J. Turner Whitted

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John Turner Whitted is an electrical engineer and computer scientist who introduced recursive ray tracing to the computer graphics community with his 1979 paper "An improved illumination model for shaded display".[1][2] His algorithm proved to be a practical method of simulating global illumination, inspired many variations, and is in wide use today. Simple recursive implementations of ray tracing are still occasionally referred to as Whitted-style ray tracing.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Whitted was born in Durham, North Carolina and grew up in Winston-Salem.[4]

Whitted took his BSE and MS degrees in electrical engineering from Duke University, then received his PhD from North Carolina State University in 1978 and joined Bell Labs.[4]


In December 1983, Whitted co-founded computer graphics technology firm Numerical Design Limited (NDL) with Dr. Robert Whitton.[citation needed] Whitted would serve as president and technical director at NDL until 1996, and continue as a director of the company until NDL's merger with Emergent Game Technologies in 2005.[5][6]

He later worked at Microsoft Research, and in 2014 joined NVidia Research.[5][6]

Whitted is currently an Adjunct Research Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,[7] and Adjunct Professor at North Carolina State University.[8]

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering[9] and was awarded the Steven Anson Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics in 2013.[10]


  1. ^ Whitted T. (1979) An improved illumination model for shaded display. Proceedings of the 6th annual conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques
  2. ^ Furht, Borko (2010-03-10). Handbook of Multimedia for Digital Entertainment and Arts. Springer. pp. 531–. ISBN 9780387890241. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  3. ^ Kurachi, Noriko (2011-06-01). The Magic of Computer Graphics. CRC Press. pp. 19–. ISBN 9781568815770. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Featured Alumnus:J. Turner Whitted". Ece.ncsu.edu. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Turner Whitted". Microsoft Research. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Turner Whitted". NVidia Research. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Adjunct Faculty — Department of Computer Science". Cs.unc.edu. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
  8. ^ "Supporting Faculty — Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering". www.ece.ncsu.edu. 27 July 2017. Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  9. ^ "NAE Website - Dr. J. Turner Whitted". Nae.edu. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
  10. ^ "ACM SIGGRAPH Awards | SIGGRAPH 2013". S2013.siggraph.org. Retrieved 2014-05-22.