Russell Kirsch, a computer scientist credited with inventing the pixel and scanning the world’s first digital photo, died on August 11 at his Portland home at the age of 91.
Kirsch was born in Manhattan in 1929 to Jewish immigrants from Russia and Hungary. Kirsch was educated at New York University’s Bronx High School of Science, Harvard, and MIT, and spent five decades as a research fellow at the US National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institutes of Science and Technology).
“My father, he was a super curious guy who always asked questions,”
In 1957, Kirsch created a small 2 by 2 inch black and white digital image of Walden as a child – one of the first images ever scanned into a computer using a device created by his research team. Life magazine presented the picture in 2003 in a book entitled “100 photographs that changed the world”. It is now in the collection of the Portland Art Museum.
“Anyone who works with computers will tell you how powerful it is for creativity,” Kirsch told The Oregonian in 2007.
Kirsch moved to Oregon from Maryland in 2001. He suffered from dementia but remained a regular at Ken’s Artisan Bakery in northwest Portland for many years. In the 1960s, Kirsch’s research team pioneered artificial intelligence, and Walden Kirsch regrets that his father was unable to gauge how widespread this technology has become.
“It was just a bizarre thing back then,” said Walden Kirsch. “He was on the front line, many, many years before it was a thing.”
Russell Kirsch is survived by his 65-year-old wife Joan, their children Walden, Peter, Lindsey and Kara, and four grandchildren.
– Mike Rogoway | [email protected] | twitter: @rogoway | 503-294-7699
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