Ken Knowlton, father of computer art and animation, dies at 91

Dr. Knowlton remained at Bell Labs until 1982, experimenting with everything from computer music to technology to allow deaf people to read sign language over the phone. He later joined Wang Laboratories, where in the late 1980s he helped develop a personal computer that allowed users to annotate documents using synchronized voice messages and digital pen strokes.

In 2008, after retiring from technical studies, he joined a magician and inventor named Mark Setteducati in creating a puzzle called Ji Ga Zo that could be assembled to resemble the face of any person. “He had a mathematical mind, combined with a great sense of aesthetics. Setteducati said in a phone interview.

Besides his son Rick, Dr. Knowlton was survived by two other sons, Kenneth and David, all from his first marriage, which ended in divorce; brother Fredrick Knowlton; and sister Marie Knowlton. Two daughters, Melinda and Susanna Knowlton, also from his first marriage, and his second wife, Barbara Bean-Knowlton, have died.

While at Bell Labs, Mr. Knowlton has collaborated with several well-known artists, including an experimental filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek, computer artist Lillian Schwartz and electronic music composer Lori Spiegel. He saw himself as an engineer helping others create art, as mandated by Mr. Rauschenberg’s EAT Project.

But later he began to create, display and sell his own art, creating traditional analog images using dominoes, dice, shells and other materials. He belatedly realized that when engineers collaborate with artists, they become more than just engineers.

“At best, they become more complete human beings, in part because of the realization that all behavior comes not from logic, but at the lowest level from internally unprotected emotions, values ​​and drives,” he said. wrote in 2001. “Some end up becoming artists.”