Douglas Engelbart


Douglas Engelbart : biography

30 January 1925 – 02 July 2013


Since the late 1980s, prominent individuals and organizations have recognized the seminal importance of Engelbart’s contributions. In December 1995, at the Fourth WWW Conference in Boston, he was the first recipient of what would later become the Yuri Rubinsky Memorial Award. In 1997 he was awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize of $500,000, the world’s largest single prize for invention and innovation, and the ACM Turing Award. To mark the 30th anniversary of Engelbart’s 1968 demo, in 1998 the Stanford Silicon Valley Archives and the Institute for the Future hosted Engelbart’s Unfinished Revolution, a symposium at Stanford University’s Memorial Auditorium, to honor Engelbart and his ideas.

Also in 1998, ACM SIGCHI awarded Engelbart the CHI Lifetime Achievement Award. ACM SIGCHI later inducted Engelbart into the CHI Academy in 2002. Engelbart was awarded The Franklin Institute’s Certificate of Merit in 1996 and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1999 in Computer and Cognitive Science. In early 2000 Engelbart produced, with volunteers and sponsors, what was called The Unfinished Revolution – II, also known as the Engelbart Colloquium at Stanford University, to document and publicize his work and ideas to a larger audience (live, and online).

In December 2000, United States President Bill Clinton awarded Engelbart the National Medal of Technology, the United States’ highest technology award.

In 2001 he was awarded a British Computer Society’s Lovelace Medal.

In 2005, he was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum "for advancing the study of human-computer interaction, developing the mouse input device, and for the application of computers to improving organizational efficiency."

He was honored with the Norbert Wiener Award, which is given annually by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. Robert X. Cringely did an hour long interview with Engelbart on December 9, 2005 in his NerdTV video podcast series.

On December 9, 2008, Engelbart was honored at the 40th Anniversary celebration of the 1968 "Mother of All Demos". This event, produced by SRI International, was held at Memorial Auditorium at Stanford University. Speakers included several members of Engelbart’s original Augmentation Research Center (ARC) team including Don Andrews, Bill Paxton, Bill English, and Jeff Rulifson, Engelbart’s chief government sponsor Bob Taylor, and other pioneers of interactive computing, including Andy van Dam and Alan Kay. In addition, Christina Engelbart spoke about her father’s early influences and the ongoing work of the Doug Engelbart Institute. In June 2009, the New Media Consortium recognized Engelbart as an NMC Fellow for his lifetime of achievements. In 2011, Engelbart was inducted into IEEE Intelligent Systems’ AI’s Hall of Fame.

Engelbart received an honorary doctorate from Yale University in May 2011, their first Doctor of Engineering and Technology.


Engelbart died at his home in Atherton, California on July 2, 2013, due to kidney failure. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2007. He was 88 and is survived by his second wife, four children from his first marriage, and nine grandchildren.

Early life and education

Engelbart was born in Portland, Oregon on January 30, 1925, to Carl Louis Engelbart and Gladys Charlotte Amelia Munson Engelbart. His ancestors were of German, Swedish and Norwegian descent.

He was the middle of three children, with a sister Dorianne (3 years older), and a brother David (14 months younger). They lived in Portland in his early years, and moved to the countryside to Johnson Creek when he was 9 or 10, after the death of his father. He graduated from Portland’s Franklin High School in 1942.

Midway through his college studies at Oregon State College at Corvallis, near the end of World War II, he was drafted into the United States Navy, serving two years as a radar technician in the Philippines. On a small island, in a tiny hut on stilts, he first read Vannevar Bush’s article "As We May Think", which greatly inspired him. He returned to Oregon State College and completed his Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1948. While at Oregon State College, he was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon social fraternity.

He was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at the Ames Research Center, where he worked through 1951.