Lawrence Roberts: American electrical engineer and computer scientist (1937 - 2018) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
peoplepill id: lawrence-gilman-roberts
3 views today
4 views this week
Lawrence Roberts
American electrical engineer and computer scientist

Lawrence Roberts

Lawrence Roberts
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American electrical engineer and computer scientist
Known for ARPANET
A.K.A. Larry Roberts, Lawrence G. Roberts, Lawrence GIlman Roberts
Was Computer scientist Technology executive Business executive Businessperson
From United States of America
Field Business Technology Science
Gender male
Birth 21 December 1937, Westport, USA
Death 26 December 2018, Redwood City, USA (aged 81 years)
Star sign Sagittarius
Residence Connecticut, USA
The details (from wikipedia)


Lawrence Gilman Roberts (December 21, 1937 – December 26, 2018) was an American engineer who received the Draper Prize in 2001 "for the development of the Internet", and the Principe de Asturias Award in 2002.

As a program manager and office director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency, Roberts and his team created the ARPANET using packet switching techniques invented by British computer scientist Donald Davies and American Paul Baran underpinned by the theoretical work of Leonard Kleinrock. The ARPANET, which was built by the Massachusetts-based company Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), was a predecessor to the modern Internet. He later served as CEO of the commercial packet-switching network Telenet.

Early life and education

Roberts, who was known as Larry, was born and raised in Westport, Connecticut. He was the son of Elizabeth (Gilman) and Elliott John Roberts, both of whom had doctorates in chemistry. During his youth, he built a Tesla coil, assembled a television, and designed a telephone network built from transistors for his parents' Girl Scout camp.

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. His Ph.D. thesis "Machine Perception of Three-Dimensional Solids" is considered as one of the foundational works of the field of Computer Vision.



After receiving his PhD, Roberts continued to work at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. Having read the seminal 1961 paper of the "Intergalactic Computer Network" by J. C. R. Licklider, Roberts developed a research interest in time-sharing using computer networks.


In 1967, he was recruited by Robert Taylor in the ARPA Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) to become the program manager for the ARPANET. He prepared an initial design specification for a network, proposing that all host computers would connect to one another directly. Wesley A. Clark suggested the use of a dedicated computer, which Roberts called Interface Message Processors.

At the Symposium on Operating System Principles that year, Roberts presented the plan based on Clark's message switching proposal. There he met a member of Donald Davies's team (Roger Scantlebury) who presented their research on packet switching and suggested it for use in the ARPANET. Roberts applied Davies's concepts of packet switching for the ARPANET, and sought input from Paul Baran.

Roberts' plan for the ARPANET was the first wide area packet-switching network with distributed control. ARPA issued a request for quotation (RFQ) to build the system, which was awarded to Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN). Significant aspects of the networks's operation including routing, flow control, software design and network control were developed by the BBN IMP team. Roberts managed its implementation and contracted with Leonard Kleinrock in 1968 to carry out mathematical modelling of the network. When Robert Taylor was sent to Vietnam in 1969 and then resigned, Roberts became director of the IPTO.

In 1970, he proposed to NPL's Donald Davies that the two organizations connect their networks via a satellite link. This original proposal proved infeasible, but in 1971 Peter Kirstein agreed to connect his research group at University College London (UCL) instead. Roberts proposed in 1973 that it would be possible to use a satellite's 64 kilobit/second link as a medium shared by multiple satellite earth stations within the beam's footprint. This was implemented later by Bob Kahn, and resulted in SATNET.

The Purdy Polynomial hash algorithm was developed for the ARPANET to protect passwords in 1971 at the request of Roberts.


In 1973, Roberts left ARPA to join BBN's effort to commercialize the nascent packet-switching technology in the form of Telenet, the first FCC-licensed public data network in the United States. He served as its CEO from 1973 to 1980. Roberts joined the international effort to standardize a protocol for packet switching based on virtual circuits shortly before it was finalized. Telenet converted to the X.25 protocol, which was adopted by PTTs across North America and Europe for public data networks in the mid-late 1970s. Roberts promoted this approach over the datagram approach in TCP/IP being pursued by ARPA, which he described as "oversold" in 1978.

Later career

In 1983 he joined DHL Corporation as President. At the time, he predicted bandwidths would go down driven by voice compression technology.

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.

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.

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

Personal life

Roberts married and divorced four times. At the time of his death, his partner was physician Tedde Rinker. Roberts died at his California home from a heart attack on December 26, 2018.

Awards and honors

  • IEEE Harry H. 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."
  • L.M. Ericsson Prize (1982) in Sweden
  • Member, National Academy of Engineering (1978)
  • Computer Design Hall of Fame Award (1982)
  • IEEE W. Wallace McDowell Award (1990), "For architecting packet switching technology and bringing it into practical use by means of the ARPA network."
  • Association for Computing Machinery SIGCOMM Award (1998), for "visionary contributions and advanced technology development of computer communication networks".
  • IEEE Internet Award (2000) For "early, preeminent contributions in conceiving, analyzing and demonstrating packet-switching networks, the foundation technology of the Internet."
  • International Engineering Consortium Fellow Award (2001)
  • National Academy of Engineering Charles Stark Draper Prize (2001), "for the development of the Internet"
  • 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."
  • 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."
  • In 2012, Roberts was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society.
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 10 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
comments so far.
From our partners
Reference sources
Sections Lawrence Roberts

arrow-left arrow-right instagram whatsapp myspace quora soundcloud spotify tumblr vk website youtube pandora tunein iheart itunes