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The Eulogizer: Internet ‘father,’ sculptor

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Paul Baran, 84, engineer, Internet ‘creator’

Paul Baran, an engineer who outlined one of the core principles of the Internet in the early 1960s and an entrepreneur who later started companies that went public, died March 26 at 84 in Palo Alto, Calif.

Baran outlined the basic idea for what has become the Internet while working at RAND Corp., a think tank with close Defense Department ties, in the early 1960s. His idea was to transmit data in a safe fashion by dividing it into “packets,” sending the packets to their destination along separate routes, using redundant routes as well, and then “reassembling” them into a single file.

The Defense Department, which later built Arpanet, the original Internet-style computer network, developed the idea as a way to permit communications even in the event of military or nuclear attack, so that even if some routes failed or were destroyed, messages could still get through.

Colleagues and friends described Baran’s ideas and research as essential to the concept. “Paul wasn’t afraid to go in directions counter to what everyone else thought was the right or only thing to do,” said Google Vice President Vinton Cerf.

Baran, for his part, declined to take credit for development of the Internet. “The Internet is really the work of a thousand people,” he said in 2001. “If you are not careful you can con yourself into believing that you did the most important part. But the reality is that each contribution has to follow onto previous work. Everything is tied to everything else.”

Baran left RAND in 1968 and became a co-founder of Institute for the Future, a think tank, and several telecommunications companies, including Metricom, Com21.com.

Baran was born in Grodno, Poland, and moved to the United States two years later. He grew up in Philadelphia, where his father was a grocer. He received a Master’s Degree in engineering at UCLA and worked at Hughes Aircraft, before moving to RAND, where he began his research into distributed communications under contract to the U.S. Air Force.

RAND’s own history describes the atmosphere at the time: “In 1962, a nuclear confrontation seemed imminent. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic were embroiled in the Cuban missile crisis. Both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R were in the process of building hair-trigger nuclear ballistic missile systems. Each country pondered post-nuclear attack scenarios.” The problem the Air Force set before Baran was this: “U.S. authorities considered ways to communicate in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. How could any sort of ‘command and control network’ survive?”

Baran received a National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush in 2007.

Baran’s son David said that one of his father’s 1966 research papers speculated about what people might do in the future with the telecommunications networks then being developed: "It spelled out this idea that by the year 2000 that people would be using online networks for shopping and news," he said. "It was an absolute lunatic fringe idea."

Stanley Bleifeld, 86, sculptor

Stanley Bleifeld, a sculptor whose public monuments include the statue of the Lone Sailor U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Baseball Players at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., died March 25 at 86.

Bleifeld, who was born in Brooklyn, became known as a sculptor after a five-part bronze relief he designed for the Vatican Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.

Bleifeld divided his time between Weston, Conn., where he taught and worked, and Pietrasanta, Italy, where he recently completed a large bronze for the town hall.

His work is in the private collections of Harry Reasoner, Coretta Scott King, Pandit Nehru, Nancy duPont Acheson, Alexis duPont, Malcolm Forbes, and others.

Former student, Steffi Friedman, a sculptor, said she was indebted to Bleifeld for his “knowledge passed on and his generosity of spirit in his teaching.”

Images of his work are available here and on his website.
 

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