Academics & Faculty

UCLA's Leonard Kleinrock to receive National Medal of Science

Internet pioneer recognized with nation's highest scientific honor

President George W. Bush announced today that UCLA Distinguished Professor of Computer Science Leonard Kleinrock has been selected to receive the prestigious National Medal of Science.
Established by Congress in 1959 and administered by the National Science Foundation, the medal is the nation's highest scientific honor. Kleinrock and seven other distinguished scientists will receive the medal at a White House ceremony on Sept. 29.
"I am thrilled and greatly honored," said Kleinrock, a member of UCLA's faculty since 1963, the year he received his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Kleinrock created the basic principles of packet switching, the technology underpinning the Internet. He developed the mathematical theory of data networks a decade before the Internet's birth, which occurred when his host computer at UCLA became the first node of what was then known as the ARPANET in September 1969. He wrote the first paper and published the first book on the subject, and directed the transmission of the first message to pass over the Internet.
He was also responsible for setting up and running the Network Measurement Center, which tested the limits of the early Internet to evaluate its performance and behavior and improve its operation.
"Leonard Kleinrock is an outstanding scholar and a highly influential pioneer of the Internet," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "His groundbreaking research has been instrumental in improving society and the way we live our lives. This honor is richly deserved."
Kleinrock is receiving the National Medal of Science for "fundamental contributions to the mathematical theory of modern data networks, for the functional specification of packet switching which is the foundation of Internet Technology, for mentoring generations of students and for leading the commercialization of technologies that have transformed the world," the National Science Foundation's citation reads.
UCLA became the first node of what was known as the ARPANET on Sept. 2, 1969, when Kleinrock led a team of engineers in establishing the first network connection between two computers, ushering in a new method of global communication.
The first network switch, known as an Interface Message Processor (IMP), arrived at UCLA on Labor Day weekend, 1969. The UCLA team led by Kleinrock had to connect the first host computer to the IMP. This was a challenging task, as no such connection had ever been attempted before. However, by the end of the first day, bits began moving between the UCLA computer and the IMP. By the next day, researchers had messages moving between the machines.
A month later, a second node was added at the Stanford Research Institute, and on Oct. 29, 1969, the first host-to-host message was launched from UCLA.
"When we sent that first message, there weren't any reporters, cameras, tape recorders or scribes to document that major event," Kleinrock said. "We knew we were creating an important new technology that we expected would be of use to a segment of the population, but we had no idea how truly momentous an event it was."
The ARPANET, which later became the Internet, was funded by the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency, created in 1958 to support scientific research in the United States.
By December 1969, four sites were connected: UCLA; the Stanford Research Institute; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and the University of Utah. UCLA was in charge of conducting a series of extensive tests to debug the network. Under Kleinrock's supervision, UCLA served for many years as the ARPANET Network Measurement Center.
Ten nodes spanning the United States had been connected by the summer of 1970. Kleinrock noted that the computer company which designed the original IMP — Bolt, Beranek and Newman — never imagined there would be a need for more than 64 host computers in the network and provided for only that number of connections.
E-mail was an ad hoc add-on to the network in those early days, Kleinrock said.
Kleinrock, the former chair of UCLA's computer science department, has supervised the research of 47 doctoral graduates and is the recipient of many honors and awards.
In 1980, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. In 2003, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots.
UCLA faculty members who have received the National Medal of Science include geography professor and biological scientist Jared Diamond (2000), engineer and physicist C. Kumar Patel (1996), biochemist Elizabeth Neufeld (1994), Nobel Prize–winning chemist Donald Cram (1993), chemist Richard Bernstein (1989), chemist Saul Winstein (1970), meteorologist Jacob Bjerknes (1966), geophysicist William Rubey (1965) and physicist Julian Schwinger (1964).
In addition to Kleinrock, this year's National Medal of Science recipients are Fay Ajzenberg-Selove (University of Pennsylvania), former UCLA chemistry professor Mostafa A. El-Sayed (Georgia Institute of Technology), Robert J. Lefkowitz (Duke University), Bert W. O'Malley (Baylor College of Medicine), Charles P. Slichter (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), David J. Wineland (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and former UCLA engineering professor Andrew J. Viterbi (University of Southern California).
The UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, established in 1945, offers 28 academic and professional degree programs, including an interdepartmental graduate degree program in biomedical engineering. Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools at public universities nationwide, the school is home to seven multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research centers, in space exploration, wireless sensor systems, nanotechnology, nanomanufacturing and nanoelectronics, all funded by federal and private agencies. For more information, visit
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 300 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Four alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.
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