Raymond Samuel Tomlinson was born in Amsterdam, New York in 1941. He attended college at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he participated in an internship program with IBM and received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1963. He then went on to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), earning an S.M. in electrical engineering in 1965.
In 1967, he joined the legendary research and development company Bolt Beranek and Newman (now Raytheon BBN Technologies). At BBN, he helped develop the TENEX operating system, including implementations of the ARPANET and TELNET protocols. In 1971, he developed ARPANET's first application for network email by combining the SNDMSG and CPYNET programs, allowing messages to be sent to users on other computers. He chose the @ sign to separate local from global emails in the mailing address. Person to person network email was born and user@host became the standard for email addresses, as it remains today.
Tomlinson's email program brought about a complete revolution, fundamentally changing the way people communicate, including the way businesses, from huge corporations to tiny mom-and-pop shops, operate and the way millions of people shop, bank, and keep in touch with friends and family, whether they are across town or across oceans. Today, tens of millions of email-enabled devices are in use every day. Email remains the most popular application, with over a billion and a half users spanning the globe and communicating across the traditional barriers of time and space.
In 2000, Tomlinson received the George R. Stibitz Computer Pioneer Award from the American Computer Museum. In 2001, he was honored with a Webby Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and was inducted into the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame. In 2002, Discover Magazine awarded him its Innovation Award. In 2004, he earned the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Internet Award. He was named the Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for Technical and Scientific Research in 2009. In 2011, he was honored with the Eduard Rhein Kulturpreis Cultural Award. He is ranked number four on the MIT list of top 150 innovators and ideas from MIT.