Three UCL pioneers in Internet Hall of Fame

1 May 2012

The Internet Society has announced the inaugural names in its Internet Hall of Fame, counting UCL Computer Science Professor Peter Kirstein in its Pioneers Circle for recognition of individuals instrumental in the early design and development of the Internet. A further two members of the circle, Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf, are also Honorary Fellows of UCL.

The early relatives of the internet were networks of just a handful of computers. Slowly, the collections were expanded; with a major leap when Peter Kirstein hooked up his computer as the first international connection to the ARPAnet. This made a significant increase to the growing network, because it brought along the Rutherford and Appleton Laboratory, then the centre of the British SRCnet network of computers, through the UCL connection. However, at this point all the networks were still very different – each with their own languages and standards.

Diagram of the early ARPAnet

Diagram of the early ARPAnet in 1974

Drs Kahn and Cerf took a crucial step in 1973 when they defined TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol), the underlying standardised rules that direct data across the Internet – but they did not become standard for more than another decade. Cerf (at Stanford University), Kirstein (at UCL) and Tomlinson (at Bolt, Beranek and Newman) did the first independent implementations of the new protocol  – demonstrating their interoperability on different computer types. Together, Kirstein and Cerf co-authored a seminal paper on what an interconnected data-carrying network should be, technically, legally and politically.

But for another decade, networks flowered in a massive variety of different ways, while Kirstein worked to join these inhomogenous systems together. Based at UCL, which he and his group had joined in 1973, he worked to make connections any way he could, and ran an international Internet service through UCL. Working hard to convince people of the advantages of supporting TCP/IP, Kirstein was a key player in bringing a harmonious, entirely compatible Internet into being; which this award recognises.

Professor Peter Kirstein

Professor Peter Kirstein

Currently working part-time in the Networks Research Group at UCL Computer Science, of which he was the first Head, Professor Kirstein is still actively involved in steering the future of Internet technologies. A major project is the migration to IPv6, which will produce many more addresses for sites and servers on the Internet, letting the fantastic resource we have built carry on growing.

Commenting on the 2012 Internet Hall of Fame inductees, Internet Society president and CEO Lynn St. Amour stated, “This historic assembly of Internet visionaries, innovators, and leaders represents an extraordinary breadth of vision and work. While the inductees have extremely diverse backgrounds and represent many different countries, each individual has an incredible passion for their work. We all benefit from their outstanding contributions to a global Internet, making it one of the greatest catalysts of economic and societal development of all time.”

In conjunction with the announcement, the Internet Society has launched a website at that will showcase the inductees and their contributions on an ongoing basis. The website, which includes inductee photographs and biographies, will feature an ongoing, exclusive column series authored by Wired. Highlighting multiple inductees each month in Q&A interviews, the first interview features Internet Hall of Fame Pioneer Vint Cerf.

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