Person: Davies (3), Donald
Donald Davies was a British physicist and mathematician who worked on the early development of computers and networks. His idea of 'packet switching' made the Internet, and ultimately the world wide web, possible.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- After primary school, Davies attended the Southern Grammar School for Boys in Portsmouth which had been founded in 1888.
- In 1943 Davies was awarded a B.Sc. with First Class Honours in Physics from Imperial College London.
- After the war ended in 1945, Davies was able to return to Imperial College, having one remaining year of his State Scholarship, and now study for a degree in mathematics.
- Arriving at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington in September 1947, Davies worked on the ACE Pilot Model which was being built following plans set out by Alan Turing.
- Davies worked in Turing's group and, although he had great admiration for Turing, he also found him difficult to work with.
- Turing left the NPL in 1948 but Davies continued to work with a group of mathematicians and engineers on the ACE Pilot Model led by Francis M Colebrook (born 1893).
- Quite soon, Davies became quite a celebrity.
- With the Harkness Fellowship, Davies went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but this proved an error since all work done there on computers was classified and could not be discussed with foreigners.
- Davies' most significant contribution was to the concept of 'packet switching', a fundamental idea in the development of the Internet.
- Following public presentation of his ideas, in late 1965 and early 1966, Davies became aware of Paul Baran's work ...
- In December 1965, Davies proposed that the British Post Office Telecommunications should build a prototype network; but NPL, which only had resources to build a small prototype network called the Mark 1 ...
- Davies would learn of parallel work going on under the US Department of Defense, funded Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) banner at a UK symposium and in 1967.
- He adopted Davies' term packet switching and some aspects of the NPL design, when considering the development of ARPANET.
- Davies authored, or co-authored, four books: Digital techniques (1963); (with D L A Barber) Communication networks for computers (1973); (with D L A Barber, W L Price and C M Solomonides) Computer networks and their protocols (1979); and (with W L Price) Security for computer networks (1984).
- The last of these books, Security for computer networks, marked the change in Davies' interests where he became interested in applying cryptography to computer security.
- Davies must have had a very full and busy time.
- Among the many honours Davies was awarded we mention the John Player Award from the British Computer Society in 1974, a C.B.E. in 1983, the John von Neumann Award from the Hungarian Computer Society in 1985, and his election as a fellow of the Royal Society in 1987.
- Davies was diagnosed with malignant melanoma and died in the Princess Alice Hospice, Esher, Surrey.
- An unassuming computer scientist working at the UK National Physical Laboratory, Donald's invention of packet switching is what made the Internet, and ultimately the world wide web, possible.
Born 7 June 1924, Treorchy, Rhondda Valley, Wales. Died 28 May 2000, Esher, Surrey, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive