Thomas A. DeFanti

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Tom DeFanti is a computer graphics researcher and pioneer. His work has ranged from early computer animation, to scientific visualization, virtual reality, and grid computing. He is a distinguished professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a research scientist at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.[1]


DeFanti did his PhD work in the early 1970s at Ohio State University, under Charles Csuri in the Computer Graphics Research Group. For his dissertation, he created the GRASS programming language, a three-dimensional, real-time animation system usable by computer novices.[2]

In 1973, he joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago. With Dan Sandin, he founded the Circle Graphics Habitat, now known as the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL). At UIC, DeFanti further developed the GRASS language, and later created an improved version, ZGRASS, implemented on the low-cost Datamax UV-1.[2] The GRASS and ZGRASS languages have been used by a number of computer artists, including Larry Cuba, in his film 3/78 and the animated Death Star sequence for Star Wars.[3] Later significant work done at EVL includes development of the graphics system for the Bally home computer, invention of the first data glove,[4] co-editing the 1987 NSF-sponsored report Visualization in Scientific Computing that outlined the emerging discipline of scientific visualization,[5] invention of PHSColograms, and invention of the CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment.[6] DeFanti's current work includes heading the TransLight/StarLight international multi-gigabit networking project[7] and co-directing the OptIPuter optical networking and visualization project.[8]

DeFanti contributed greatly to the growth of the SIGGRAPH organization and conference. He served as Chair of the group from 1981 to 1985, co-organized early film and video presentations (which became the Electronic Theatre), and in 1979 started the SIGGRAPH Video Review, a video archive of computer graphics research.[9]

DeFanti is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. He has received the 1988 ACM Outstanding Contribution Award, the 2000 SIGGRAPH Outstanding Service Award, and the UIC Inventor of the Year Award.


Books, chapter in books, and article. A selection:[10][11]

  • 1987. Visualization in Scientific Computing. Edited with Bruce H. McCormick and Maxine D. Brown. ACM Press.
  • 1989. "Computer-Generated Barrier-Strip Autostereography". With others. In: Proceedings of SPIE, Three-Dimensional Visualization and Display Technologies, S S Fisher|W E Robbins, 1083, 65-75, 09/01/1989 - 09/01/1989
  • 1991. "Simulacra/Stimulacra::Fractal". With others. In: Art Futura. 01/01/1991
  • 1994. "Foreword", With Maxine D. Brown. In: Scientific Visualization : Advances and challenges. Lawrence J. Rosenblum (ed.). Academic Press Academic Press, 1994. pp. xv-xvi.
Papers and articles, a selection
  • DeFanti, T. A.; Sandin, D. J.; Ainsworth, R. A. (1976). "Control structures for performance graphics". The papers of the ACM symposium on Graphic languages. ACM. pp. 79–84. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • DeFanti, T. (June 1976). "The Digital Component of the Circle Graphics Habitat". AFIPS '76: Proceedings of the national computer conference and exposition. pp. 195–203.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Campbell, Graham; DeFanti, Thomas A.; Frederiksen, Jeff; Joyce, Stephen A.; Leske, Lawrence A. (August 1986). "Two bit/pixel full color encoding". SIGGRAPH '86: Proceedings of the 13th annual conference on Computer graphics and interactive techniques. ACM. pp. 215–223. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  • Hart, John C.; DeFanti, Thomas A. (July 1991). "Efficient antialiased rendering of 3-D linear fractals". SIGGRAPH '91: Proceedings of the 18th annual conference on Computer graphics and interactive techniques. ACM. pp. 91–1008. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • DeFanti, Thomas A.; Sandin, Daniel J.; Cruz-Neira, Carolina (October 1993). "A 'Room' with a 'View'". Spectrum. IEEE: 30–33, 39. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • DeFanti, Tom; Stevens, Rick (1999), "Teleimmersion", in Foster, Ian; Kesselman, Carl, The Grid: Blueprint for a New Computing Infrastructure, Morgan Kaufmann, pp. 131–155, ISBN 1-55860-475-8 <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. "People > Staff and Academic Personnel > Tom DeFanti". Retrieved 13 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Magnenat-Thalmann, Nadia; Thalmann, Daniel (1985). Computer Animation: Theory and Practice. Spring-Verlag Tokyo. pp. 26–33. ISBN 4-431-70005-6. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Masson, Terrence (1999). CG 101: A Computer Graphics Industry Reference. New Riders. pp. 410–412. ISBN 0-7357-0046-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  5. Nielson, Gregory M.; Shriver, Bruce; Rosenblum, Lawrence J. (1990). Visualization in Scientific Computing. IEEE Computer Society Press. pp. 3, 19. ISBN 0-8186-8979-X. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Sherman, William R.; Craig, Alan B. (2003). Understanding Virtual Reality: Interface, Application, and Design. Morgan Kaufmann. p. 14. ISBN 1-55860-353-0. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "TransLight/Starlight: About". Retrieved 13 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "OptIPuter". Retrieved 13 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "2000 ACM SIGGRAPH Awards". Retrieved 13 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. bibliography: Thomas A. DeFanti. Retrieved 8 July 2008.
  11. Thomas A. DeFanti. List of publications from the DBLP Bibliography Server.

External links