Dr. Mark Dean, an American inventor and computer engineer, is one of the most important figures in the emergence of the personal computer in the late 20th Century. Three of the nine patents on the original personal computer (PC) by International Business Machines (IBM) are registered to Dean, making him a key contributor in the development of the PC.
Mark Dean was born in 1957 to Barbara and James Dean in Jefferson City, Tennessee. He attended an integrated school, Jefferson City High School, where white teachers and classmates were amazed by his intellect and straight-A grades. He reportedly had an interest in science and a love for technology from a your age. The son of a supervisor at the Tennessee Valley Authority, as a boy Dean’s early building projects included building a tractor from scratch.
A student athlete at Tennessee Valley High School, Dean graduated in 1975. He later earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and soon afterwards went to work at IBM. While at the corporation he returned to graduate school and earned an M.S. degree from Florida Atlantic University in 1982.
Dean was hired by IBM as a chief engineer on the personal computer project at a time when the PC was just beginning to emerge as a major consumer item. The first IBM personal computer was released in 1981. It began with nine patents including three from Mark Dean. His early contributions were to the IBM PS/2 Models 70 and 80, the Color Graphic Adapter, and the internal architecture which allows PCs to use peripheral high speed devices such as a mouse, keyboard, or scanner. In 1992, Dean returned to graduate school again, this time to earn his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford (California). Dean was made an IBM Fellow in 1995, the company’s highest honor. In 1997, he was appointed Vice President and was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame. The world’s first gigahertz chip, which was capable of processing one billion calculations per second, was built under his direction in 1999. To date, more than 40 patents have been issued in his name including 20 specifically for his innovation in computer engineering work.
Over the course of his career Dean climbed up the ranks at IBM eventually becoming a Vice President and overseeing the corporation’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. He also served as the chief technology officer for IBM Middle East and Africa. Dean is also the John Fisher Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee. In 2018 he was named interim dean of the university’s Tickle College of Engineering.
Dr. Mark Dean has been honored by numerous organizations, and in 2001 he was elected into the National Academy of Engineering, the most prestigious professional society for engineers in the country. Dr. Dean continues to contribute to the evolution of the personal computer.