May 1, 2023

Internet inventors Cerf and Kahn to join President Chiang for September Presidential Lecture Series event, marking Purdue Computer Science’s 60th anniversary

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn, the tandem credited with founding the Internet in the early 1970s, will join Purdue University President Mung Chiang for a Presidential Lecture Series event in September, coinciding with the 60th anniversary celebration of Purdue’s historic launch of the nation’s first academic computer science department. 

The discussion with Cerf and Kahn, who are commonly called the “Fathers of the Internet,” is planned for Thursday, Sept. 7. The time and location will be announced later. The Presidential Lecture event, which is free and open to the public, is titled “Origins of the Internet and its Subsequent Evolution” and comes a half-century since the pivotal period of Cerf and Kahn’s groundbreaking work.

“As Purdue continues the yearlong celebration of the nation’s first computer science department 60 years ago and launches new investments, such as 50 new faculty in computing departments, to attain the pinnacle of excellence, it is particularly exciting to bring to our campus the two pioneers of the Internet who paved the way for one of the planet-changing innovations of our Information Age,” Chiang said. “Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn are true American trailblazers, and their Presidential Lecture at Purdue coincides with their inventing the TCP/IP half a century ago. Their creativity and persistence define the very essence of pinnacle of excellence and impact.”

Cerf and Kahn led the design and implementation of what formed the basis of the Internet, beginning with their seminal research paper in the early 1970s. Titled A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication,” the paper was subsequently published in the iEEE Transactions on Communications in May 1974 and outlined the resulting Internet architecture for the technological innovation that’s ubiquitous today.

In a mere six months in 1973, Cerf and Kahn crafted the common digital language that provides the pathways for interconnecting vast network devices. They developed the Transmission Control Protocol, which later split off the Internet Protocol, becoming TCP/IP, seen in the network settings of computers to this day. In geek speak, they formulated fundamental protocols for wireless and wired networking, specified TCP/IP to meet these requirements, prototyped TCP/IP and coordinated early TCP/IP implementations.

They first met when Kahn came to UCLA in 1969 to help test the nascent Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, known as ARPANET. Kahn and Cerf formed an effective working relationship to generate test data and predict and diagnose problems in the network. Later they began work on the Internet, completing their design in the fall of 1973. The effort spanned more than 10 years, and the birthday of the operational Internet is Jan. 1, 1983. In the ensuing decades, computer networks across the globe were able to communicate with each other using protocols developed by Kahn and Cerf.

Cerf received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Stanford University in 1965, then spent two years at IBM, where he contributed to QUIKTRAN, a FORTRAN based time-sharing system. Drawn to the field of computer science, he left IBM to study at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he earned his master’s degree and PhD in computer science in 1970 and 1972, respectively.

Kahn earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the City College of New York in 1960 before earning his master’s degree in 1962 and PhD in 1964 in electrical engineering from Princeton University. His first job was with AT&T Bell Labs before he joined the electrical engineering department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an assistant professor in 1964. Kahn took a leave of absence from MIT in 1966 to work at a local research and development firm, Bolt, Beranek and Newman (now known as Raytheon BBN), where he began developing his own ideas for computer networking.

For their global-changing achievements, Cerf and Kahn have collected countless awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., as well as the ACM A.M. Turing Award, the highest distinction in computer science; the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest technology honor; the Japan Prize, that country’s most prestigious honor for science and technology in 2008; and many honorary doctoral degrees. 

Purdue’s advancing computer science legacy

Sixty-years ago, Purdue celebrated the launch of its groundbreaking computer science program when it dedicated its new high-speed IBM 7090 digital computer. Today, Purdue’s computer science program is the largest and most selective on campus, with 2,405 undergraduate and 538 graduate students enrolled as of Fall 2022.

And just two weeks ago, Purdue unveiled its Purdue Computes initiative, which will provide vital strategic investments for faculty hires, artificial intelligence research and semiconductor facility upgrades, with the goal of becoming one of the top 10 computer science programs in the U.S. by the end of the decade.

About the Presidential Lecture Series

Launched in 2014 by then-Purdue President Mitch Daniels and continued in 2023 by President Mung Chiang, the Presidential Lecture Series exposes Purdue students and the broader community to inspiring ideas, courageous leadership and models of civic engagement and civil discourse. The Presidential Lecture Series has had over 40 guests of many viewpoints and perspectives who have hosted some of the great intellectual, business and civic leaders of our time. As one of the world’s premier centers of scholarly leadership, Purdue is – appropriately and necessarily – a regular venue for great thinkers across a wide variety of disciplines.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the last five years as one of the 10 Most Innovative universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

Writer/Media contact: Phillip Fiorini,, 765-430-6189

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2015-23 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Office of Strategic Communications

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact News Service at