Dr. William Sutherland


In recognition of his role as the technical manager and mentor of three major research laboratories at Sun Microsystems, Xerox PARC, and BBN during the development of some of the most important computing innovations of the past half century, in particular, advanced microprocessors, the Java programming language, the development of the personal computer, and the Internet; for his fostering the collaboration between scientists at Caltech and Xerox PARC to produce educational materials in VLSI design that helped expedite the spread of the nascent technology, whose impact continues to transform our lives, the School of Computing at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln proudly inducts Nebraska native Dr. William (Bert) Sutherland into the Nebraska Hall of Computing.


William R. (Bert) Sutherland (born 1936 in Hastings, Nebraska) was the longtime manager of three prominent research labs, including Sun Microsystems Laboratories (1992–1998), the Systems Science Laboratory at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center - PARC - (1975–1981), and the Computer Science Division of Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Inc. (1970-75) which helped develop the ARPANET.

In these roles, Sutherland participated in the creation of the personal computer, the technology of advanced microprocessors, the Java programming language and the Internet.

Unlike traditional corporate research managers, Sutherland added individuals from fields like psychology, cognitive science, and anthropology to enhance the work of his technology staff. He also directed his scientists to take their research, like the Xerox Alto "personal" computer, outside of the lab to allow people to use it in a corporate setting and to observe their interaction with it.

In addition, Sutherland fostered a collaboration between the Caltech researchers who simplified the design of very large-scale integrated circuits (VLSI) — his brother Ivan and Carver Mead — and Lynn Conway of his PARC staff. With PARC resources made available by Bert, Mead and Conway developed a textbook and university syllabus that helped expedite the development and distribution of integrated circuit design technology whose impact is now immeasurable.
Sutherland said that a research lab is primarily a teaching institution, "teaching whatever is new so that the new can become familiar, old, and used widely.

Sutherland received his Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1957), and his Master's Degree and Ph.D. from MIT (1963,1966); his PhD thesis advisor was Claude Shannon. During his military service as a carrier pilot in the United States Navy (1957-62), he was awarded the Legion of Merit as a Carrier Anti Submarine Warfare plane commander.