Ken Knowlton


Ken Knowlton
Death date
Associated organizations
Bell Labs
Fields of study
Computer art


Ken Knowlton was born on June 6th, 1931, in Springville, NY. Knowlton was the valedictorian of his high school class and attended Cornell University, where he earned a master's degree in physics. After graduation, Knowlton and his wife, Roberta Behrens, extensively worked in Quaker camps, building housing infrastructure in El Salvador and Mexico, and contracted polio during the experience.

After returning to the United States, Knowlton enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the Massachusetts Institute Technology under Noam Chomsky and Marvin Minsky, where he explored programs of computer translation of languages. Finishing his Ph.D. in 1962, Knowlton joined the staff of Bell Labs, where he developed BEFLIX, a programming language for computer animation. Knowlton made several other contributions to computer art in the form of computer graphics, animation and sound, collaborating with several different artists, including Stan VanDerBeek, Lillian Schwartz and Laurie Spiegel. One of his more well-known pieces was the image "Computer Nude (Studies in Perception I)", which was reprinted in the New York Times.

Knowlton left Bell Labs in 1982, joined Wang Laboratories, where he worked on computer technology that would allow for voice annotations of documents, and retired in 2008. Knowlton died on June 16, 2022.

Further Reading

  • The VanDerBeek-Knowlton Movies, by A. Michael Noll - an account of artist-filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek's collaboration with Knowlton in the production of ten computer-animated movies.