Radia Perlman

Dr. Perlman’s work has had a profound impact on how networks self-organize and move data. Her innovations enable today’s link state routing protocols to be robust, scalable, and easy to manage.

The particular protocol she designed in the 1980s (IS-IS) continues to flourish for routing IP today. She designed the spanning tree algorithm that transformed Ethernet from the original limited-scalability, single-wire CSMA/CD, into a protocol that can handle large clouds. Later, she improved on spanning tree-based Ethernet by designing TRILL (TRansparent Interconnection of Lots of Links), which allows Ethernet to make optimal use of bandwidth. Her textbook Interconnections made a science out of the murky field of network protocols.

She is also coauthor of Network Security, another very popular college textbook. Her contributions to network security include trust models for Public Key Infrastructure, data expiration, and distributed algorithms resilient despite malicious participants. She believes that designs should allow zero-configuration operation, and that where configuration is allowed, misconfiguration should not be possible.

She has taught courses at the University of Washington, Harvard University and MIT, and has been the keynote speaker at events all over the world. Perlman holds over 100 issued patents and is the recipient of awards such as Lifetime Achievement awards from Usenix and the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Data Communication (SIGCOMM).

Her B.S and M.S. degrees were in mathematics from MIT, and her PhD was in Computer Science from MIT.

Watch an interview on her contribution.