Russell A. Kirsch
|Russell A. Kirsch|
Russell Kirsch in Portland, Oregon 
|Born||1929 (age 84–85)|
|Residence||Portland, Oregon, United States|
|Education||Bronx High School of Science (1946), BEE New York University (1950), SM Harvard University (1952), American University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology|
|Known for||First internally programmable computer in the US, first digital image scanner|
|Spouse(s)||Joan (née Levin) Kirsch|
|Children||Walden Kirsch (KGW reporter), 3 other children|
Russell A. Kirsch went to school at the Bronx High School of Science and graduated in 1946. He continued his education at New York University in 1950, Harvard University in 1952, and later the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Russell is married to Joan (née Levin) Kirsch. One of their four children, their son Walden, a KGW TV reporter for 17 years, now works for Intel in the Communications department. Russell has spent most of his professional life in Washington, D.C. where he was affiliated with the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) for nearly 50 years. Russell is retired and now resides in Portland, Oregon.
While working at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), Kirsch and his team of colleagues, Wright, Shupe and Cooper, created America’s first internally programmable computer, the Standards Eastern Automatic Computer (SEAC) which became operable in 1950. Internal memory greatly increased computer processing power and speed, which allowed for quicker applications development.
In 1957, the team unveiled a digital image scanner, to “trace variations of intensity over the surfaces of photographs”, and made the first digital scans. One of the first photographs scanned, a picture of Kirsch’s three-month-old son, was captured as just 30,976 pixels, a 176 × 176 array, in an area measuring 5 cm × 5 cm. The bit depth was only one bit per pixel, stark black and white with no intermediate shades of gray, but by combining several scans made using different scanning thresholds, grayscale information could also be acquired. They used the computer to extract line drawings, count objects, recognize alphanumeric characters and produce oscilloscope displays. Kirsch also proposed the Kirsch operator for edge detection.
Later in life, Kirsch became the director of research of the Sturvil Corporation and a past Advisory Editor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). He is currently the Advisory Editor of the journal, Languages of Design.
Due to its importance as a milestone in the development of digital photography, in 2003 Life magazine credited Kirsch's scanned picture of his son as one of the “100 Photographs That Changed the World”. The original image is in the Portland Art Museum. Although Kirsch did not work for NASA, his invention led to technology crucial to space exploration in the 1960s and beyond, including the Apollo moon landing. Medical advancements such as Sir Godfrey Hounsfield’s CAT scan can also be attributed to Kirsch’s research.
- Runyon, Joel (Aug 2, 2012), An Unexpected Ass Kicking, ImpossibleHQ.com
- Kirsch, Russell A., Russell A. Kirsch, NISTS Museum; SEAC and the Start of Image Processing at the National Bureau of Standards (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
- Woodward, Steve (May 11, 2007), Russell Kirsch: The man who taught computers to see, The Oregonian, OregonLive.com
- Kirsch, Russell. “Computer Development at the National Bureau of Standards.” National Bureau of Standards. 31 March 2010.
- Jones-Bey, Hassaun (Jul 2007), Digital Imaging Turns 50, Laser Focus World: 46
- Ehrenberg, Rachel (2010-06-28). "Square Pixel Inventor Tries to Smooth Things Out". Wired News. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- Kirsch, Russell A., Earliest Image Processing, NISTS Museum; SEAC and the Start of Image Processing at the National Bureau of Standards (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
- Newman, Michael E (24 May 2007), "Fiftieth Anniversary of First Digital Image Marked", Tech Beat (news release), NIST, retrieved 31 March 2010.