Discovery of Public Key Cryptography with Whitfield Diffie (2015 Turing Award)

2015 Turing Award recipient Whitfield Diffie tells the story of how he discovered public key cryptography and the Diffie-Hellman key exchange. Whit was first introduced to cryptography at school, but didn’t return to it until after the completion of his degree at MIT, when he was working as a researcher at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. He describes a chance meeting between his boss John McCarthy and Larry Roberts, where the issue of network security was first mentioned. When John returned to Stanford and explained this new problem Whit was instantly hooked. This led him to travel the country visiting researchers at Harvard, MIT, IBM Watson, and the NSA to try to learn as much as he could about cryptography. Eventually, he met Martin Hellman and as they say, the rest is history…

Interview with Whitfield Diffie recorded at the 2021 Heidelberg Laureate Forum.

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