An Inspiration: computer scientist Mark Dean #BlackHistoryMonth ^JB

This article is an edited version of one of the 2006 winning essays from the Queen Mary, University of London, Department of Computer Science, first year essay competition.

by Dean Miller

A small photograph of computer scientist Mark Dean
Computer Scientist Mark Dean

May I ask you a question? When you think of the computer what names ring a bell? Bill Gates? Or for those more in touch with the history behind computers maybe Charles Babbage is a familiar name? May I ask you another question please? Do you know who Dr Mark Dean is? No, well you should. Do not worry yourself though, you are definitely not alone. I did not know of him either.

Allow me to enlighten you..

Mark Dean is in my opinion a very creative and inspirational black computer scientist. He is a vice-president at IBM and holds 3 of IBM’s first 9 patents on the personal computer. He has over 30 patents pending. He won the Black Engineer of the Year Presidents Award and was made an IBM fellow in 1995. An IBM fellow is IBM’s highest technical honor. Only 50 of IBM’s employee’s are fellows and Mark Dean was the first black one. Prior to joining IBM in 1980 he earned degrees in Electrical Engineering before going back to school to gain a PhD in the field from Stanford University. He was born in 1957 in Jefferson City, Tennessee and was one of the first black students to attend Jefferson City High School. He was an exceptional student and enjoyed athletics. Early manifestations of his desire to create were shown when he and his father built a tractor from scratch when he was just a boy.

Upon joining IBM Mark Dean and a partner led the team that developed the interior architecture (ISA systems bus) which allowed devices like the keyboard and printer to be connected to the motherboard making computers a part of our lives. It was that which earned him a spot in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. While at IBM he has been involved in numerous positions in computer system hardware architecture and design. He was responsible for IBM’s research laboratory in Austin, Texas where he focused on developing high performance microprocessors, software, systems and circuits. It is here where he made history by leading the team that built a gigahertz chip which did a billion calculations per second. In 2004, he was chosen as one of the 50 most important Blacks in Research Science.

I think that such a man should be well recognized in computer science, especially to black computer science students because from what I can see we are rare. We as a minority need an inspirational figure like Mark Dean. He inspires me, I wanted to share that with you. Before this small article it is very probable you had no knowledge of this man. So if there comes a time where you are asked about important names in the field of computers, I hope Dr Mark Dean springs to mind and rings a bell for you to hear loud and clear.


This article was originally published on the CS4FN website. One of the aims of our Diversity in Computing posters (see below) is to help a classroom of young people see the range of computer scientists which includes people who look like them and people who don’t look like them. You can download our posters free from the link below. Isabel Wagner has also created some free posters to download about inspiring computer scientists and Mark Dean is one of them.


See more in ‘Celebrating Diversity in Computing

We have free posters to download and some information about the different people who’ve helped make modern computing what it is today.

Screenshot showing the vibrant blue posters on the left and the muted sepia-toned posters on the right

Or click here: Celebrating diversity in computing


This blog is funded through EPSRC grant EP/W033615/1.

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