Lance Williams (graphics researcher)

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Lance Joseph Williams, inventor of mip-mapping.

Lance J. Williams (September 25, 1949 – August 20, 2017) was a prominent graphics researcher who made major contributions to texture map prefiltering, shadow rendering algorithms, facial animation, and antialiasing techniques. Williams was one of the first people to recognize the potential of computer graphics to transform film and video making.

Williams died at 67 years old on August 20th, 2017, after a battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife and two children.[1]


Williams held a double major in English and Asian Studies with honors from the University of Kansas. He was drawn to the University of Utah by a "Humanistic Computation" summer seminar held by Jef Raskin. He joined the graduate Computer Science program at the University of Utah in 1972. At this time in the early 1970s, the University of Utah was the hub for much of the pioneering work in computer graphics. Lance left Utah (without completing his degree) in 1977 to join the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT). While at NYIT, Williams invented the mipmapping technique for texture filtering, which is ubiquitously used today by graphics hardware for PCs and video games.

Williams was later awarded his doctorate from Utah based on a rule allowing someone who published three seminal papers in his field to bind them together as his thesis. The three papers are Casting Curved Shadows on Curved Surfaces (1978), Pyramidal Parametrics (1983) and View Interpolation for Image Synthesis (1993).

Professional career[edit]

After NYIT Williams joined the Advanced Technology Group at Apple in 1987. He collaborated with Eric Chen to pioneer early image based rendering work, developed "Virtual Integral Holography," (with Dan Venolia), created 3D paint systems and contributed to QuickTime VR. He also has pioneered work in motion capture facial animation systems for over 20 years. In 1997, Williams joined DreamWorks SKG. In 2002 he became Chief Scientist at Walt Disney Animation Studios. In 2006, Williams joined Google and worked with the Google Earth team. In 2008 he was a Principal Member of Research Staff at Nokia and as of 2012, he joined NVIDIA Research.


  • 1971 - Five State Intercollegiate Chess Championship
  • On August 15, 2001, Williams won the ACM SIGGRAPH Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to computer graphics.
  • On March 2, 2002, Williams was awarded a 2001 Technical Achievement Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for "his pioneering influence in the field of computer-generated animation and effects for motion pictures."


  1. ^ "Lance Williams | Research". Retrieved 2017-08-28. 

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