Can You Guess That Grad?

What alumnus created the precursor program to Adobe Photoshop by way of procrastinating in writing his doctoral dissertation?
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Thomas Knoll, posed behind an older model computer displaying an early version of Photoshop
Photo by Harvey Wang, from "From Darkroom to Daylight" (Daylight Books, 2015)

THOMAS KNOLL, ’82, MSE’84, was in the midst of writing his doctoral engineering dissertation when he got a fateful phone call. His brother John, a motion control camera operator at Industrial Light & Magic, wanted Thomas to create a suite of better image display programs than what John had available at the time. Thomas obliged, but what started as a favor snowballed into Display, a full project that the brothers realized they could do much more with. They’d later rename the program to Photoshop, join Adobe in 1988, and send the first version of the program to market in 1990.

For more on Thomas Knoll, read “Power to the Pixel: Photoshop is Born” from Michigan Engineering.

For a list of other notable U-M grads, visit

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