John Turner Whitted

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Most Recent Affiliation(s):

  • NVIDIA, TWI Research LLC, UNC Chapel Hill

Other Affiliation(s):

  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Numerical Design Limited
  • Bell Laboratories


  • John Turner Whitted is an electrical engineer and computer scientist who introduced recursive ray tracingto the computer graphics community with his 1979 paper “An improved illumination model for shaded display”. His algorithm proved to be a practical method of simulating global illumination, inspired many variations, and is in wide use today. Simple recursive implementations of ray tracing are still occasionally referred to as Whitted-style ray tracing.

    Whitted was born in Durham, North Carolina and grew up in Winston-Salem. Whitted took his BSE and MS degrees in electrical engineering from Duke University, then received his PhD from North Carolina State University in 1978 and joined Bell Labs.

    In December 1983, Whitted co-founded computer graphics technology firm Numerical Design Limited (NDL) with Dr. Robert Whitton. Whitted would serve as president and technical director at NDL until 1996, and continue as a director of the company until NDL’s merger with Emergent Game Technologies in 2005.

    He later worked at Microsoft Research, and in 2014 joined NVidia Research.
    Whitted is currently an Adjunct Research Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and was awarded the Steven Anson Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics from SIGGRAPH in 2013. (Wikipedia)

    SIGGRAPH 1990

    Turner Whitted is founder and Technical Director of Numerical Design, Ltd., and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina. He received a PhD in Computer Science from North Carolina State University in 1978. He was formerly with the Computer Systems Research Laboratory of Bell Laboratories. Turner is the 1986 winner of the prestigious Computer Graphics Achievement Award, given by ACM-Siggraph in recognition of outstanding contributions to the discipline of computer graphics.  

    SIGGRAPH 1982

    Turner Whitted is a member of the technical staff in the image Processing and Display Research Department of Bell Laboratories. He is a graduate of Duke University and received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University.

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