Remarks upon being awarded — with Bob Taylor, Butler Lampson and Chuck Thacker — the Charles Stark Draper Prize of the National Academy of Engineering, February 24, 2004
When Bill Wulf called to say that the four of us had been awarded this year's Draper Prize, I was floored because even the possibility was not in my mind. Given the amazing feats of engineering in the 20th century, the previous laureates, and that this is just the 10th awarding of the prize, it seems unbelievable to have been chosen. Of course, every engineer, mathematician and scientist -- every artist -- knows that the greatest privilege is being able to do the work, and the greatest joy is to actually turn yearnings into reality. So we were already abundantly rewarded many years ago when this work came together to create a new genre of practical personal computing.
There were three people who were absolutely indispensible to Xerox PARC's success: Bob Taylor, Butler Lampson, and Chuck Thacker. Receiving this award with them is a truly incredible honor. Since this award is about a whole genre of computing, it is extremely important to acknowledge and thank the larger group of several dozen PARC researchers who helped conceive the dreams, build them and make them work. This was especially so in our Learning Research Group, where a wide range of special talents collaborated to design and build our computing and educational systems. I particularly want to thank Dan Ingalls and Adele Goldberg, my closest colleagues at PARC for helping realize our dreams.
About 10 years ago I wrote a history paper about our group's research (available online: see references below) and found, even in 60 pages, I could not come close to mentioning all the relevant influences. This is because I've long been an enthusiastic appreciator of great ideas in many genres--ranging from the graphic, musical and theatrical arts to math, science and engineering. I've been driven by beauty, romance and idealism, and owe more intellectual debts than most, starting with my artistic and musical mother and scientist father.
My best results have come from odd takes on ideas around me--more like rotations of point of view than incremental progress. For example, many of the strongest ingredients of my object-oriented ideas came from Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad, Nygaard & Dahl's Simula, Bob Barton's B5000, the ARPAnet goal, Algebra and Biology. One of the deepest insights came from McCarthy's LISP. But the rotational result was a new and different species of programming and systems design that turned out to be critically useful at PARC and beyond.