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Remembering Peter Kirstein (1933 - 2020)

January 9, 2020

2012 Internet Hall of Fame inductee Peter Kirstein, who started the first European ARPANET node with transatlantic IP connectivity, died on Wednesday at his home in London, according to the New York Times. He was 86.

Professor Kirstein, often recognized as the “father of the European Internet” for this work, established that node with his research group at the University of London in 1973.

Because of this, he is also widely recognized for forging a cultural milestone in British history when he put Queen Elizabeth on the Internet three years later and enabled her to become one of the first heads of state to send an email. Indeed, he was responsible for choosing her user name, HME2, short for “Her Majesty, Elizabeth II.”

But his contributions to the growth of the Internet in Europe went far beyond royalty. Professor Kirstein embraced TCP/IP protocols in his London research lab at a time when competing protocols were being promoted by international standards groups.

Professor Kirstein’s adoption of TCP/IP was significant to the way the Internet has developed. The competing protocols were backed by European governments, telephone monopolies and other corporate interests. Meanwhile, TCP/IP was defined only by a self-governing community dependent on volunteers. TCP/IP might have seemed risky to some, but it was true to the spirit of the Internet’s early pioneers to keep the Internet open and accessible, and Professor Kirstein was a champion of this spirit.

His bold and influential move helped spread TCP/IP throughout Europe, and helped promote the global, multistakeholder approach to Internet governance that endures today.