Computing Pioneer Dean Named National Academy of Inventors Fellow

Mark-DeanMark Dean, a professor in the College of Engineering and an icon in the world of personal computing, has added another title to his already prestigious career: National Academy of Inventors Fellow for 2014.

Dean, the Fisher Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, holds three of IBM’s original nine patents for personal computers, including one for the technology that allows multiple devices to be plugged into a computer at the same time.

“To have been selected for this and to see some of the other people on their list makes me feel really good,” said Dean, who joins UT Vice Chancellor for Research Taylor Eighmy, a 2013 selection and a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, as NAI fellows at UT. “There are a lot of great people on there, so being selected is an honor.”

Duane Miller, at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis, was also selected to this year’s class.

Dean has previously been selected as a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and as an IBM Fellow, their highest honor. Yet despite the accolades, Dean, a native of Jefferson City, Tennessee, remains humble.

Saying that he did what was possible for him only because of the strength of his father and grandfather, Dean pointed out that he felt that they, not him, were examples of true success stories.

His perspective on the challenges that they overcame is one of the many things Dean holds dear.

“Growing up in my family and looking at what they faced, they were the ones who had everything stacked against them, and yet they grew economically, raised families, and built a future for everyone,” said Dean. “Anything I have done is just what was expected.

“If they had a hall of fame for people who took on life and won, they’d be in it.”

Being involved in the changing world of technology also keeps Dean on his toes.

Having started at the dawn of personal computing, he has watched it change, helped it face new challenges, and seems invigorated by what is to come.

Dean is quick to credit others, saying that he merely innovated what others invented and he challenges the next generation of researchers and scientists.

“Innovation is taking invention and applying it in a practical sense,” said Dean. “There will be ten times the innovations of things like Google and Facebook and things like that over the next ten years, but it all gets back to people being able to apply what has been invented.

“There’s a new set of possibilities, but it will take a new approach to get there.”

As to what such an approach might be, Dean pointed out that the basic structure for computing—known as the Von Neumann model—has been around for 70 years and is nearing the limits of what it can be expected to do.

In order to move beyond that and deal with the massive amounts of data now being collected, Dean said he thinks the next great leap will be devising a better general structure for data analysis.

C O N T A C T :

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)