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Mark Dean was born on March 2, 1957, in Jefferson City, Tennessee. From an early age, Dean showed a love for building things. Even as a young boy, Dean constructed a tractor from scratch with the help of his father, a supervisor at the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Dean also excelled in many different areas, standing out as a gifted athlete and an extremely smart student who graduated with straight A’s from Jefferson City High School.

In 1979, he graduated at the top of his class at the University of Tennessee, where he studied engineering

Not long after college, Dean landed a job at IBM, a company he would become associated with for the duration of his career. As an engineer, Dean proved to be a rising star at the company.

A rare image of Mark Dean at work. Photo courtesy of (Unique Coloring)

Biography states while working closely with a colleague, Dennis Moeller, Dean invented the new Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) systems bus, a new system that allowed peripheral devices like disk drives, printers and monitors to be plugged directly into computers. The end result was more efficiency and better integration.

Dean is credited with helping to launch the personal computer age with work that made the machines more accessible and powerful

He holds three of the company’s original nine patents. His work also led to the development of the color PC monitor and, in 1999, Dean led a team of engineers at IBM’s Austin, Texas, lab to create the first gigahertz chip—a revolutionary piece of technology that is able to do a billion calculations per second.

He earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Florida Atlantic University in 1982. Then, 10 years later, he completed his doctorate in the same field from Stanford University.

In all, Dean holds three of IBM’s original nine patents and, in total, has more 40 patents associated with his name

Dean was chief technical officer for IBM Middle East and Africa, was named an IBM fellow in 1995, and in 1997 received the Black Engineer of the Year President’s Award.

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While Dean’s name isn’t quite as well known as maybe other computer pioneers such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the mastermind hasn’t gone completely unrecognized. In 1996, he was named an IBM fellow, the first African American ever to receive the honor. A year later, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 2001, he was tapped to be a member of the National Academy of Engineers.

After retiring from IBM in 2013, Dean joined the faculty of the College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and currently is emeritus professor.

Photo Courtesy: University of Tennessee.

“A lot of kids growing up today aren’t told that you can be whatever you want to be,” Dean has said. “There may be obstacles, but there are no limits.”

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