Radia Perlman – “Don’t Call Me Mother of the Internet”
Who’s going to break the news to Al Gore? Radia Perlman, often described as the ‘Mother of the Internet,’ insists that, “The Internet was not invented by any individual.”
Perlman did, however, create the algorithm behind the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), which is an essential part of the Internet’s underlying foundation.
As a child, Perlman put a lot of pressure on herself to get straight A’s. Although she excelled at all subjects, she naturally gravitated to math and science because she could control her grades by just knowing the right answer. Although her mother was a mathematician/computer programmer, similar to the women of ENIAC, the two rarely spoke about programming.
Perlman went on to MIT, just one of handful of females in her class (~50 of 1,000 students). In 2000, Perlman published her textbook “Interconnections,” greatly simplifying network routing and bridging. “My book created order,” she later said. “It was easy to understand while being conceptually thought-provoking, and a large part of the technology described was stuff I’d invented.”
Despite her success, Perlman keeps a level head and credits others equally for her success: “In engineering, the point is to get the job done, and people are happy to help. You should be generous with credit, and you should be happy to help others.