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Ben Segal

Last Edit: 11/01/19

Ben Segal is viewed as one of the 'pioneers of the Internet' due to the role he played in the adoption of TCP/IP in Europe. For those of you who are unaware, the Internet runs upon the TCP/IP protocol suite, which was initially developed in the 1970s. From the 1970s to the 1980s, a 'protocol war' had developed between the North American TCP/IP protocol suite and European network stacks. European governments, such as France -- who helped fund European research organisations -- were largely opposed to the adoption of a North American (funded by the U.S. Department of Defense) computer network model, and hence, creating a global computer network was proving difficult. Therefore, the stage was set for computer scientists, such as Ben Segal, to promote the use of TCP/IP at European research organisations, and create the genesis of a global computer network that would be called the Internet.

Ben Segal
(Pictured: Ben Segal at the Internet Hall of Fame Induction 2014)

Ben Segal is a British scientist and mathematician who graduated from Imperial College London in the 1950's. He first worked at the UK Atomic Energy Authority, then the Detroit Edison Company, and finally at CERN from the 1970s until his retirement in 2002. Ben Segal is currently a CERN honorary member and a member of the Internet Hall of Fame. In 1985, CERN assigned Segal to coordinate the introduction of TCP/IP -- which would lead another CERN employee, Tim Berners-Lee, to create the World Wide Web. Tim Berners-Lee has previously described Ben Segal as a "mentor" and an early supporter of Berners-Lee's hypertext project.

Segal has stated that the first time an Internet protocol was used at CERN was during the STELLA Satellite Communication Project (1980-1983); which linked two remote local area networks (CERNET and Cambridge Ring). In 1984, Segal wrote a proposal to install TCP/IP protocols on mainframe machines located at CERN. Restrictions were imposed on Segal, such as ensuring that no external TCP/IP connections were made. Eventually, Segal and a small team at CERN, slowly adopted TCP/IP on CERN network hardware from 1985-1988. This was not without opposition from proponents of DECnet and other network systems. By 1989, Segal and his TCP/IP team at CERN, had largely managed to convince management of the credibility of the Internet protocols.

During this period Segal was also involved in helping other European networks adopt TCP/IP: in 1987, when Daniel Karrenberg visited Segal on behalf of EUnet, Segal advised him of the devices needed to adopt TCP/IP.

In January 1989, in a action referred to as the "big bang moment" by Segal, CERN officially adopted IP addresses and opened it's first external connection to the Internet. CERN would play a crucial role in the creation of Reseaux IP Europeens (RIPE) -- which manages the assignment of IP addresses in Europe -- and ensured the smooth connection of Europe to the Internet in the 1990s.