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.
The ARPANET was a predecessor to the modern Internet.
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.
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
In 1967, he was recruited by Robert Taylor in the ARPA Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) to become the program manager for the ARPANET. Wesley A. Clark suggested the use of a dedicated computer, called the Interface Message Processor at each node of the network instead of centralized control. Shortly afterwards, at the 1967 ACM Symposium on Operating System Principles, Roberts 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 and Leonard Kleinrock. Subsequently, Roberts developed the plan for the ARPANET, the first wide area packet-switching network, and managed its implementation. ARPA issued a request for quotation (RFQ) to build the system, which was awarded to BBN Technologies (BBN). When Robert Taylor was sent to Vietnam in 1969 and then resigned, Roberts became director of the IPTO.
In 1973, Roberts left ARPA to commercialize the nascent packet-switching technology in the form of Telenet,
the first packet switch utility company, and served as its CEO from 1973 to 1980. In 1983 he joined DHL Express 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.
, 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.
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."
["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."]
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."
["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." ]
In 2012, Roberts was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society.
[ 2012 Inductees, Internet Hall of Fame website. Last accessed April 24, 2012]
Larry Roberts – Visionary Entrepreneur, Internet Technology LinkedIn profile
Oral history interview with Lawrence G. Roberts. Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Roberts directed the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) during 1968–1973 and was later chief operating officer of Network Express. The interview focuses on IPTO and the Advanced Research Projects Agency. Much of Roberts's description of the work of ARPA and IPTO is set within the context of his interactions with Congress on budget matters. Topics include J. C. R. Licklider, Ivan Sutherland, Stephen J. Lukasik, Wesley Clark, ARPA and IPTO support of research in computer science, computer networks, and artificial intelligence, the ARPANET, the involvement of universities with ARPA and IPTO.
Oral history interview with Robert E. Kahn. Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota. Kahn discusses the work of various DARPA and IPTO personnel including J. C. R. Licklider, Vinton Cerf, and Larry Roberts
Lawrence G. Roberts's profile on Internet Evolution, "the macrosite for news, analysis, & opinion about the future of the internet."
"Obituary: Lawrence Roberts, Who Helped Design Internet’s Precursor, Dies at 81", Katie Hafner, New York Times, December 30, 2018.