In Depth

Google Doodle: who is Michael Dertouzos?

The Greek professor would have celebrated his 82nd birthday today

Google users may have spotted a new Doodle today that celebrates the life of the Greek computer scientist Michael Dertouzos.

The scientist, who would be 82 today had he not died 17 years ago, is best known for predicting in 1976 that there would be a personal computer in one of every three homes by the mid-1990s, the Mirror reports. 

Born in Athens on 5 November 1934, Dertouzos was the son of an admiral in the Greek navy, the newspaper says. His mother was a concert pianist. He studied at Athens College and the University of Arkansas before earning a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

After joining the university’s faculty in 1964, Dertouzos helped MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) develop “RSA encryption”, a technology that has become vital in sending messages across the internet more securely, says CNN

Under the Greek professor’s leadership, LCS became “one of the largest research labs at MIT” and the American home of the World Wide Web Consortium, an international standards organisation for the internet, according to the US broadcaster. This was partly thanks to Dertouzos recruiting Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, to run the consortium. 

Following Dertouzos’s death on 27 August 2001, Berners-Lee said there probably wouldn’t have been a World Wide Web Consortium without him, the US broadcaster reports. 

The internet’s key supporter

The Independent believes that Dertouzos, who played a part in developing core web technologies, will be “remembered most” as a key supporter of the internet at a time when web giants such as Amazon and Google were still in their infancy. 

In his 1997 book What Will Be: How the New World of Information Will Change Our Lives he successfully predicted that the web would become an “Information Marketplace where people and their computers will buy, sell and freely exchange information and information work.”

Dertouzos believed everyone should have the right to access the internet. In 2001 he spearheaded a campaign with MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab to research technologies that would benefit humanity, The Independent says.

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