The Magic Box and the Spanning Tree: Radia Perlman Profiled in Hidden Heroes Series

July 7, 2022
Radia Perlman Portrait

Radia Perlman is considered by many to be one of the most critical individuals in the development of certain network protocols and algorithms that still support how the Internet we know today functions. 

In a recent in-depth profile on the life and career of Perlman (2014 Internet Hall of Fame inductee), Steven Johnson follows her career with steps along the way including her perseverance as the sole woman in her freshman undergraduate class at MIT to her development of the spanning tree protocol and her influence on younger professionals through her well-known 1992 textbook, Interconnections.

As the author notes, “We tend to focus on the glittery applications that we interact with directly—TikTok and Chrome and Spotify—but all those apps would be worthless without the quiet miracle of stable network architecture, seamlessly connecting servers and routers all around the world. That architecture was the product of many minds, each contributing small pieces to the puzzle that over time has given us the network stability that the entire world depends on. Radia Perlman contributed more than her fair share of those pieces over her long career—and probably did as much as anyone to explain how stable networks worked, teaching a whole generation of network designers in her wake.” 

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