Photo of Leonard Kleinrock

Leonard Kleinrock

  • National Medal of Science
  • Mathematics And Computer Science
For his fundamental contributions to the mathematical theory of modern data networks, and for the functional specification of packet switching, which is the foundation of Internet technology. His mentoring of generations of students has led to the commercialization of technologies that have transformed the world.

Leonard Kleinrock defines packet switching

Remember that iconic dial-up internet sound? Research by Leonard Kleinrock led us to the technology underpinning today’s beloved Internet.

The Ukrainian-American engineer and computer scientist made milestone contributions to the theoretical side of computer networking, playing an important role in the development of the ARPANET.

Kleinrock’s motivation centered on discovering more efficient ways for MIT students and researchers to share computer access, “You want to do it in dynamic fashion: whoever needs it gets it now. If you’re not using it, let somebody else in.”

His research culminated in an anticlimactic moment in 1969, not celebrated at the time, but looked back on as a historic domino effect—the first internet message sent from the University of California, Los Angeles to Stanford University.

Foretelling the future of the internet, Kleinrock told the Daily Bruin, “It will become a pervasive global nervous system. Everywhere you go the internet will be available, and it will be invisible. You walk into a room, the room will know you’re there. You can talk to the room and it will respond. The internet will disappear into the infrastructure just the way electricity has disappeared into the walls.”

By Melissa Ayala