Peter Thomas Kirschstein
20 June 1933
|Died||8 January 2020 (aged 86)|
|Alma mater||University of Cambridge (BA)|
Stanford University (MS, PhD)
University College London
|Thesis||Curvilinear space-charge flow with applications to electron guns (1957)|
|Doctoral advisor||Gordon S. Kino|
|Doctoral students||Jon Crowcroft|
Peter Thomas Kirstein(20 June 1933 – 8 January 2020) was a British computer scientist who played a role in the creation of the Internet. He put the first computer on the ARPANET outside of the US and was instrumental in defining and implementing TCP/IP alongside Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. He is "often recognized as the father of the European Internet".
Kirstein was born on 20 June 1933 in Berlin, Germany, the son of Eleanor (Jacobsohn) and Walter Kirschstein. His parents were dentists, and his father was awarded the Iron Cross during WWI. His family was Jewish and his mother had British citizenship from being born in London, so, fearing for their safety in Nazi-governed-Germany the family immigrated to the UK in 1937.
He was educated at Highgate School in North London, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Cambridge in 1954, an MSc and PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University (in 1955 and 1957, respectively) and a Doctor of Science (DSc) in engineering from the University of London in 1970.
He was a member of the staff at CERN from 1959 to 1963. He did research for General Electric at Zurich from 1963 to 1967. He was a professor at the University of London Institute of Computer Science (ICS) from 1970 to 1973. After that, he joined the faculty at the University College London in 1973, serving as head of the computer science department from 1980 to 1994. He supervised Jon Crowcroft. Kirstein set up Queen Elizabeth's first official email account in 1976.
Kirstein's research group at University College London was one of the two original international connections on the ARPANET in 1973, alongside Norwegian Seismic Array (NORSAR) which connected via Sweden's satellite station in Tanum. Research led by Bob Kahn at DARPA and Vint Cerf at Stanford University and later DARPA resulted in the formulation of the Transmission Control Program (TCP), with its RFC 675 specification written by Cerf with Yogen Dalal and Carl Sunshine in December 1974. The following year, testing began through concurrent implementations at Stanford, BBN and University College London. This later grew into the trans-Atlantic SATNET. In 1978, early in the development of the Internet, Kirstein co-authored (with Vint Cerf) one of the most significant early technical papers on the internetworking concept. His research group at UCL adopted TCP/IP in 1982, a year ahead of ARPANET, and played a significant role in the very earliest experimental Internet work.
Kirstein was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his work on the Internet. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng), a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society. He received the SIGCOMM Award in 1999 for "contributions to the practical understanding of large-scale networks through the deployment of international testbeds", and the Postel Award in 2003, as well as various other awards for his contributions to the development of the Internet internationally.
In 2012, Kirstein was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society. In 2015, he was awarded the prestigious Marconi Prize.
Peter Kirstein died from a brain tumour on the morning of 8 January 2020 while in his home. Shortly after his death, Professor Steve Hailes, Head of Department for UCL Computer Science, wrote about him:
"Peter was very widely recognised as a pioneer of the Internet and has many honours to his name [...] Much of this was undoubtedly down to an incredibly logical mind, coupled with a level of interest, vision and determination that saw him retire only late last year at the age of 86. [...] Peter was also deeply empathetic and sensitive: he was both gentleman and a gentle man, he was a source of encouragement and sage advice, he was persuasive, open-minded, fair and never afraid to learn something new or to admit that he didn’t know."
The authors wish to thank a number of colleagues for helpful comments during early discussions of international network protocols, especially R. Metcalfe, R. Scantlebury, D. Walden, and H. Zimmerman; D. Davies and L. Pouzin who constructively commented on the fragmentation and accounting issues; and S. Crocker who commented on the creation and destruction of associations.
We began doing concurrent implementations at Stanford, BBN, and University College London. So effort at developing the Internet protocols was international from the beginning. ... Mar '82 - Norway leaves the ARPANET and become an Internet connection via TCP/IP over SATNET. Nov '82 - UCL leaves the ARPANET and becomes an Internet connection.