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2011 timeline of major high tech awards: Cryptographers, Unix pioneers lead the way

Public key cryptography's Diffie, Hellman and Merkle enter two halls of fame

By , Network World
June 06, 2011 06:08 AM ET

Network World - The public key encryption scheme developed by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman in the mid-1970s - and influenced by the work of Ralph Merkle - has now made them all pretty darn famous some three-plus decades later: All three have been inducted in 2011 into the Computer History Museum Hall of Fellows and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

It's also been a good year for Unix pioneers: Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson split the $600,000 Japan Prize in information and communications, while Sun co-founder and BSD Unix pioneer Bill Joy gained entry into the Computer History Museum Hall of Fellows.

See interactive timeline

These are among the notable 2011 honors in the IT/computing/telecom field to be awarded so far, and more is to come (Note: some "2011" awards were announced in late 2010). Here's a rundown:

November 2010: Franklin Institute Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computing and Cognitive Science. Carnegie Mellon University professor of psychology and computer science John Anderson won the 2011 award for the development of the first large-scale computational theory of the process by which humans perceive, learn and reason, and its application to computer tutoring systems. Awards were presented in April. 

December 2010: IEEE Medal of Honor and Alexander Graham Bell Medal. The IEEE Medal of Honor winner is Morris Chang, founding chairman and CEO of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. "He greatly influenced industry business models and was a key contributor to Texas Instruments' rise as the leading integrated circuit company in the world," according to the IEEE. The Graham Bell Medal, "For exceptional contributions to the advancement of communications sciences and engineering," goes to Stanford University professor emeritus Paulraj Arogyaswami for "pioneering contributions to the application of multiantenna technology to wireless communications systems." More info.

January 2011: Japan Prize. Dennis Ritchie, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff Emeritus, Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent, and Ken Thompson, Distinguished Engineer, Google, were honored with the 2011 Japan Prize in information and communications for developing Unix in 1969 while researchers at Bell Labs. The Japan Prize Foundation awards prizes annually to scientists and researchers who, regardless of nationality, made substantial contributions to their field and to the world.

March 2011: National Inventors Hall of Fame: Living inductees in the IT field included public key cryptography pioneers Whitfield Diffie, Martin Hellman and Ralph Merkle; Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver, for their work on the optically scanned barcode. Historical inductees included Alexander Graham Bell cohort Thomas Watson, for improvements to the telephone. More info. 

March 2011: A.M. Turing Award. Leslie Valiant, a versatile computer scientist at Harvard University whose work has impacted everything from artificial intelligence to distributed computing, has been named the winner of the 2010 A.M. Turing Award (the 2010 award is announced in 2011).

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