We all know about Ada Lovelace, and her work as the first computer programmer. (You do know about her, don’t you?)
Today, however, I’m going to talk a little bit about Dr. Radia Joy Perlman, another great woman in the history of computer science. . . and one of the most important people in technology today, period.
Dr. Perlman is the creator of the algorithm for the Spanning Tree Protocol, a topic any networking student is intimately famliar with. Without STP, swithed networks (and internetworks) as we know them today wouldn’t be possible. She also worked on routing protocols, such as IS-IS and OSPF, increasing efficiency and fault-tolerance. At age 37, she earned her PhD in computer science from MIT, discussing the very topic she’s famous for in her doctoral thesis.
Currently a Fellow at Intel, Dr. Perlman has worked for Sun Microsystems, (where she filed for over 50 patents for her work,) and Digital Equipment Corporation. It was while at DEC she worked on her algorithm for STP. She’s written two books,Interconnections: Bridges, Routers, Switches, and Internetworking Protocols and Network Security: Private Communication in a Public World, both of which still pop up as required reading for networking classes and as recommended reading for certain IT certifiations.
When asked to explain her seminal work, she famously replied, “The protocol is really very simple, I can summarize it in a poem!”
I think that I shall never see
a graph more lovely than a tree.
A tree whose crucial property
is loop-free connectivity.
A tree that must be sure to span
so packets can reach every LAN.
First, the root must be selected.
By ID, it is elected.
Least-cost paths from root are traced.
In the tree, these paths are placed.
A mesh is made by folks like me,
then bridges find a spanning tree.
More reading on Dr. Perlman and her work: