Widely known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet,” Vinton G. Cerf has played a key role in shaping life online for nearly four decades. He is vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, where he has been responsible since 2005 for identifying new technologies to develop Internet-based products and services.
Cerf’s work building the Internet dates to 1976, when he was hired by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). His research there helped create the architecture of the Internet and the TCP/IP protocols that lie at the heart of its operation. In 1982, he was appointed vice president of MCI Digital Information Services, where he led the engineering of the first commercial email service to be connected to the Internet.
In December 1997, President Bill Clinton presented the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Cerf and his colleague, Robert E. Kahn, for founding and developing the Internet. Kahn and Cerf were named the recipients of the ACM Alan M. Turing Award in 2004 for their work on the Internet protocols. The Turing Award is sometimes called the “Nobel Prize of Computer Science.” In November 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Cerf and Kahn the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their work. The medal is the highest civilian award given by the United States to its citizens. In April 2008, Cerf and Kahn received the Japan Prize, and in 2013 Cerf, Kahn and three others received the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. Cerf was made an officer of the French Legion d’Honneur in July 2013.
Cerf served as vice president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives before rejoining MCI in 1994. MCI appointed Cerf as senior vice president of technology strategy. In this role, Cerf helped guide corporate strategy from the technical perspective. Previously at MCI, Cerf served as senior vice president of architecture and technology, leading a team of architects and engineers to design advanced networking frameworks including Internet-based solutions for delivering data, information, voice and video services for business and consumer use.
President Barack Obama appointed Cerf to the National Science Board in February 2013. Cerf is chairman of the America's Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and has been a board member since 2010. Cerf was chairman of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers from 2000 to 2007. Cerf also served as founding president of the Internet Society from 1992 to 1995 and in 1999 served a term as chairman of the board. In addition, Cerf is honorary chairman of the IPv6 Forum, dedicated to raising awareness and speeding introduction of the new Internet protocol.
Cerf was a member of the U.S. Presidential Information Technology Advisory Committee from 1997 to 2001 and serves on several national, state and industry cybersecurity committees. Cerf also sits on the board of associates of Gallaudet University. He served as chair of the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology for the National Institute of Standards and Technology from 1996 to 2013. He also serves as vice chairman and treasurer of the National Medals of Science and Technology Foundation. Cerf is a Fellow of the IEEE, ACM and American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Engineering Consortium, the Computer History Museum, the Annenberg Center for Communication, Leadership and Policy at USC, the Swedish Royal Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, the Hasso Platner Institute and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In 2011, he was made Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society. He is also president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
Cerf is a recipient of numerous additional awards and commendations in connection with his work on the Internet. These include the Marconi Fellowship, the National Academy of Engineering’s Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering, the Prince of Asturias Award for science and technology, the National Medal of Science from Tunisia, the St. Cyril and St. Methodius Order (Grand Cross) of Bulgaria, the Alexander Graham Bell Award, the NEC Computer and Communications Prize, the Silver Medal of the International Telecommunications Union, the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal, the IEEE Koji Kobayashi Award, the ACM Software and Systems Award, the ACM SIGCOMM Award, the Computer and Communications Industries Association Industry Legend Award, installation in the Inventors Hall of Fame, the Yuri Rubinsky Web Award, the Kilby Award, the Rotary Club International Paul P. Harris Medal, the Joseph Priestley Award from Dickinson College, the Yankee Group/Interop/Network World Lifetime Achievement Award, the George R. Stibitz Award, the Werner Wolter Award, the Andrew Saks Engineering Award, the IEEE Third Millennium Medal, the Computerworld/Smithsonian Leadership Award, the J.D. Edwards Leadership Award for Collaboration, World Institute on Disability annual award and the Library of Congress Bicentennial Living Legend medal. Cerf was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in May 2006. He was made an eminent member of the IEEE Eta Kappa Nu honor society in 2009. In 2010 he received a Lifetime Webby Award. In February 2011 he was named a Stanford Engineering School “Hero” for his work on the Internet and received a lifetime achievement award from the Oxford Internet Institute.
In December 1994, People magazine identified Cerf as one of that year’s “25 Most Intriguing People.”
In addition to his work on behalf of Google and the Internet, Cerf served as a technical advisor to production for Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict and made a special guest appearance on the program in May 1998. Cerf has appeared on the television program NextWave with Leonard Nimoy and co-hosted World Business Review with Alexander Haig and Caspar Weinberger. Cerf also holds an appointment as distinguished visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he is working on the design of an interplanetary Internet.
Cerf holds a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from Stanford University and master of science and PhD degrees in computer science from UCLA. He also holds honorary doctorate degrees from Yale University; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich; Lulea University of Technology, Sweden; University of the Balearic Islands, Palma; Capitol College, Md.; Gettysburg College, Pa.; George Mason University, Va.; Rovira i Virgili University, Tarragona, Spain; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.; the University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands; Brooklyn Polytechnic; Marymount University; the University of Pisa; the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications; Tschingua University, Beijing, China; the University of Zaragoza, Spain; the Technical University of Cartagena, Spain; the Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain; Bethany College, Kan.; the Moscow State University of International Relations; the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology; and Keio University, Tokyo, Japan.
His personal interests include fine wine, gourmet cooking and science fiction. Cerf and his wife, Sigrid, were married in 1966 and have two sons, David and Bennett.