Irish physicist inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame

8 Apr 2014

Physicist Dennis Jennings

Irishman Dennis Jennings, who made a fateful decision in 1983 on TCP/IP while working in the US that decided the course leading to the internet we know today, has been inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame and named an Internet Pioneer.

In 1983, Jennings was in charge of the supercomputer programme at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, to deploy a protocol known as TCP/IP in a network linking various university research departments across the country.

Jennings effectively made the decision between a standard known as OSI (open systems interconnection) and TCP/IP, which Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn created in the Seventies. Until that point, the internet existed in the form of Arpanet and was in the hands of the military and scientific community.

Jennings’ decision made the internet available to the world

As director of computing services at University College Dublin (UCD) from 1977-1999, Jennings served on several national and international research and academic networking initiatives in Ireland and Europe. He was responsible for the development of the .ie domain name services.

In the 1990s, he became interested in angel investing, and he left UCD to pursue his commercial interests. He served on the board of ICANN from 2007-2010, and chaired the Irish National Centre for High-end Computing Oversight Board from 2006-2012. Jennings earned a PhD in physics (astrophysics) from UCD in 1972.

The Internet Hall of Fame notes: “Dr Jennings was responsible for the design and development of the NSFnet Program. Jennings developed a vision of an open network of networks – an internet – designed to serve all of US research and higher education. Jennings’ selection of the DARPA TCP/IP internet protocol suite, and his insistence on its deployment across NSFnet, was a key contribution. The NSFnet Program stimulated the development of many regional research and education networks, and it connected them to campus networks, to supercomputing centres and their networks, and to the first (interim) NSFnet backbone (and later to US federal agency networks, and international research and education networks). NSFnet eventually became a major part of the internet backbone.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years