Peter Kirstein was a phenomenal individual and a dear friend and colleague to many in the UCL community and beyond. His achievements reach far beyond founding the department.
Who was Peter Kirstein?
Peter Thomas Kirstein CBE FREng DFBCS FIET FInstP (20 June 1933 – 8 January 2020) was a British computer scientist who played a role in the creation of the Internet. He put the first computer on the ARPANET outside of the US and was instrumental in defining and implementing TCP/IP alongside Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. He is "often recognized as the father of the European Internet".
Founder of UCL Computer Science
Peter was a professor at the University of London Institute of Computer Science (ICS) from 1970 to 1973. After that, he joined the faculty at the University College London in 1973 (UCL Department of Statistics and Computer Science), serving as head of the computer science department from 1980 to 1994.
Professor Steve Hailes, Head of Department for UCL Computer Science:
Peter was instrumental in shaping and setting the Department on the course that has seen it become what it is today.
He was very widely recognised as a pioneer of the early Internet but he also played an important role in the development of network security protocols, video conferencing, multicast, directory services, secure e-mail, certificate authorities, and IPv6. He was instrumental in delivering effective Internet connectivity to the Caucasus and Central Asia as project manager of the SILK project.
Much of his achievements were undoubtedly down to an incredibly logical mind, coupled with a level of interest, vision and determination that saw him retire only in late 2019, at the age of 86, and only then when he knew he was unwell.
Peter was also deeply empathetic and sensitive: he was both gentleman and a gentle man, he was a source of encouragement and sage advice, he was persuasive, open-minded, fair and never afraid to learn something new or to admit that he didn’t know.
He retained a passionate interest in the Department of Computer Science at UCL to the very end of his life, and will be greatly missed by those of us who had the good fortune to know him and work with him.