Lawrence Roberts (scientist)

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Lawrence Gilman Roberts
Born December 1937 (age 78)
Institutions Lincoln Lab, ARPA, Telnet
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Known for founding father of the internet
Influences J. C. R. Licklider, Ivan Sutherland
Notable awards

Lawrence G. Roberts (born 21 December 1937 in Connecticut[4]) is an American scientist who received the Draper Prize in 2001[4] and the Principe de Asturias Award in 2002 "for the development of the Internet"[5]

As a program manager and office director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency, Roberts and his team created the ARPANET using packet switching techniques.[4] The ARPANET was a predecessor to the modern Internet.

Early life and education[edit]

Lawrence (Larry) Roberts grew up in Westport, Connecticut as the son of Elliott and Elizabeth Roberts, who both had earned their doctorates in chemistry.[6] During his youth, he built a Tesla coil, assembled a television, and designed a telephone network built from transistors for his parent's Girl Scout camp.[6]

Roberts attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received his bachelor's degree (1959), master's degree (1960), and Ph.D. (1963), all in electrical engineering.[6]


After receiving his PhD, Roberts continued to work at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.[6] Having read the seminal 1961 paper of the "Intergalactic Computer Network" by J. C. R. Licklider, Roberts developed the concept of a computer-to-computer network that could communicate via data packets.[6] In 1966, he became program manager in the ARPA Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), which funded the development of the ARPANET. When Robert Taylor was sent to Vietnam in 1969 and then resigned, Roberts became director of the IPTO. The second node on the ARPANET was another important research project funded by Roberts: the Augmentation Research Center led by Douglas Engelbart.[7]

In 1973, Roberts left ARPA to commercialize the nascent packet-switching technology in the form of Telenet,[8] the first[4] packet switch utility company, and served as its CEO from 1973 to 1980. In 1983 he joined DHL Corporation as President and CEO. He was CEO of NetExpress, an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) equipment company, from 1983 to 1993. Roberts was president of ATM Systems from 1993 to 1998. He was chairman and CTO of Caspian Networks, but left in early 2004; Caspian ceased operation in late 2006.[9]

As of 2011, Roberts was the founder and chairman of Anagran Inc. Anagran continues work in the same area as Caspian: IP flow management with improved Quality of Service for the Internet.[10]

Since September 2012, he was CEO of Netmax in Redwood City, California.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • IEEE Harry M. Goode Memorial Award (1976 ), "In recognition of his contributions to the architectural design of computer-communication systems, his leadership in creating a fertile research environment leading to advances in computer and satellite communications techniques, his role in the establishment of standard international communication protocols and procedures, and his accomplishments in development and demonstration of packet switching technology and the ensuing networks which grew out of this work." [11]
  • L.M. Ericsson Prize (1982) in Sweden[12]
  • Member, National Academy of Engineering (1978)[12]
  • Computer Design Hall of Fame Award (1982)[12]
  • IEEE W. Wallace McDowell Award (1990), "For architecting packet switching technology and bringing it into practical use by means of the ARPA network."[12][13]
  • Association for Computing Machinery SIGCOMM Award (1998), for "visionary contributions and advanced technology development of computer communication networks".[12][14]
  • IEEE Internet Award (2000) For "early, preeminent contributions in conceiving, analyzing and demonstrating packet-switching networks, the foundation technology of the Internet."[12][15]
  • International Engineering Consortium Fellow Award (2001)[12]
  • National Academy of Engineering Charles Stark Draper Prize (2001), "for the development of the Internet" [5]
  • Principe de Asturias Award 2002 in Spain "for designing and implementing a system that is changing the world by providing previously unthought of opportunities for social and scientific progress."[16]
  • NEC C&C Award (2005) in Japan "For Contributions to Establishing the Foundation of Today's Internet Technology through...the Design and Development of ARPANET and Other Early Computer Networks that were Part of the Initial Internet."[17]
  • In 2012, Roberts was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society.[18]


  1. ^ "Lawrence Gilman Roberts". World of Computer Science (fee, via Fairfax County Public Library). Gale. 2006. Gale Document Number GALE|K2424100099. Retrieved 2013-01-16.  Gale Biography In Context (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Big achievements included room-size computers". MIT News. May 21, 2003. Retrieved 2013-01-16. 
  3. ^ "Lawrence G. Roberts: 1990 W. Wallace McDowell Award Recipient". IEEE Computer Society. Retrieved 2013-01-16. 
  4. ^ a b c d "2001 Draper Prize Recipients' Bios". National Academy of Engineering. 2001. 
  5. ^ a b "Previous Recipients of the Draper Prize". National Academy of Engineering. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Josh McHugh (May 2001). "The n -Dimensional Superswitch". Wired Magazine. 
  7. ^ Interview conducted by Judy Adams and Henry Low (December 19, 1986 – April 1, 1987). "Douglas Engelbart". Stanford and the Silicon Valley Oral History Interviews. Stanford University. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  8. ^ Otis Port (2004-09-27). "Larry Roberts:He made the Net Work". Business Week. 
  9. ^ Bobby White (2007-10-02). "Its Creators Call Internet Outdated, Offer Remedies". The Wall Street Journal. 
  10. ^ "Management Team". Anagan web site. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Harry H. Goode Memorial Award". IEEE. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g "Brief Summary of Recipients' Careers". NEC. 2005-11-17. 
  13. ^ "W. Wallace McDowell Award". IEEE. 
  14. ^ "SIGCOMM Awards". ACM SIGCOMM. 
  15. ^ "IEEE Internet Award Recipients". IEEE. 
  16. ^ "The Internet is one of the most eloquent examples of the benefits that accrue from scientific research and a commitment to technological innovation. A myriad of people and institutions were involved in this work. The jury wishes to acknowledge them all in awarding the prize to the four leaders of so extraordinary a development."The Jury for the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research 2002 (D. José Luis Álvarez Margaride, D. Ernesto Carmona Guzmán, et al.) (2002-05-23). "Minutes of the Jury - Technical and Scientific Research 2002". Fundación Príncipe de Asturias. 
  17. ^ "The great success and popularity of the Internet are due to the efforts of a great many people, but it was the three members of Group B who truly created the technological foundation for its success...Dr. Roberts, at ARPA, was responsible for creating the first computer network, the ARPANET, and for its architecture and overall management." "Foundation for C&C Promotion Announces Recipients of 2005 C&C Prize - Mr. Kei-ichi Enoki, Mr. Takeshi Natsuno, Ms. Mari Matsunaga, Dr. Robert E. Kahn, Dr. Lawrence G. Roberts, & Professor Leonard Kleinrock". NEC. 2005-11-17. 
  18. ^ 2012 Inductees, Internet Hall of Fame website. Last accessed April 24, 2012

External links[edit]