Bill Lorensen died on December 12, 2019. These wiki pages were written by him over a period of over a decade, reflecting his first-person voice, and have been kept mostly intact with the addition of a tribute subsection. The tribute is a place where we have gathered various contributions from the worldwide community of Bill's family and friends. (Additional contributions are always welcome.) The name of this wiki, marchingcubes.org, reflects one of Bill's greatest contributions (along with Harvey Cline) to the visualization field. It was also a source of delight as the Marching Cubes algorithm led to a multitude of opportunities to share ideas and beer with others.
Bill Lorensen: A Life Well Lived
In 1967 I started a summer job at the US Army Watervliet Arsenal Maggs Research Center. This was my first job that was related to my training as a Mathematician at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (the summer before I was a short order cook). The Research Center had an analog plotter that was driven by an IBM reproducing card machine. That summer, I generated simple plots of mathematical formulas. From then on, I was hooked on graphics and have spent the last 40 years in the field. In 1968 I joined the Arsenal as a full-time, Research Mathematician and spent the next ten years building expertise in computer graphics, numerical analysis and scientific programming. These were the early days of computer science and most everything was learned on the job.
In 1978, I started my second (and final) job at GE's Corporate Research and Development Center (CRD). Initially, I worked in the central computer organization doing contract programming for CRD scientists. I sensed that the then-emerging field of computer graphics would have an impact on all of GE’s businesses and worked to introduce state-of-the-art computer graphics technology into the research lab and the company. In a short time I was able to establish my own research projects. I did research in 3D medical imaging, molecular modelling, scientific visualization and object-oriented software as it applied to computer animation.
My GE career has been technically and financially rewarding. An industrial research lab sits somewhere between an academic position and an advanced engineering position. On the one hand we have difficult problems posed by the Company. On the other hand, we have the luxury of time to think and invent new technology. The demands of doing research and producing usable results are always challenging.
In fact, most careers (and much of life) involves trade-offs: family versus work, research versus products, employer demands versus personal development. A successful career balances the trade-offs.
The most rewarding part of my career has been the personal relationships that I have made within the Company and in the external community. These relationships, more than anything else, made me a successful researcher and a valuable employee.
Recently when I was asked in a GE interview, "What’s the best advice to give an early career researcher at GE Global Research?” My reply, “Establish yourself technically both within and outside the Company. Find others who share your interests and work with them regardless of where they sit in the organization. Become active in professional organizations like the IEEE or ASME. Attend the society meetings, work on committees, review papers. The external exposure is great for you and the Company.”
I retired from GE Research in January 2007, after 29 years.
According to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_boomer), I am in the first batch of the baby boomers (born in 1946). I had a great career, with a great company. Now, my wife (since January 1968) Terri and I spend more time together, travelling and completing the many projects we've started or dreamed about for years.
Technically, I remain active in the Open Source Community (vtk,itk, Slicer). I also serve on several advisory boards and will continue to contribute to them as long as they and I benefit from my involvement.
Also, I keep busy with projects around the house.