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Ralph Merkle

Ralph Merkle
Merkle at the Singularity Summit 2007
Born (1952-02-02) February 2, 1952
Citizenship American
Nationality American
Fields Public key cryptography, molecular nanotechnology, cryonics
Alma mater
Thesis Secrecy, authentication and public key systems
Doctoral advisor Martin Hellman
Known for
Spouse Carol Shaw

Ralph C. Merkle (born February 2, 1952) is a computer scientist. He is one of the inventors of public key cryptography, the inventor of cryptographic hashing, and more recently a researcher and speaker on molecular nanotechnology and cryonics.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Contributions 2
  • Career 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Awards 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life and education

Merkle graduated from Livermore High School in 1970 and proceeded to study computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, obtaining his B.A. in 1974, and his M.S. in 1977. In 1979 he received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University, with a thesis entitled Secrecy, authentication and public key systems; his advisor was Martin Hellman.


Merkle devised a scheme for communication over an insecure channel: Merkle's puzzles as part of a class project while an undergraduate.[2] The scheme is now recognized to be an early example of public key cryptography. He co-invented the Merkle–Hellman knapsack cryptosystem, invented cryptographic hashing (now called the Merkle–Damgård construction based on a pair of articles published 10 years later that established the security of the scheme), and invented Merkle trees. While at Xerox PARC, Merkle designed the Khufu and Khafre block ciphers, and the Snefru hash function.


Merkle was the manager of

  • Ralph Merkle's personal website
  • Oral history interview with Martin Hellman Oral history interview 2004, Palo Alto, California. Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Hellman describes his invention of public key cryptography with collaborators Whitfield Diffie and Ralph Merkle at Stanford University in the mid-1970s. He also relates his subsequent work in cryptography with Steve Pohlig (the Pohlig–Hellman system) and others.

External links

  1. ^ Merkle, R. C. (1988). "Advances in Cryptology — CRYPTO '87". Lecture Notes in Computer Science 293. p. 369.  
  2. ^ Garfinkel, Simson (1994). Pretty Good Privacy. O'Reilly and Associates. 
  3. ^ "Cybersecurity Pioneer Selected to Lead Information Security Center at Georgia Tech" (Press release).  
  4. ^ "IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal Recipients" (PDF).  
  5. ^ a b "Ralph C. Merkle". Retrieved 2013-11-25. My wife is Carol Shaw. My sister, Judith Merkle Riley, wrote historical novels. My father, Theodore Charles Merkle, ran Project Pluto. My great uncle was Fred Merkle, of baseball fame. 
  6. ^ "Alcor Board of Directors".  
  7. ^ "Ralph Merkle - Award Winner". ACM. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  8. ^ "1998 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology". 1998-09-04. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  9. ^ "Koji Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award". IEEE. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  10. ^ "Information Security, Governance, Risk, and Compliance - EMC". RSA. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  11. ^ "Ralph Merkle, IACR Fellow". 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  12. ^ "CISAC's scholars awarded for invention of public key cryptography". Stanford University. 2009-12-09. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  13. ^ "Computer History Museum | Fellow Awards - Ralph Merkle". Retrieved 2013-11-25. 
  14. ^ "Invent Now | Hall of Fame | Induction | 2011 Inductees". 1952-02-02. Retrieved 2013-11-25. 


  • Ralph C. Merkle, Secrecy, authentication, and public key systems (Computer science), UMI Research Press, 1982, ISBN 0-8357-1384-9.
  • Robert A. Freitas Jr., Ralph C. Merkle, Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, Landes Bioscience, 2004, ISBN 1-57059-690-5.
  • Paul Kantor (Ed), Gheorghe Mureşan (Ed), Fred Roberts (Ed), Daniel Zeng (Ed), Frei-Yue Wang (Ed), Hsinchun Chen (Ed), Ralph Merkle (Ed), "Intelligence and Security Informatics" : IEEE International Conference on Intelligence and Security Informatics, ISI 2005, Atlanta, GA, USA, May 19–20, ... (Lecture Notes in Computer Science), Springer, 2005, ISBN 3-540-25999-6.
  • Interview at Google Videos in the Death in the Deep Freeze documentary (August 2, 2006)
  • Nova Southeastern University, Nanotechnology Expert Ralph Merkle to Speak on "Life and Death" (August 2008)

See also


Merkle appears in the science fiction novel The Diamond Age, involving nanotechnology.

Merkle is on the Board of Directors of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.[6]

Ralph Merkle is the grandnephew of baseball star Fred Merkle, the son of Theodore Charles Merkle, director of Project Pluto and the brother of Judith Merkle Riley, a historical writer.[5] Merkle is married to Carol Shaw,[5] the video game designer best known for her game, River Raid.

Personal life

[4] in 2010.IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal. He was awarded the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, and a board member of the Singularity University In 2006 he returned to the Bay Area, where he has been a senior research fellow at IMM, a faculty member at [3]

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