BHM Highlight: Mark Dean, inventor, holder of 3/9 original IBM patents

LSC News

Throughout Black History Month the Liberty Science Center blog is highlighting African American scientists to continue our mission of getting learners of all ages excited about the power, promise, and pure fun of science and technology.

A lot of kids growing up today aren’t told that you can be whatever you want to be. There may be obstacles, but there are no limits. -Mark Dean

Mark E. Dean was born in Jefferson City, Tennessee, in 1957, to Barbara and James Dean. His father worked as a dam supervisor for the Tennessee Valley Authority. This fascination for science, building, and learning stemmed from his family. As a child, Dean often accompanied his father on work trips and eventually became fascinated with dam engineering. He and his father once built a tractor from scratch, and Dean’s grandfather was a high school principal. His family always nurtured his thirst for knowledge, specifically in math and science. He graduated with exceptional grades from Jefferson City High School and in 1979, graduated at the top of his class at the University of Tennessee earning his degree in engineering.

After college, Dean began working for IBM where his innovation and engineering skills flourished. Dean and his colleague, Dennis Moeller, developed the new Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) system bus. This new system allowed external devices like disk drives, printers and monitors to be plugged directly into computers, resulting in greater efficiency and convenience. He continued to create groundbreaking work when he helped change the accessibility and power of the personal computer. He developed the color PC monitor and in 1999, he led a team of engineers at IBM’s Austin, Texas lab to create the very first gigahertz chop. This revolutionary piece of technology is able to do a billion calculations in a second.

Dean holds 3 of the original 9 IBM patents and currently has more than 20 patents associated with him name. In 1996 he was the first African-American to be named an IBM Fellow. A year later he was honored with the Black Engineer of the Year President’s Award and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 2001 he was named a member of the National Academy of Engineers. He left IBM in 2013 and is now serving as a John Fisher distinguished professor at the University of Tennessee.

STEM blog by Kelly Rose Lynch. Kelly is an intern on the Marketing Team at Liberty Science Center.

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