Internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn are among the latest
Presidential Medal of Freedom winners. President Bush presented the medals,
the nation’s highest civilian honors, Wednesday afternoon at a White House
Cerf and Kahn concentrated on developing the architecture and
protocols for interconnecting different kinds of nets and the computers on
“Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn are brilliant men who found great success in
their chosen field and have played an extraordinary role in the story of our
time,” Bush said. “By developing a common digital language for computers
across networks, these two men prepared the way for a technological
In the early 1970s Cerf and Kahn developed the transmission control
protocol (TCP) while working for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA). The code allowed for the transmission of data over the
Internet. The work eventually laid the groundwork for the development of the
After the medal ceremonies, Cerf and Kahn participated in an online White
“There could not have been two more surprised people at the White House
today than the two of us,” the two said. “Most people will immediately
recognize most of the names on the list of Presidential Medal of Freedom
honorees, but although our names are not household words, our work in
creating the Internet now shows up in almost every corner of the world.”
They explained that, at first, no one saw the Internet coming out of their
work, including themselves.
“Initially it was an experiment, but over time it became clearer that
the technology had wide ranging potential,” Cerf and Kahn said. “With the
development of the personal computer in the late 1970s and early 1980s,
together with restructuring of the telecommunications industry in the
mid-1980s, the scene was set for widespread commercialization of
They also praised the National Science Foundation for fostering the adoption
of networking within the scientific and academic community and singled out
Congress for facilitating the commercialization of the Internet.
After his time at DARPA, Cerf worked for a number of years with WorldCom before
accepting his current position as chief Internet evangelist at search giant
He also serves as the chairman of the Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Web’s
domain name system.
Kahn is the chief executive of the U.S. Corporation for National Research
Initiatives, which provides funding for research and development into
national communication infrastructures.
Bush honored 12 other recipients, including Federal Reserve Chairman
Alan Greenspan, actors Carol Burnett and Andy Griffith, singer Aretha
Franklin and sports legends Jack Nicklaus and Frank Robinson.