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Updated 12:15 PM September 2, 2008




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Bertram Herzog

Professor Bertram Herzog, computer graphics pioneer and computer scientist, died July 11 at the age of 79.

Herzog was director of the Center for Information Technology Integration (CITI) 1987-92, served as the first director of MERIT — the information-sharing network that served as the research forerunner to today's Internet — during its critical formative years (1968-74), and taught computer science and engineering until his retirement in 1997.

He earned his doctorate in engineering mechanics at U-M in 1961, and immediately was hired as a member of the faculty of Engineering Mechanics, and later of Industrial Engineering (now Industrial and Operations Engineering). Herzog was granted tenure in 1966, and promoted to professor in 1968. He left U-M in 1975 to become a professor of engineering and computer graphics at the University of Colorado. He returned to the University in 1987 and taught courses in computer science for many years as an adjunct faculty member of Computer Science and Engineering.

During the early 1960s, Herzog saw the potential of the emerging computer graphics technology for mechanical design and embarked on a career that focused on computer graphics and engineering computation, especially using computer-aided design. He helped prepare a report on the use and potential impact of computers in engineering mechanics education in 1962. From 1963-65 he applied his knowledge to the private sector in the Engineering Methods section of Ford Motor Co.'s Scientific Laboratories, before returning to education. In 1998 he joined the Fraunhofer Center for Research in Computer Graphics as vice president and chief operating officer. This international initiative facilitated advances in medical visualization, telemedicine, digital security and 3-D interaction.

Herzog built a distinguished career in the area of computer graphics, one defined by exemplary service to the community, particularly in terms of his managerial leadership, which earned him the 2002 ACM SIGGRAPH Outstanding Service Award. He was an ACM fellow and co-chaired ACM's 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1997. SIGGRAPH recently stated that he was "instrumental in establishing ACM SIGGRAPH as the world's premier computer graphics professional society" and that he had "spent his lifetime inspiring his colleagues and students."

Herzog's impressive professional career was a testament to his great fortitude in the face of personal tragedy, colleagues say. Born in Offenburg, Germany, he was 8 years old when his family was shattered by the onset of World War II. In 1938 he and his younger brother were sent out of Germany on the Kindertransport. They lived with a British family and were reunited with their mother when she managed to flee Germany years later. His father did not survive the war.

The turbulent start to Herzog's life stands in contrast to his remarkable joie de vivre, colleagues say. A caring and vivacious presence, he opened his home to a wide array of acquaintances. Friends describe Herzog as having been a real presence, outgoing, warm and friendly. He presided over a massive dinner table and did most of the cooking himself.

Toby Teorey, longtime friend and emeritus faculty member of Computer Science and Engineering, recalls Herzog as having been an enthusiast of "good wine and good stories. You always wanted to be at his dinner parties."

Herzog and his third wife, Etta, quickly became fixtures in the lifelong learning community Academy Village, in Tucson, Ariz., to which they moved in 2007.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children Linda Ruth Herzog of Tucson, Janice Kaye Herzog of Oakland, Calif., and Alice Marla Gordenker of Tokyo, Japan; three grandchildren, three great grandchildren, five stepchildren and four step-grandchildren.

A celebration of his life was held Aug. 3. Donations can be made in his memory to Kindertransport Association c/o Kurt Golberger, 36 Dean Street, Hicksville, N.Y. 11801 or to another charitable organization of your choice.

The Record accepts obituaries from University departments, family members and funeral homes acting on behalf of the family. All obituaries must be for active or retired faculty and staff members.

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