Nathaniel Borenstein

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Nathaniel S. Borenstein
Born (1957-09-23) September 23, 1957 (age 63)
EducationCarnegie Mellon University, Grinnell College, Deep Springs College, Ohio State University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
OccupationComputer Scientist
Known fore-mail, MIME, Internet standards, email attachments
TitleChief Scientist

Nathaniel S. Borenstein (born September 23, 1957) is an American computer scientist. He is one of the original designers of the MIME protocol for formatting multimedia Internet electronic mail and sent the first e-mail attachment.[1]


Borenstein received a B.A. in Mathematics and Religious Studies from Grinnell College in 1980, and a Ph.D in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1985. Previously he attended Ohio State University (1974–75), Deep Springs College, California (1975–76), and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel (1978–79).[1] While at CMU, he co-developed the email component of the Andrew Project. The Andrew Message System was the first multi-media electronic mail system to become used outside of a laboratory.[2] In 1989 he became a member of technical staff at Bellcore (Bell Communications Research). There he developed a series of standards so the various electronic mail systems could exchange multimedia messages in a common way. He is responsible for sending the first MIME email attachment on March 11, 1992.

Borenstein was founder of First Virtual Holdings in 1994, called "the first cyberbank" by the Smithsonian Institution, and[3] in 2000. He worked at IBM as distinguished engineer starting in 2002 at Cambridge, Massachusetts. He then became chief scientist at email management company Mimecast in June 2010.[4]

He is author of Programming As If People Mattered: Friendly Programs, Software Engineering, and Other Noble Delusions (Princeton University Press, 1994) ISBN 0-691-03763-9. He received the New York University Olive Branch Award for writing about peace in 1990, for an essay about his brief experience as a NATO consultant.[5]

His mentors include his doctoral advisor and the director of the Andrew project, Jim Morris, and Einar Stefferud, who initiated the MIME and First Virtual work.

Personal life[edit]

Borenstein lives with his wife, Trina, in Ann Arbor and Greenbush, Michigan; they have four grown daughters, and three grandchildren. He has been a vegetarian since 1972. He is a pacifist, named his web server and wireless network "ahimsa", and has worked for a mix of pacifist, leftist, and libertarian causes.[1]

He was a child prodigy and had finished most of his high school curriculum by the end of third grade,[6] before being restricted to studies at his own grade level beginning in fourth grade.[7] In 1973, with the help of the ACLU, he became the first US student ever to be awarded money damages from his principal and school board,[8] in Bexley, Ohio, for violating his freedom of speech by sending him home for wearing a black armband on the second anniversary, in 1972, of the Kent State shootings. He has three brothers, Eliot Borenstein, a Guggenheim Fellowship winner[9] and professor at NYU; Seth Borenstein, Associated Press Senior Science Reporter; and Joe Borenstein, a contractor and investor.

Authored Requests For Comments (RFCs)[edit]

  • RFC 1341 – MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)
  • RFC 1344 – Implications of MIME for Internet Mail Gateways
  • RFC 1437 – The Extension of MIME Content-Types to a new Medium (April Fools' Day RFC)
  • RFC 1524 – A User Agent Configuration Mechanism for Multimedia Mail Format Information
  • RFC 2045 – MIME Part One: Format of Internet Message Bodies
  • RFC 2046 – MIME Part Two: Media Types
  • RFC 2049 – MIME Part Five: Conformance Criteria and Examples


  1. ^ a b c "NSB Home Page". web site, including CV. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  2. ^ N. S. Borenstein (December 1996). "CMU's Andrew project: a retrospective". Communications of the ACM. 39 (12): 298. doi:10.1145/272682.272717.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Nathaniel S. Borenstein, Ph.D.: Co-Founder and Advisor". web site. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  4. ^ McFadden, Sean (June 21, 2010). "Human Capital: People on the Move". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  5. ^ Borenstein, Nathaniel. "A Spy in the House of War: My Life as a NATO Collaborator". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  6. ^ Borenstein, Nathaniel (January 2, 2013). "Betraying My Oldest Friend". The View from Guppy Lake. Retrieved November 2, 2014. … you should know that I was a bit of a prodigy as a child. I was reading adult books at the age of 2, and had more or less finished high school by the end of third grade.
  7. ^ Borenstein, Nathaniel (January 29, 2012). "Goodbye, Glen: A Last Look at a Childhood Hero". The View from Guppy Lake. Retrieved November 2, 2014. I had also started taking classical guitar lessons in fourth grade, the only new form of study my parents permitted me after bringing the rest of my education to a screeching halt the previous summer.
  8. ^ "Nathaniel Borenstein makes a peace sign".
  9. ^ List of Guggenheim Fellowships awarded in 2009