Martin E. Hellman is best known for his invention, with Diffie and Merkle, of public key cryptography, the technology that, among other uses, enables secure Internet transactions. It is used to transfer literally trillions of dollars every day. He has been a long-time contributor to the computer privacy debate, and was a key participant in the "first crypto war" of the late 1970s and early 80s that established the right of academic cryptographic researchers to publish their papers, free of government interference.
His work has been recognized by a number of honors and awards, including election to the National Academy of Engineering, induction as one of the first two dozen "Stanford Engineering Heroes," the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and the Marconi International Fellowship – and, most recently, the 2015 ACM Turing Award, often called "the Nobel Prize of Computer Science." More detailed information is available on his honors and awards, his university service, and his professional and civic service.
Hellman has a deep interest in the ethics of technological development, and one of his current activities is applying risk analysis to a potential failure of nuclear deterrence. That approach has been endorsed by a number of prominent individuals including former Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) Adm. Bobby Inman and Stanford's President Emeritus Donald Kennedy.
He and his wife Dorothie wrote a book, A New Map for Relationships: Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet, that is now on sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers. Click to download a free PDF (1.2 MB) of the full book. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry recommended that it "should be read by married couples seeking peace at home, as well as by diplomats seeking peace in the world." It shows how the changes needed to build a strong marriage or other relationship are the same ones needed to build a more peaceful, sustainable world. They are using his half of the $1 million ACM Turing Award to promote those ideas.
During the 1980's, Prof. Hellman helped develop a meaningful dialog between the Soviet and American scientific communities on how human thinking had to evolve for survival in the nuclear age. This effort culminated in his co-editing a book with Prof. Anatoly Gromyko of Moscow. Breakthrough: Emerging New Thinking was published simultaneously in Russian and English in 1987 during the rapid change in Soviet-American relations.
His efforts to overcome ethnic tension within the university have been recognized by three awards from minority student organizations.
Born in New York, NY in October 1945, he received his B.E. from New York University in 1966, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1967 and 1969, all in Electrical Engineering.
Prof. Hellman was at IBM's Watson Research Center from 1968-69 and an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT from 1969-71. Returning to Stanford in 1971, he served on the regular faculty until becoming Professor Emeritus in 1996. He has authored over seventy technical papers (click for publication list), twelve US patents and a number of foreign equivalents.
Hellman has been involved with a number of high-tech startups, serving variously as a founder, advisor, and investor. In his spare time, he enjoys people, soaring, speed skating, and hiking, although the latter three are infrequent in recent years.
Students interested in meeting with him can reach him by email: martydevoe followed by the AT symbol, then gmail DOTCOM.