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UCL celebrates Internet pioneers

On Tuesday 18th November UCL celebrated the 30th anniversary of the first international link to the ARPANET: the precursor to the Internet, by granting Honorary Fellowships to Dr Robert E. Kahn and Dr Vinton G. Cerf, who conceived of the original Internet Protocol which made the Internet possible.

Dr Khan receives his award from UCL Provost Professor Malcolm Grant Dr Khan receives his award from UCL Provost Professor Malcolm Grant

The award ceremony was one of a number of events taking place during a week-long celebration of that historic milestone in the emergence of the global Internet. Dr Kahn, Dr Cerf and other Internet pioneers participated in these events, which were organised jointly by University College London and the Internet Society (ISOC).

Professor Peter Kirstein of UCL first linked the US with UCL in 1973 by connecting to the ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet. He went on to provide the UK's principal Internet link between the UK and the US throughout the 1980s. Professor Kirstein said: “During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, research departments in universities were making huge technological strides forward that contributed greatly to the birth of the Internet. UCL in particular, had a prominent role and made the first UK connection to the ARPANET, making the enterprise international for the first time.

“I have worked with Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf since the 1970s on a number of Internet projects. Their joint development of TCP/IP [Internet protocol] has led to a communication network that links people regardless of geographical location. That has made a lasting impact on our education, quality of life and economy. This ceremony and the events that will take place throughout the week mark the discovery of the Internet and signal the start of a new era of Internet developments.”

Professor Peter Kirstein with University of Cambridge Professor Maurice Wilkes at the reception
Professor Peter Kirstein with University of Cambridge Professor Maurice Wilkes at the reception

Dr Cerf said: "I have known and worked with Peter Kirstein for over 35 years. It is a special honour to become a member of the UCL family through the receipt of this Fellowship. UCL has had a central role in the evolution of the Internet and it has been a privilege to maintain a collegial relationship with the UCL team as it explores new territory in the endless Internet space."

Dr Cerf speaking after the award ceremony Dr Cerf speaking after the award ceremony

Dr Kahn said: "I am greatly honoured and appreciative of the recognition shown by UCL with this Fellowship and to know that it will cement the ties that have connected us from the earliest days of computer networking. Peter Kirstein has been a good friend and colleague all during that period, and the students and faculty at UCL with whom we have worked can take great pride in their important contributions. History will likely show this still to be an early period in the evolution of the Internet and UCL will surely continue to play a central role in its continuing evolution."

Immediately after the award ceremony, the audience heard the inaugural lecture of UCL's new Professor of Networked Systems, Dr Mark Handley. Dr Handley received his BSc in Computer Science with Electronic Engineering from UCL in 1988, and went on to research Internet-based multimedia conferencing systems, and was the technical director on several large European research projects. This work brought him to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which is the principle international standards organisation for the Internet, where he chaired the Multi-party Multimedia Session Control working group and the Reliable Multicast research group. He received his PhD from UCL in 1997 for work on multicast-based multimedia conferencing systems, before leaving UCL to work for the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute. During this time he pioneered work on signalling mechanisms for Internet telephony, and on routing protocols for IP multicast. In early 1999 he left USC to co-found the AT&T Center for Internet Research (ACIRI) at ICSI in Berkeley. Much of his recent research has been in the areas of Internet congestion control and Internet routing. In the standards arena, he is the author of 18 RFCs, and he is currently a member of the Internet Architecture Board, the IETF Routing Area Directorate and the IETF Transport Area Directorate. In July 2003 he was awarded a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award, and returned to UCL to head the Networks Research Group in the Computer Science Department.

The slides from the inaugural lecture, entitled "The Internet: the last 30 years and the next 30 years", are available in PDF format (link).



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