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John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing video compression, speech recognition and gesture recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, Visual Basic, Mathematica, MATLAB, and many other programming languages.

Dr. McGowan has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. Dr. McGowan has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has developed software implementations of image quality metrics, perceptual optimization of JPEG image compression, and video quality metrics for NASA. He has contributed to the conceptual design of systems for televising missions to Mars for NASA. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space.

Dr. McGowan has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Dr. McGowan worked as a HID (Human Interface Devices) Algorithm Engineer with Apple from 2014 through 2016. He researched and developed algorithms for the touch interface (single finger tap, double finger tap, single finger swipe, two finger swipe and so forth) for various Apple products. He researched and developed signal processing algorithms for the Apple Pencil, a high precision writing and drawing tool for the iPad Pro. Both the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro are shipping products since Fall 2015.

Dr. McGowan has developed and marketed pioneering applications for controlling DVD playback, e-mail, and Microsoft PowerPoint by voice command using Dragon Naturally Speaking and Microsoft Speech, as well as research and development of core speech recognition algorithms including work with Carnegie Mellon’s open-source Sphinx speech recogntion software.

Dr. McGowan was a project manager and key contributor for CompCore Multimedia’s (acquired by Zoran for about $60 million in stock in 1997) SoftDVD product, one of the first Microsoft Windows DVD players, as well as other CompCore products.

Dr. McGowan offers the following services primarily in the areas of data analysis (data science), touch processing, digital video, audio, imaging, and multimedia for entertainment, communications, security, biomedical, and other applications:

  • Algorithm Research and Development
  • Market Analysis and Product Definition
  • Technology Assessment
  • Project Management
  • Business Analysis of Technical Standards

My Big Hits on the Math Blog

More Information

My Name

I am occasionally asked if I am some other John McGowan or if I am any relative of another John McGowan. Many people know or know of other John McGowan’s. I’ve even received an e-mail intended for a different John McGowan who has also worked in the field of MPEG digital video!

John McGowan is a very common Scottish and Irish name. Gowan is an Anglicized version of the Gaelic word for “blacksmith”. The Mc or Mac prefix is an Anglicized version of the Gaelic prefix meaning “son of” or “descendant of.” Gaelic was the traditional language of the Irish and Scots.

John, of course, is an Anglicized version of the name of the Apostle and putative author of the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. There is controversy over both whether the Apostle John in fact wrote the Gospel of John in its “modern” (approximately the 4th century A.D.) form and over whether the Apostle John is the same John who wrote the Book of Revelation.

Thus, in olden days, anyone who was the son of a smith in Scotland or Ireland was a McGowan. Scotland had and has many John McGowans, the equivalent of John Smith. After the English took over Scotland, they standardized family names in Scotland to make it easier to tax the Scots, incidentally forcing the McGowan name to be passed on to future generations independent of occupation.

The John McGowan name is also found among the Gaels, the usually Catholic Irish, in Ireland. It is also found amongst the Protestants (Ulster-Scots) in Northern Ireland for reasons explained below. The Scottish and Irish were two of the major ethnic groups to settle in the United States.

The John McGowan name appears to be especially common among the Scotch-Irish (or Scots-Irish) in the United States. The Scotch-Irish are descendants of Scots who settled in Northern Ireland and later emigrated to the United States during the 1700’s and 1800’s. The Scotch-Irish made up a significant proportion of the population at the time of the American Revolution. Subsequent waves of emigration occured during the 1800’s, probably coincident with the potato famines and other problems in Northern Ireland. Thus there are many John McGowans in the United States.