Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz is a professor of Computer Science at The University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta. He researches how L-systems can be used to model the growth of biological structures. He also wins my vote for Most Difficult To Pronounce Name, and completely invalidates everything my mother taught me about phonics.

L-systems are string-rewriting systems. You create a grammar, say, "replace every instance of 'a' with 'ab' and every instance of 'b' with 'bb'", and feed it a starting string. You then feed your results back into the grammar. Every iteration of the grammar changes the strings, and by defining a reasonably simple grammar you can crate complex systems.

Dr. Prusinkiewicz uses this with a turtle graphics system to draw patterns. In the simplest case, you define a symbol that draw a line, and symbols that say to rotate left or right by a predetermined amount. Using these symbols, you can create patterns that resemble organic systems. An example of this is the fractal that appears at the beginning of every chapter of Jurassic Park.

Dr. Prusinkiewicz co-wrote The Algorithmic Beauty of Trees with Aristid Lindenmayer (for whom l-systems are named), which details the processes he used in generating models of plants. It's a gorgeous book, though sadly out of print, and a wonderful read for people interested in pursuing computer modeling of plants.

Dr. Prusinkiewicz received the 1997 SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award for his work in, strangely enough, Computer Graphics.

M.Sc. (1974) Technical University of Warsaw
Ph.D. (1978) Technical University of Warsaw

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