Stephen A. Benton, Allen Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and a distinguished researcher in the field of holography and its applications in three-dimensional visualization and design, has been named director of MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS).
The appointment was announced by Professor William J. Mitchell, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.
Professor Benton succeeds Professor Krzysztof Wodiczko as CAVS director. Professor Wodiczko, known for the large-scale image projections he has created since the early 1980s, has held the position since 1994 and will continue as associate professor in the Department of Architecture.
Professor Benton's association with the CAVS dates to 1977, when he joined the team of artists, scientists and engineers who collaborated with former CAVS director Otto Piene on the Centerbeam project, a large-scale optical extravaganza. Professor Piene, known worldwide for his stunning and majestic sky figures, retired in 1993.
"Steve has a long and successful record of collaboration with visual artists," Professor Mitchell said. "He exemplifies the creative intersection of science, technology and the visual arts that has always been at the foundation of CAVS, and I expect that his leadership will move CAVS in some very exciting new directions. We are fortunate that he has agreed to take on this challenging and important role."
The CAVS was established in 1967. Its founding director was painter and author Gyorgy Kepes, and Professor Piene was director from 1974-1993. Throughout its history, the Center has been an important hub for creative and scholarly work involving the relationship of the visual arts, science and technology.
Professor Benton worked with Professor Harold Edgerton in his famous "Strobe Lab" and received the SB in electrical engineering in 1963. He received the PhD in applied physics from Harvard in 1968, where he continued as its first assistant professor of applied optics until 1973. He had been associated with Edwin Land at Polaroid Corp. since his undergraduate days, and returned to the company to establish a Laboratory for Vivid Physics, where he explored the applications of lasers to imaging.
In 1982 he joined the faculty at MIT to become a founding member of the Media Laboratory and to establish a teaching and research program in high-quality three-dimensional imaging applied to the human/computer interface.
Professor Benton is the author of many papers and patents in optical physics, photography and holography, and is the inventor of the silvery "rainbow" or "Benton" holograms often seen on credit cards and magazine covers. More recently, he and his students invented the world's first holographic video system. In 1992, he was named the E. Rudge (MIT '48) and Nancy Allen Professor of Media Arts and Sciences. In 1995, his contributions to the art and science of holography were recognized with the "Vinci of Excellence" award of the international Science for Art competition.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 18, 1996.