Peter T. Kirstein

Peter Thomas Kirstein CBE FREng DFBCS (20 June 1933 – 8 January 2020) was a British computer scientist who played a role in the creation of the Internet. He put the first computer on the ARPANET outside of the US and was instrumental in defining and implementing TCP/IP alongside Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. He is "often recognized as the father of the European Internet".[1]

Peter Kirstein
Peter Thomas Kirschstein

(1933-06-20)20 June 1933
Berlin, Germany
Died8 January 2020(2020-01-08) (aged 86)
London, England
EducationHighgate School
Cambridge University
Stanford University

Life and careerEdit

Kirstein was born on 20 June 1933 in Berlin, Germany, the son of Eleanor (Jacobsohn) and Walter Kirschstein.[2] His parents were dentists, and his father was awarded the Iron Cross during WWI. His family was Jewish and his mother had British citizenship from being born in London, so, fearing for their safety in Nazi-governed-Germany the family migrated to the UK in 1937.[2] He was educated at Highgate School in North London,[3] received a B.A. from Cambridge University in 1954, an MSc and PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University (in 1955 and 1957, respectively) and a D.Sc. in engineering from the University of London in 1970.

He was a member of the staff at CERN from 1959 to 1963. He did research for General Electric at Zurich from 1963 to 1967. He was a professor at the University of London from 1970 to 1973. After that, he joined the faculty at the University College London, serving as head of the computer science department from 1980 to 1994. He supervised Jon Crowcroft.

Internet developmentEdit

Kirstein's research group at University College London was one of the first international connections on the ARPANET in 1973, alongside Norwegian Seismic Array (NORSAR) and Sweden's Tanum Earth Station.[4] This later grew into the trans-Atlantic SATNET. Early in the development of the Internet, he co-authored (with Vint Cerf) one of the most significant early technical papers on the internetworking concept.[5] His research group at UCL adopted TCP/IP in 1982, a year ahead of ARPANET, and played a significant role in the very earliest experimental Internet work.[6][7][8]


He was awarded the CBE for his work on the Internet. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society. He has also received the SIGCOMM Award in 1999 for "contributions to the practical understanding of large-scale networks through the deployment of international testbeds", and the Postel Award in 2003, as well as various other awards for his contributions to the development of the Internet internationally.

In 2012, Kirstein was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society.[9] In 2015, he was awarded the prestigious Marconi Prize.[1]

Later lifeEdit

Peter Kirstein passed away from a brain tumour on the morning of 8 January 2020 while in his home. Shortly after his death, Prof. Steve Hailes, current Head of Department, wrote about him: "Peter was very widely recognised as a pioneer of the Internet and has many honours to his name [...] Much of this was undoubtedly down to an incredibly logical mind, coupled with a level of interest, vision and determination that saw him retire only late last year at the age of 86. [...] Peter was also deeply empathetic and sensitive: he was both gentleman and a gentle man, he was a source of encouragement and sage advice, he was persuasive, open-minded, fair and never afraid to learn something new or to admit that he didn’t know."[10][2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Peter Kirstein to receive Marconi Prize". Marconi Society. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Peter Kirstein, Father of the European Internet, Is Dead at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  3. ^ Highgate School Register 7th Edn 1833–1988, Ed. Patrick Hughes & Ian F Davies 1989
  4. ^ Brown, Ian, ed. (2013). Research handbook on governance of the Internet. Edward Elgar. p. 7. ISBN 1849805040.
  5. ^ Cerf, V. G.; Kirstein, P. T. (1978). "Issues in packet-network interconnection". Proceedings of the IEEE. 66 (11): 1386. doi:10.1109/PROC.1978.11147.
  6. ^ Martin, Olivier (2012). The "Hidden" Prehistory of European Research Networking. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 1466938722.
  7. ^ Kirstein, Peter T. "Early experiences with the ARPANET and Internet in the UK". Department of Computer Science, Systems and Networks Research Group, University College London. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  8. ^ Cade Metz (25 December 2012). "How the Queen of England Beat Everyone to the Internet". Wired. Archived from the original on 19 July 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  9. ^ 2012 Inductees, Internet Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 24 April 2012
  10. ^ Fisher, Lawrence M. "In Memoriam Peter T. Kirstein: 1933-2020". Retrieved 10 January 2020.

External linksEdit