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Biography

This is my official professional bio. I am working on a more detailed and personal account of my adventures which will be filed under a different menu item.

Jim Blinn made his first computer generated pictures in 1968 while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. From 1974 to 1977 he was a graduate student at the University of Utah where he did research in realistic rendering. The results of this research have become standard techniques in today’s computer animation systems. They include realistic specular lighting models, bump mapping and environment/reflection mapping. In 1977 he received a Ph.D. and moved to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he produced computer graphics animations for various space missions to Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. These animations were shown on many news broadcasts as part of the press coverage of the missions and were the first exposure to computer animation for many people in the industry today. Also at JPL he produced animation for the PBS series COSMOS and for the Annenberg/CPB funded project “The Mechanical Universe”, a 52 part telecourse to teach college level physics. During these productions he developed several other standard computer graphics techniques including work in cloud simulation and a modeling technique variously called blobbies or metaballs. From 1989 to 1995 he worked at Caltech producing animations to teach High School mathematics for “Project Mathematics!” From 1987 to 2007 he had a regular column called Jim Blinn’s Corner in the IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications journal where he described mathematical techniques used in computer graphics. These have been collected into three books. From 1995 to 2009 he worked at Microsoft Research as a Graphics Fellow developing a new mathematical notation scheme that greatly simplifies the algebraic description and manipulation of curves and surfaces. He is currently retired.

Education

1970 B.S. University of Michigan, Physics and Communications Science

1972 M.S.E University of Michigan, Computer, Information and Control Engineering

1978 Ph.D. University of Utah, Computer Science

Awards

1983 — NASA Exceptional Service medal for Voyager Fly-by animations.

1983 — The first Siggraph Computer Graphics Achievement Award for work in lighting and surface modeling techniques.

1989 — IEEE Outstanding Contribution Award for Jim Blinn’s corner.

1991 — MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of and to allow continuation of work in educational animation.

1995 — Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the Parsons School of Design for contributions to computer

1999 — Siggraph Coons Award for lifetime achievement in computer graphics.

2000 – Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

Past Projects

  • Voyager Fly-by Animations (1977-1987),
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Animations depicting various space missions to Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus.
  • COSMOS (1979-1980),
    Computer graphics animations for the Carl Sagan PBS series.
  • The Mechanical Universe (1983-1986),
    Animated sequences for the 52-part telecourse produced by the California Institute of Technology to teach college level physics. Winner of the Japan prize for educational animation.
  • Project Mathematics! (1989-1995),
    a series of animated videotapes to teach High School mathematics, produced at Caltech