Paul Baran (April 29, 1926 – March 26, 2011) was a Polish-born Jewish American engineer who was a pioneer in the development of computer networks.
His obituary notes:
"Over the weekend, the Institute for the Future lost one of our co-founders, Paul Baran, who passed from complications from lung cancer. He was 84 years old.
"Paul was very much a parent of our institution, but he was also a parent of the Internet. Paul outlined the fundamentals for “packet switching,” while working for the RAND Corporation, a government funded global policy think tank, in the 1960s.
"As he explained in an interview with the Institute’s Bob Johansen some years ago, he sought to create a network that would "resist attack." In those days, if you took out any portion of a network, the entire network went down. Under Paul's unconventional design, separate packets made it possible for the network to continue, even if a portion of it was destroyed. “The result was a network that had no center, grew from the edges, and could not be controlled,” Paul had explained. “We are still living with the implications of that network breakthrough—which seemed impossible at the time."
"So impossible, in fact, that AT&T rejected Paul’s proposal to build such a network repeatedly in the mid-‘60s. However, the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), eventually used Paul’s and other’s ideas to build the Arpanet, the world's first working packet switching network and the core network of a set that came to compose the global Internet.
"Upon founding IFTF in 1968, Paul wrote the original grant proposal to ARPA, now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a Department of Defense Agency that develops military technology, that eventually led to a prototype of “computer conferencing,” an early example of what today we would call a social networking and community collaboration system, for the ARPANET. The resulting report, titled Toward a Study of Future Urban High-Capacity Telecommunications Systems, contained prescient forecasts about potential uses for broadband information services, including video-conferencing, online banking and shopping and news aggregated specifically for individual users.