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Paul Baran
Born (1926-04-29)April 29, 1926
Died March 26, 2011(2011-03-26) (aged 84)
Citizenship United States
Alma mater UCLA, Drexel Institute of Technology, Philadelphia
Known for Packet Switching
Spouse(s) Evelyn Murphy Baran, PhD
Awards IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal, National Medal of Technology and Innovation, National Inventors Hall of Fame
Scientific career
Institutions RAND Corporation

Paul Baran (1926–2011) was an American engineer. He was one of the first people to work in developing computer networks. He invented packet switching networks. Later, he started several companies that made important parts of the Internet and other modern digital communication.

Paul Baran was born in Grodno, Poland (which is now in Belarus) on April 29, 1926. His family moved to the United States in 1928. He graduated from Drexel University in 1949 with a degree in electrical engineering. He did technical work on the first commercial computers in the United States. He got a Masters degree in engineering from UCLA. His thesis was on character recognition.

In 1959, Baran joined RAND Corporation. He designed a "survivable" communications system that could keep working across long distances even if hit by nuclear weapons. Baran proved that by dividing communication into short packages, the packages could be easily rerouted when a part of the network was lost. Special computers (called "routers") would steer the packages around the network toward their final destinations. This later became the basic design of the internet.

In 1968, Baran was a founder of the Institute for the Future, and then involved in other networking technologies developed in Silicon Valley. He founded a number of high technology companies.

Baran died in Palo Alto, California at the age of 84 on March 26, 2011, from lung cancer.

Awards and honors

  • IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal (1990)
  • Marconi Prize (1991)
  • Nippon Electronics Corporation C&C Prize (1996)
  • Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science (2001)
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2003)
  • National Inventors Hall of Fame (2007)
  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation (2007)
  • UCLA Engineering Alumnus of the Year (2009)

A paper in which Baran talks about working at RAND, how he became interested in survivable communications, the evolution of his plan for distributed networks, the objections he received, and the writing and distribution of his eleven-volume work, On Distributed Communications. Baran discusses his work with the group at ARPA who later developed ARPANET.
This describes Paul Baran's development of packet switching and its application to wireless computing.
A copy of Baran's keynote address at the Countdown to Technology 2000 Winter Conference that includes a photo.
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