Ralph Merkle

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Ralph C. Merkle (born February 2, 1952) is a researcher in public key cryptography, and more recently a researcher and speaker on molecular nanotechnology and cryonics. Merkle appears in the science fiction novel The Diamond Age, involving nanotechnology.



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. 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.

He was the manager of compiler development at Elxsi from 1980. In 1988, he became a research scientist at Xerox PARC. In 1999 he became a Nanotechnology Theorist for Zyvex. In 2003 he became a Distinguished Professor at Georgia Tech.[1] In 2006 he returned to the Bay Area, where he has been a Senior Research Fellow at IMM, a faculty member at Singularity University, and a Board member of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. He was awarded the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal in 2010.

Merkle devised a scheme for communication over an insecure channel: Merkle's Puzzles. He co-invented the Merkle–Hellman knapsack cryptosystem, Merkle–Damgård construction, and invented Merkle trees. While at Xerox PARC, Merkle designed the Khufu and Khafre block ciphers, and the Snefru hash function.

Merkle is married to Carol Shaw, the video game designer best known for her game, River Raid'[2]

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