David Hedgley, The Father Of 3D Graphics


This February as we celebrate the accomplishments of our forefathers and the legacy of Blacks in America; Lets not forget the many great Black men and women still living today. Dr. David R. Hedgley, Jr. is just such a person!

Normally when we think of computers and technology, the images that come to mind are not those of a strong Black man. David Hedgley’s contributions to technology have earned this self-described “Renegade”, international recognition and acclaim. In 1985 he solved the decades old problem of computer graphics by developing the mathematical algorithm that would tell computers which lines on a computer screen could and couldn’t be seen from various perspectives (or what we call today 3D). As he explained in the March 1986 issue of Ebony magazine; “The program came under immediate fire from the scientific community and was not accepted for at least a year. There were people in the field who had constantly begged the issue, Hedgley recalls, They gave me a hard time saying we don’t believe you. Being a Black man your credibility is questioned anyway”.

And if that wasn’t enough, to ensure his position in the technology hall of fame, Dr. Hedgley then came back in 1999 and created a formal algorithm for routing traces on a printed circuit board. Hedgley’s algorithm is so complex it required the invention of new symbols to explain the complexity of his work. Essentially what it does is cut down the time for finding a route on a circuit board exponentially Historically, most previous algorithms have been either very costly or very slow and usually both. This contribution will avoid both problems and as a result provide a framework for supporting the electrical parts and electrical components between circuit components.

Dr. Hedgley explained to the readers of Ebony, that the road to success and acceptance had not been easy; “Computers were not on Hedgley’s mind when he was growing up. He was interested in linguistics but majored in biology and chemistry at Virginia Union University. Math came later and he earned a second bachelor’s degree in the discipline from Michigan State University. Hedgley taught school in Virginia for several years before moving to Ames to work as a computer programmer. I was able to not only do my job but other interesting things that I was not assigned. He says I got more and more into mathematics.”

Even through he has proven his competence, Hedgley says that he is still perceived as a renegade. They [Whites] are not comfortable with me, because they have a slot they want me to fit in, but I don’t fit it. So it bothers them. Most Blacks who fit these slots do very well in the system because they acquiesce. I think it’s best to be moderately competent and not compromise your dignity as a man of woman than to be extremely competent and compromise because all you are doing is acquiescing and becoming an approximation of the standard. You can never meet the standard. My philosophy is to modify or expand it while being yourself.”

Make sure you relay the accomplishments of Dr. David R. Hiedgley Jr. to your childeren and community this year and in years to come when we celebrate Black History Month. Let them know, that technology and computers would not be the same without him.


The Father Of 3D Graphics; Hedgley.



(The mathematical dissertation submitted to NASA)