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Ralph Merkle

Ralph Merkle
BornFebruary 2 1952 (1952-02-02) (age 60)
Citizenship American
Nationality American
FieldPublic key cryptography, Molecular nanotechnology, and Cryonics
InstitutionsGeorgia Tech College of Computing
Alcor Life Extension Foundation

Ralph C. Merkle (born February 2, 1952) is a pioneer 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, as one of the heroes of the world where nanotechnology is ubiquitous.


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 was awarded a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, with a thesis titled Secrecy, authentication and public key systems. He was a distinguished professor in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology.[1] Ralph Merkle is the great grandnephew of baseball star Fred Merkle, the son of Theodore Charles Merkle, a contralador of the Project Pluto and the brother of Judith Merkle Riley, a historical writer.

In addition to his work at Georgia Tech, Merkle is also a director of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, of Arizona. In industry, Ralph C. Merkle was the manager of compiler development at Elxsi from 1980. In 1988, he became a research scientist at Xerox PARC, until 1999. Subsequently he worked as a nanotechnology theorist for Zyvex, returning to academia in 2003 as a Distinguished Professor at Georgia Tech.[1]

Whitfield Diffie has described Merkle as "possibly the single most inventive character in the public-key saga." Merkle devised an early scheme for communication over an insecure channel: Merkle's Puzzles. He also co-invented the Merkle-Hellman public key cryptosystem, the Merkle-Damgård construction, and invented Merkle trees. While at Xerox PARC, Merkle designed the Khufu and Khafre block ciphers, and the Snefru hash function.


  1. ^ a b Georgia Institute of Technology (2003-07-15). "Cybersecurity Pioneer Selected to Lead Information Security Center at Georgia Tech". Press release. Retrieved on 2007-03-17.


  • Ralph C. Merkle, Secrecy, authentication, and public key systems (Computer science), UMI Research Press, 1982, ISBN 0-8357-1384-9.
  • Robert A. Freitas, Ralph C. Merkle, Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, Landes Bioscience, 2004, ISBN 1-57059-690-5.
  • Paul Kantor (Ed), Gheorghe Mureşan (Ed), Fred Roberts (Ed), Daniel Zeng (Ed), Frei-Yue Wang (Ed), Hsinchun Chen (Ed), Ralph Merkle (Ed), "Intelligence and Security Informatics" : IEEE International Conference on Intelligence and Security Informatics, ISI 2005, Atlanta, GA, USA, May 19-20, ... (Lecture Notes in Computer Science), Springer, 2005, ISBN 3-540-25999-6.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ralph_Merkle". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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