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Home / Science / Russell Kirsch, the inventor of the pixel, dies in Oregon at the age of 91

Russell Kirsch, the inventor of the pixel, dies in Oregon at the age of 91



Russell Kirsch, a computer scientist credited with inventing the pixel and scanning the world’s first digital photograph, died Aug. 11 at his home in Portland at the age of 91.

Born in Manhattan in 1929, Kirsch was the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Hungary. Educated at the Bronx High School of Science, New York University, Harvard and MIT, Kirsch has worked for five decades as a research scientist at the US National Standards Bureau (now the National Institutes of Science and Technology).

“My dad, he was an extremely curious guy, always asking questions,”

; said his son, Walden Kirsch, who works at Intel in Oregon. “He was an iconoclast. When people said you can’t go there or you can’t do it, he did.”

In 1957, Kirsch created a small, black-and-white, 2-by-2-inch digital image of Walden as a baby – one of the first images ever scanned on a computer, using a device created by the team. his research. Life magazine featured the image in a 2003 book, “100 Photographs That Changed the World,” and it is now in the collection of the Portland Museum of Art.

“Anyone who is involved with computers will tell you how powerful it is for creativity,” Kirsch told The Oregonian in 2007.

Russell Kirsch

Russell Kirsch with the image of his son, Walden, scanned the world’s first digital scanner in 1957.Oregonian file photo / 2007

Kirsch moved from Maryland to Oregon in 2001. He suffered from dementia but remained a regular at Ken Bakery Artisan in Northwest Portland for many years. In the 1960s, Kirsch’s research team pioneered artificial intelligence, and Walden Kirsch said he regretted his father for not being able to assess how widespread that technology had become.

“At the time it was just a weird thing,” Walden Kirsch said. “He was out in the forefront, many, many years before it was a thing.”

Russell Kirsch survives his 65-year-old wife, Joan, children Walden, Peter, Lindsey and Kara, and four grandchildren.

– Mike Rogoway | mrogoway@oregonian.com | excitement: @rogoway | 503-294-7699

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