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Drexel Alumnus Paul Baran Internet Pioneer Dies at 84

March 28, 2011

The New York Times and dozens of media around the county are reporting on the death of Drexel alumnus Paul Baran, an engineer who helped create the technical underpinnings for the Arpanet, the government-sponsored precursor to today's Internet. Baran died Saturday night at his home in Palo Alto, California. He was 84.

A native of Poland who graduated from Drexel with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering in 1949 and received an honorary degree in 1997, Baran is credited with helping to develop packet-switching technology in 1962. Packet-switching enables information to be divided into small packets that are addressed, sent to several destinations to increase the odds the information will actually arrive and, finally, reassembled. Packet-switching laid the foundation for the Internet to develop.

While working at RAND Corp., Baran conceived of packet-switching as a military communications system to be used in the event of nuclear attack during the Cold War. A series of papers outlining the key concepts of packet-switching published in 1964, “On Distributed Communications” influenced the work of Lawrence Roberts and Leonard Kleinrock, a 2007 National Medal of Science laureate. Roberts and Kleinrock utilized packet-switching in the development of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET, the world's first operational packet-switching network and predecessor of the Internet.

Baran, who received the 2001 Franklin Institute Bower Award for Achievement in Science for his contributions to the Internet, is credited with helping to develop a packet voice technology that led to the development of the first commercial ATM product. He is also credited with helping to develop discrete multitone modem technology, used in DSL modems, and doorway metal detectors. In 2007, Baran was named a National Medal of Technology and Innovation laureate.

To read The New York Times article, visit:


Photo Credit: The Associated Press, Charles Dharapak

News media contact:
Niki Gianakaris, director, Drexel News Bureau
215-895-6741, 215-778-7752 (cell) or

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