Getting to Know the Father of the Internet

It was on this date (June 23) 1943 that Vinton Cerf, who is hard of hearing, was born in New Haven, Connecticut.

(image Royal Society)

President Clinton presented the U.S. National Medal of Technology to Cerf in 1977 and his colleague, Robert Kahn, for founding and developing the Internet. In 2004, the pair were given the ACM Alan M. Turing award, which is sometimes called the "Nobel Prize of Computer Science." In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Cerf and Kahn the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the US government.

Cern now works for Google as its chief Internet evangelist, looking for and promoting new technologies and services.

What many do not know, is that Cerf was partly motivated by his frustration with communication with other researchers. He is quoted as saying:

“In creating the Internet with my colleagues, in part, I wanted to help people with hearing loss as well as other communication difficulties. Written communication is a tremendous help for me, and so when electronic mail was invented in ’71, I got very excited about it, thinking that the hard-of-hearing community could really use this.”

Cerf has hearing loss as does his wife, who had hearing loss due to spinal meningitis at the age of three. She received her first cochlear implant in 1996 and a second implant in her other ear nearly a decade later. They met at the office of a hearing aid specialist and married in 1966. Cerf joined the Board of Trustees of Gallaudet University in 1997 until 2005. He spoke at Gallaudet's 145th Commencement in 2017. You can read what he said here.