The internet’s fifth man: Louis Pouzin helped create the internet. Now he is campaigning to ensure that its design continues to evolve and improve in future

At a glitzy ceremony at Buckingham Palace this summer, Queen Elizabeth II honoured five pioneers of computer networking. Four of the men who shared the new £1m ($1.6m) Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering are famous: Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, authors of the protocols that underpin the internet; Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web; and Marc Andreessen, creator of the first successful web browser. But the fifth man is less well known. He is Louis Pouzin, a garrulous Frenchman whose contribution to the field is every bit as seminal.In the early 1970s Mr Pouzin created an innovative data network that linked locations in France, Italy and Britain. Its simplicity and efficiency pointed the way to a network that could connect not just dozens of machines, but millions of them. It captured the imagination of Dr Cerf and Dr Kahn, who included aspects of its design in the protocols that now power the internet. Yet in the late 1970s France’s government withdrew its funding for Mr Pouzin’s project. He watched as the internet swept across the world, ultimately vindicating him and his work. “Recognition has come very, very late for Louis,” says Dr Cerf. “Unfairly so.”

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