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Bob Kahn - One Of The Two ‘Fathers Of The Internet’

If the internet has a birthday and it’s considered date of birth is January 1, 1983, then it turned 41 in 2024. Mind you, its two “fathers” - one of them, Bob Kahn - are still alive.

Feb 20, 20241.5K Shares29.5K ViewsWritten By: Alastair Martin
Jump to
  1. Bob Kahn Background
  2. Bob Kahn Education
  3. Bob Kahn Wife
  4. Bob Kahn Contribution To The Internet
  5. Bob Kahn Awards
  6. Affiliations And Others
  7. Bob Kahn - People Also Ask
  8. Final Thoughts
Bob Kahn - One Of The Two ‘Fathers Of The Internet’

We can thank Bob Kahnfor his efforts that paved the way to an astonishing virtual world.

People from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Foundation recently announced their token of gratitude to this 85-year-old American electrical engineer and computer scientist.

According to IEEE Spectrum, the association’s magazine, they’ll be presenting him with the 2024 IEEE Medal of Honor for “pioneering technical and leadershipcontributions in packet communication technologies and foundations of the Internet.”

Yes, the Internet - the astonishing virtual worldwe’re referring to earlier - which Bob Kahn helped towards its creation.

Bob Kahn Background

The idea that the so-called one of the “Fathers of the Internet” came to this world two days before Christmas might delight Roman Catholics and Christians.

An advanced Christmas present from above?

Robert Elliot T. Kahn, aka Bob Kahn, was born on December 23, 1938 in Brooklyn, New York.

It’s also that year when his parents, Lawrence K. Kahn (1910-1999) and Beatrice Pauline Tashker-Kahn (1914-1994), got married. Like him, they’re also born in New York City, with his mother growing up in the Bronx.

Bob Kahn hails from a Jewish family.

Per WikiTree, all his grandparents on both sides were born in Russia, with his maternal grandparents born in places that were once under the Russian Empire (1721-1917) and now part of modern-day Ukraine.

It can be said that he also comes from a small family. His father was an only child like him, and his mother has only two siblings.

Two genealogy websites and a website about the history of technology (ETHW) stated different occupations of his father:

  • a physician (per WikiTree)
  • a high school administrator (per Geni)
  • a teacher (per ETHW)

Sometime in 1953 - it’s the year Bob Kahn turned 15 - he and his parents, according to Engineering and Technology History Wiki (ETHW), moved from Flatbush, Brooklyn, to Flushing, Queens.

Bob Kahn Education

ETHW noted an early sign of the brilliance of Bob Kahn: he qualified for an acceleration program and finished high school in only three years.

He initially studied at Queens College after high school but only stayed there for two years. He then enrolled at the City College of New York, where he earned his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (B.E.E.) in January 1960.

As a postgraduate student, he got accepted at Princeton University in New Jersey, where he completed his:

  • Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in 1962
  • doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in 1964

Both postgraduate degrees are in electrical engineering.

Bob Kahn started his master’s degree in September 1960 after the U.S. National Science Foundation in Virginia granted him a fellowship.

He wrote two theses for his Ph.D.

The one titled Some Problems in the Sampling and Modulation of Signals (1964)falls under the field of study in mathematics called information theory.

According to Princeton’s website, distinguished Chinese computer scientist Bede Liu, who’s a professor emeritus (since 2015) at the said university, served as his doctoral adviser.

A smiling Patrice Ann Lyons in long sleeve dress and pearl earrings and necklace holding a mic before a podium
A smiling Patrice Ann Lyons in long sleeve dress and pearl earrings and necklace holding a mic before a podium

Bob Kahn Wife

Patrice Ann Lyons, an attorney-at-law and the general counsel to the non-profit organization Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI), married Bob Kahn.

Since its establishment in 2013, Lyons has been a member of Research Data Alliance (RDA), an international organization working on making data sharingeasier across the globe.

She wrote Managing Information in Digital Form (2014), published by the American Bar Association (ABA) for its Information Security & Privacy News.

In 2018, Bob Kahn and his wife went to the office of the non-government think tank CyberLabs (est. 1999) in Reston, Virginia, with Fang Xingdong, its founder and chairman, welcoming them, reported China daily.

Prior to their visit, Kahn granted an interview for the “Oral History of the Internet,” a project Xingdong started in 2007.

In 2016, per the HCCH website, they visited the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) to check the progress of its electronic Apostille Program (e-APP), which the couple support.

Launched in 2006, the e-App aims to streamline public document issuance and authentication, with the apostille being the form of authentication to be used.

In 2012, Patrice Ann Lyons graced an event on behalf of her husband, where he was inducted to the Internet Hall of Fame.

Bob Kahn Contribution To The Internet

Creating the internet wasn’t a one-man team.

For an ultra-complicated technological endeavor, it took several people - including women - who toiled in creating the internet that we use right now.

Two collaborations - by Robert Elliot “Bob” T. Kahn and his fellow computer scientist Vinton “Vint” G. Cerf (who’ll turn 81 in June) - stood out, earning them the moniker “Fathers of the Internet” for their extraordinary and lasting contributions, particularly in computer networking.

When two or more computing devices (e.g., computers and smartphones) are connected to each other and “communicate” by means of sending and exchanging information, we have what we call a computer network, aka, network.

As computing devices “communicate” via computer networking, they use different sets of rules called communication protocols, such as:

  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)
  • Internet Protocol (IP)
  • Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)

Their “communication” - the transmission of information - happens by relying on either physical technology (wired networking - cables are used) or wireless technology (wireless networking - yes, Wi-Fi!).

What’s the largest network or computer network in the world? The internet.

Across the globe, it connects billionsof computing devices. No wonder an IBM article dubs the internet as the “network of networks.”

One type of computer network is packet-switched network (PSN) that, per Techopedia, “groups and sends data in the form of small packets.” A packet, therefore, is the transmitted unit of data in a computer network.

The internet is an example of PSN.

Going back to the 60’s - when the internet’s non-existent - there’s this government agency working on what Kevin Featherly described in his Encyclopedia Britannica article as an “experimental computer network.”

It’s called Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) of the U.S. Defense Department’s research arm, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which was later renamed by adding “Defense” at the start (DARPA).

ARPANET is the first PSN that’s why it’s considered the internet’s precursor. It initially was able to connect two computers only.

Per CNRI, Bob Kahn was responsible for ARPANET’s “system design.”

A bespectacled Robert Kahn in a suit sitting and looking delighted, with a bookshelf behind him
A bespectacled Robert Kahn in a suit sitting and looking delighted, with a bookshelf behind him

When Vint Cerf joined ARPA (that time it was already called DARPA) and got assigned at the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), where Kahn was also placed, they worked together in writing the communication protocol of ARPANET.

Per IEEE Spectrum, it took them six months to develop the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).

They intended TCP/IP to make computer networks transmit information fast and consistent, or what Bob Kahn referred to as “internetting,” according to Princeton website.

At the website of ACM’s A.M. Turing Award, an article details their efforts like this:

They formulated fundamental design principles of networking, specified TCP/IP to meet these requirements, prototyped TCP/IP, and coordinated several early TCP/IP implementations.- Association for Computing Machinery (amturing.acm.org)

ARPANET originally used the communication protocol Network Control Protocol (NCP).

On January 1, 1983, ARPANET started to use TCP/IP, which made it possible for multiple computer networks to transmit information more effectively.

From there, the internet continued to be improved by various developers, scientists, and researchers.

For one, in 1989, British computer scientist Timothy John Berners-Lee, aka Tim Berners-Lee, invented the World Wide Web (of course, this is another story).

On December 11, 1992, Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf founded the Internet Society (ISOC), with headquarters in Reston, Virginia.

Bob Kahn Awards

IEEE Spectrum quoted (but didn’t name the person) one of those who advocated for the conferment of the 2024 IEEE Medal of Honorto Bob Kahn:

Bob Kahn’s contributions to the lifestyle, commerce, and culture of modern society are extensive and unequaled.- unnamed IEEE award endorser

His supporter added:

It was his leadership and dedicated efforts in the application of the packet network concept that led to the development of the Internet.- unnamed IEEE award endorser

The awarding will take place at the 2024 IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit (IEEE VIC Summit) & Honors Ceremony at the Encore Boston Harbor in Massachusetts on May 3, 2024.

Six days before his 60th birthday, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton presented Bob Kahn with the National Medal of Technology in 1997.

That’s for his works concerning TCP/IP protocol and, according to CNRI website, “for continuing to provide leadership in the emerging industry of internetworking.”

Seven years after, in 2005, another U.S. president, this time, George W. Bush, gave him America’s “highest civil award” - the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Below are some of the other recognitions Bob Kahn received throughout the years (alphabetically arranged):

Alexander Graham Bell Medal (IEEE)Harry H. Goode Memorial Award (AFIPS)
A. M. Turing Award (ACM; 2004)Koji Kobayashi Computer and Communications Award (IEEE)
ASIS Special AwardMarconi Award
Benjamin Franklin Medal (2018)President’s Award (ACM)
C&C Prize (NEC; 2005)Prince of Asturias Award (2002)
Charles Stark Draper Prize (NAE; 2001)Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (2013)
Computerworld/Smithsonian AwardSecretary of Defense Civilian Service Award (twice)
CRA Distinguished Service Award* (1990)SIGCOMM Award (ACM)
*aka CRB Award for Service to Computing ResearchSoftware Systems Award (ACM)
Digital ID World Award (2003)Third Millennium Medal (IEEE)
Harold Pender Award (2010)Townsend Harris Medal (2005)

Regarding the acronyms (and one abbreviation*):

ACM (est. 1947; New York)Association for Computing Machinery
AFIPS (1961-1990)American Federation of Information Processing Societies
ASIS (est. 1955; Alexandria, Virginia)American Society for Industrial Security
CRA (est. 1972; Washington, D.C.)Computing Research Association
CRBCRA’s Computing Research Board
NAE (est. 1964; Washington, D.C.)National Academy of Engineering
NEC (est. 1899)Nippon Electric Company
SIGCOMMSpecial Interest Group on Data Communications
*C&C (NEC’s C&C Prize)Computers and Communications

Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf received the 2008 Japan Prize.

Per Princeton website, The Japan Prize Foundation confers it annually in two fields of study. It comes with a 50-million-yen cash bonus, which was equivalent to approximately $470,000 back in 2008.

The dynamic duo’s prize was for the field of Information Communication Theory and Technology.

Affiliations And Others

Bob Kahn serves as the director and chair of the DONA Foundation, a Geneva-based non-profit organization founded by CNRI and focusing on “internet governance,” according to its website.

He’s a member of the:

  • National Academy of Engineering
  • National Academy of Sciences

He’s a Fellow of:

AAAI (Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence)Computer History Museum
ACMIEEE

Kahn was formerly part of the:

  • U.S. President's Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure (NIAC)
  • U.S. President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC)
  • Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information Policy (ACICIP) - U.S. Department of State
  • Board of Regents of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

Below are the learning institutions that bestowed honorary degrees to Bob Kahn:

ETH Zurich (Switzerland)University of Central Florida
George Mason UniversityUniversity of Central Florida
Princeton UniversityUniversity of Pavia (Italy)
The City College of New YorkUniversity of Pisa (Italy)

In 2006, Bob Kahn was inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

In 2003, on its website, the University College London (UCL) announced that it awarded “internet founders” Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf with an honorary fellowship.

They’re 65 and 60, respectively, at that time.

Bob Kahn - People Also Ask

Where Did Bob Kahn Work?

Given his passion and diligence, not to mention his intellectual prowess, Bob Kahn has had a stellar career, to say the least (details courtesy of ACM, Encyclopedia Britannica, and ETHW):

Company/AgencyRole/Year
AT&T Bell Laboratories (now Nokia Bell Labs) - Manhattantechnical staff (started in 1960)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Cambridgeassistant professor of electrical engineering (1964-1966)
Bolt Beranek & Newman (BB&N) - Cambridge, Massachusettssenior scientist (1966-1972)
DARPA’s IPTO - Arlington County, Virginiaprogram manager (1972); director (1972-1985)
CNRI - Reston, Virginiafounder (1986); chairman, CEO, and president
Princeton’s Department of Computer Scienceadviser

Note:It was at BB&N, aka BBN/BBN Labs, according to ETHW, where Bob Kahn worked on computer networking together with renowned computer engineer Frank Heart (1929-2018).

BBN Labs is now the research and development company Raytheon BBN, a subsidiary of RTX Corporation.

As of writing, Bob Kahn is still listed on the CNRI website as its chairman, CEO, and president.

What Is A Fun Fact About Bob Kahn?

According to InternetHallOfFame.org, Bob Kahn spearheaded a government research project called Strategic Computing Program, which the U.S. government funded for a cool $1 billion.

A billion U.S. dollars is already big in 2024; so, imagine how huge that amount was back in the 70’s!

One shouldn’t fail with that kind of budget - and Bob Kahn didn’t disappoint.

What Is Robert Kahn Doing Now?

Browsing the internet?

As mentioned earlier, Bob Kahn is scheduled to attend the 2024 IEEE VIC Summit in May to receive another recognition from IEEE.

Well, two notable recent happenings were these:

  • participated in Purdue University’s Presidential Lecture Series in September 2023
  • received the James Madison Medal from the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA) in February 2023

Per Purdue’s website, Vint Cerf joined Bob Khan in the Purdue event, which was dubbed, “Origins of the Internet and its Subsequent Evolution.”

Who else to invite to discuss its origins than the “Fathers of the Internet,” themselves, right?

Vint Cerf, sitting cross-legged, and Bob Kahn, looking at each other, with a small table between them at Princeton
Vint Cerf, sitting cross-legged, and Bob Kahn, looking at each other, with a small table between them at Princeton

Final Thoughts

On March 12, 2014, which happened to be the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, Bob Kahn, seated beside Vint Cerf during an event at Princeton campus, said, as quoted by Princeton Alumni Weekly:

Nobody really thought it [creating the internet] was a good idea back then, in terms of [business] opportunities.- Robert Elliot “Bob” Kahn

As of February 2023, according to Forbes, there are around 1.13 billion websites, with an estimated 200 million of them active; also, per TechJury, more than 600 million blogsin 2023.

Just imagine the numerous opportunities the internet has createdover the years.

So, thank you, Vint Cerf; thank you, Bob Kahn.

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