been influential in that department’s eminence. He always emphasized that computing is most effective through the crossing of disciplines and sub-disciplines. Thus, he and his graphics group worked in distributed graphics on multi-processors and networked computers in the early 1970s, nearly two decades before this topic became fashionable in mainstream computing. In addition, van Dam was also an early proponent of, and contributor to, hypertext and hypermedia. It was through his presentations in the 1960s that many professionals were exposed to these concepts, long before they were recognized by the computing community at large. Under his leadership, nearly 20 years of hypertext and hypermedia graphics research was conducted before the first ACM conference on this topic was held.

    Professor van Dam played an important role in fashioning the professional status of computer graphics. Together with Sam Matsa of IBM, he presented the first ACM Professional Development Seminar in Computer Graphics, both in the United States and Europe. He and Matsa then founded the ACM Special Interest Committee in Computer Graphics, which evolved into SIGGRAPH. In addition, van Dam was a prime mover in the 1976 launching of the SIGGRAPH Core Standards group that published, through SIGGRAPH key specification documents. This work led to the formation of the ANSI X3H3 Technical Committee on graphics standards. Van Dam revisited that arena a decade later when he observed that the resulting GKS and PHIGS standards did not adequately support modem graphics workstations. He then cajoled a group of interested participants into producing a draft of PHIGS+, leaving it again to the formal committees to create a formal PHIG+ standard.

    Van Dam, with Brown University colleagues, introduced and established the concept of networks of graphics workstations for teaching and research, well before the term was coined in the computer graphics field.

    Finally, this citation would be incomplete without mention of van Dam’s literary achievements including, Fundamentals of Computer Graphics, co-authored with colleague James D. Foley in 1982; and the recent Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, with J.D. Foley, S.K. Feiner, and J.F. Hughes.

    SIGGRAPH has a tradition of recognizing individuals who have made major and long-term contributions to the field of computer graphics. This year’s Coons award to Professor van Dam exemplifies that tradition. Professor van Dam is a tireless worker, an inspiration to students and a fine example to the industry as a whole. Andries van Dam has always had the right vision of what is important in computing, in computer graphics, and in related fields. Even as he was engaged in these and other technical activities, he found time to convince the computer graphics industry of needed improvements. He is truly one of the important people in our field – he has dedicated his talent, inspiration, and time to encourage everyone to excel.


    ACM SIGGRAPH Citation