2. Women precursors in technology: Radia Perlman

May 17, 2016 | by Helena Hernandez

In App development, developers, Internet of Things, internet

A brilliant mind behind the InternetWe’ve heard the term “Father of the Internet”.  Men like Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn certainly were, but are there “Mothers of the Internet?” Well, one of the most influential “mothers” is a woman named Radia Perlman.

The mother of the Internet

Welcome back! I’m here again to continue to honor those women that were important characters in the history of technology.  Radia Perlman was born in Portsmouth, Virgina in January of 1952. She is currently a Network Engineer and Software Designer with a Ph.D. in Computer Science.  She now works at IBM. Perlman holds more than 80 Internet related patterns and has been named one of the 20 most influential people in the Data Communications field.

Referring to her as the “Mother of the Internet” does not mean she invented the Internet, but she is certainly responsible for many great developments. One of her greatest contributions was writing the algorithm behind the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) around 1980.  STP builds a logical, loop-free topology for Ethernet networks.  It allows a network design to have links that provide automatic backup paths if an active link fails, without any need to manually enable or disable backup links.

Radia Perlman’s algorithm was quickly endorsed as the standard protocol for network bridge technology.  It allowed the Ethernet to handle massive networks, which was a great milestone in the Internet world, developed and discovered by a very talented and brilliant woman. And what’s most incredible about it is that it took her less than a week to come up with the algorithm and write the protocol!

Apart from her multiple contributions to technology and the Internet, Radia Perlman is an author of two books which are widely used in universities around the world: “Interconnections: Bridges, Routers, Switches and Internet Working Protocols” and “Network Security: Private Communication in a Public World.”

Radia Perlman is the author of two books

Perlman also developed a tangible programming system, TORTIS, which allows children to press buttons in order to generate simple, mechanical actions.  It teaches children the basics of software development. Perlman has even taught courses at universities such as the University of Washington, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  She inspires students to stand out in the world of technology.

Another interesting story about a brilliant mind in technology, right?  Don’t miss the third part of this blog post series—coming soon!



Magazine: Liz Basaldua. (March 2016). Las olvidadas de La Historia. Algarabia, 138, 40-41.