In Memoriam: Bob Braden, Legendary Internet Pioneer and ISI Fellow Emeritus

April 20, 2018

Robert “Bob” Braden, a legendary internet
pioneer and fellow emeritus at USC Viterbi's Information
Sciences Institute (ISI), has died. He was 84.

Braden, who retired from ISI’s networking research group in 2016 after a 30-year tenure, played a pivotal role in the creation and development of the internet. 

During his long career, Braden contributed to fundamental internet communications protocols, operating standards and architecture. He co-edited the Request for Comments (RFC) document series, which laid the foundation for the internet’s technical standards. 

A fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, Braden was also active in the broader research community, leading and participating in multiple key task forces. He played a crucial role in the Internet Engineering Task Force, which required forging consensus between internet researchers, operators and industry.

“We all feel the great loss of a technology visionary and pioneer who made landmark contributions to the fields of networking and cybersecurity,” said ISI Michael Keston executive director Prem Natarajan.

“Bob was an exceptionally inventive thinker and thought-leader, who contributed to the development of many enduring innovations, not least the internet. More importantly, Bob was a dear friend, colleague and teacher, and will be deeply missed by everyone who was inspired by his work, learned from him and valued his friendship.”

Braden completed his bachelor’s degree in engineering physics at Cornell University in 1957, followed a master’s in physics from Stanford University in 1962. After graduation, he worked at Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and UCLA.

ISI Michael Keston Executive Director Prem Natarajan with Braden at his retirement celebration in 2016.

In 1970, he was responsible for connecting UCLA to the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANet), a precursor of the internet, via the first supercomputer. He also contributed to the TCP/IP communications protocol on which the internet still operates.

Braden, with internet luminary Jon Postel and other UCLA colleagues, moved to ISI in 1986, where Postel became the driving force behind the RFC, a cornerstone of the internet standards process. Following Postel's untimely death in 1998, Braden took over as RFC co-editor with the late computer scientist Joyce Reynolds, leading the community effort to define internet standards.

Braden and Reynolds received the Internet Society’s Jonathan B. Postel Service Award in 2006 for ensuring the quality of the RFC series.

In 2012, Braden was honored with an ACM SIGCOMM Test of Time Award for a highly influential paper, Tussle in Cyberspace: Defining Tomorrow's Internet,” which he co-authored with ISI’s John Wroclawski and MIT’s David Clark and Karen Sollins.

At Braden’s retirement celebrations on March 29, 2016, more than 60 colleagues and friends gathered in and outside the Information Sciences Institute's Marina del Rey headquarters to commemorate his 30-year tenure. The event closed with heartfelt applause and an enormous retirement cake for Braden, who was widely known for his thoughtfulness, constructive contributions and sense of humor.

“We have lost a great mind and a kind heart,” said Terry Benzel, ISI’s director of networking and security, who worked closely with Braden in the field of cybersecurity experimentation. “Bob was greatly admired by anyone who had the privilege to spend time with him. His legacy is immense.”