Robert E. Kahn

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Robert E. Kahn

Robert "Bob" Elliot Kahn (born December 23, 1938 in New York City ) is an American computer scientist .

Together with Vint Cerf, he developed the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), which are used for data transmission in the modern Internet . In 2004 he received the Turing Award and in 2008 the Japan Prize .


Bob Kahn is the son of a high school principal and a cousin of cyberneticist Herman Kahn . He began studying chemistry at Queens College , but then switched to electrical engineering at City College of New York , where he received a bachelor's degree (BA) in 1960 . As a National Science Foundation scholarship holder , he received an MA from Princeton University in 1962 and a PhD in 1964 with John Thomas. Towards the end of his studies, he worked at Bell Laboratories on telephone technology for power plants, then at MIT as an assistant professor of electrical engineering under John Wozencraft .

In 1976 he took a leave of absence from MIT on his advice to gain practical experience with Bolt Beranek and Newman . He began to work on networks and submitted the offer to the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) for their tender for the Arpanet , which eventually won the bid. Kahn decided not to return to MIT and was then responsible for the system design of the Arpanet. He was also the communication theorist when designing the Interface Message Processor . With Steve Levy he also built the commercial Arpanet offshoot Telenet .

In 1972 Arpanet project manager Lawrence "Larry" Roberts (who soon afterwards switched to Telenet at Kahn's suggestion) took him to the now DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) renamed ARPA. In October of the same year, he presented the Arpanet with 40 connected computers to the public at the International Computer Communication Conference (ICCC). After a brief switch to automation technology, he returned to networks. At DARPA, he had the basic ideas for the Transmission Control Protocol while working on projects for packet-switched data transmission via satellite and radio. In view of the problem of mediating between such networks and the Arpanet, he recognized the need for open network architectures that allow different networks to communicate with one another regardless of the hardware and software used.

From spring 1973 he was supported by Vinton G. Cerf , whom he had met as a doctoral student in 1969 when testing the first Arpanet node at UCLA and who was now an assistant professor at Stanford, on the TCP project. They used the Network Control Program (NCP) designed for the original Arpanet without Kahn's involvement as a basis for development. In September 1973 they presented a first version, which was also published in May 1974, and which already distinguished between TCP and IP.

When Cerf came to DARPA in 1976, he took over the leading role in the Internet project from Kahn until 1982 and directed the further development of TCP. In 1979, Kahn became Director of DARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO). In this position he started the US $ 1 billion Strategic Computing Initiative , the largest government project in computer research and development to date.

In 1980, TCP / IP was recognized as the standard by the American Department of Defense, and on January 1, 1983, when the Arpanet was separated from the MILNET , the NCP protocol suite was switched back to TCP / IP under the direction of Kahn, thus laying the foundation for the modern Internet. A year later, Kahn gave the Internet project again, this time to Barry Leiner.

In 1985, Kahn left DARPA and in 1986 founded the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI), of which he is chairman. The CNRI is a non-profit organization to promote the development and research of the information infrastructure. There he promoted u. a. came up with the idea of ​​the digital library and, together with Robert Wilensky, designed the basics of the handle system , which is designed as a reconstruction of the Internet and on which the digital object identifier directory is based. A spin-off from CNRI is the Internet Society co-founded by Kahn and Cerf .

Kahn's pioneering role on the Internet is also manifested in the fact that two early Requests for Comments refer directly to conversations with him, RFC 6 ( Conversation With Bob Kahn ) and RFC 372 ( Notes On A Conversation With Bob Kahn On The ICCC ). Kahn himself is the author of RFC 29 , RFC 136 and RFC 371 .


1997 handed US President Bill Clinton him and Cerf, the National Medal of Technology , the highest technology award from the United States, and in 2005 gave George W. Bush them the Presidential Medal of Freedom ( Medal of Freedom ), one of the highest civilian awards in the United States.

The two also share numerous other awards, including the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal 1997, the Prince of Asturias Prize 2002 (with Tim Berners-Lee and Lawrence Roberts), the 2004 Turing Award and the Charles Stark Draper Prize (with Leonard Kleinrock and Lawrence Roberts), the introduction to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006 , the Japan Prize in 2008 and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute for 2018 . In 2013, Kahn was among the first to receive the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering .

In addition, Kahn is a member of the National Academy of Engineering , the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences , a Fellow of the ACM , the IEEE , the AAAI , the Computer History Museum and a Marconi Fellow . He was a member of the Computer Science and Technology Board of the National Academy of Engineering, the Board of Regents of the United States National Library of Medicine and the President's Advisory Council on National Information Infrastructure, as well as the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee on International Communications and Information US State Department Policy.

Kahn holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Central Florida , George Mason , Maryland , Pavia , Pisa , Princeton and the ETH Zurich , and is an Honorary Fellow of University College London .


  • With Vinton G. Cerf : A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunications. IEEE Transactions on Communication, Vol. COM-22, No. 5, May 1974, pp. 637-648.

Web links

Commons : Robert E. Kahn  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. S. Sun, L. Lannom, B. Boesch: Handle System Overview , RFC 3650 , November 2003, p. 17
  2. Robert E. Kahn, Robert Wilensky : A Framework for Distributed Digital Object Services , May 1995. Second publication in the International Journal on Digital Libraries , ISSN  1432-5012 , Volume 6, Number 2, April 2006, pp. 115-123, hdl : 10.1007 / s00799-005-0128-x .