Whitfield Diffie

Whitfield Diffie

Awarded the Marconi Prize in 2000

Cited for his invention of public-key cryptography to protect privacy on the Internet.

Presented by: Chairman Martin Meyerson of The Marconi Foundation; President John Jay Iselin of that foundation at Columbia University, New York City.

Whitfield Diffie is best known for the discovery of the concept of public key cryptography, in 1975, which he developed along with Stanford University Electrical Engineering Professor Martin Hellman. Public key cryptography, which revolutionized not only cryptography but also the cryptographic community, now underlies the security of Internet commerce. During the 1980s, Diffie served as manager of secure systems research at Northern Telecom. In 1991, he joined Sun Microsystems as distinguished engineer and remained as Sun fellow and chief security officer until the spring of 2009. Diffie spent the 1990s working to protect the individual and business right to use encryption, for which he argues in the book “Privacy on the Line, the Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption,” written jointly with Susan Landau. Diffie is an ACM Turing Laureate, a Marconi fellow and the recipient of a number of awards including the National Computer Systems Security Award (given jointly by NIST and NSA) and the Franklin Institute’s Levy Prize.