Women in Tech: Radia Perlman & the Spanning Tree Protocol


About Dr. Radia Perlman

There are few people in the field of communications and networking who have as many accolades and titles as Dr. Radia Perlman. We could go on and on about her accomplishments in math and music and programming, motherhood, academics, and community service. She’s all of these things. Because of her work.The Internet is safer and more efficient for everyone around the world who uses it to check their email or tweet from their smartphones and laptops. An author, computer scientist, Internet pioneer, inventor and network engineer, poet, and leader.


At Digital Equipment Corporation.Radia Perlman invented the Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), which is essential to network bridges, while working as a software and network engineer. As an undergraduate at MIT, Perlman developed TORTIS (Toddler’s Own Recursive Turtle Interpreter System), an adaptation of LOGO (the educational robotics language) for children. As a result of her efforts, she has been dubbed a pioneer in the field of teaching computer programming to children.

Apart from STP, she has also played a key role in developing Link State Protocols and transforming Ethernet into a method for building large networks throughout her career. Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award for Innovation in 2005, the Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award for Innovation in 2004, USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award, inductions into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Internet Hall of Fame, and the USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award.

In less than a week, she wrote the algorithm for STP, culminating her efforts by creating a humorous poem to describe her invention. She worked at Novell, Digital, Sun, Intel, and EMC throughout her career. She continued to fine-tune and eventually replace STP with better systems that would enable complex systems of computers to communicate more seamlessly with one another. Currently, she holds more than 100 patents. In addition, she has written two books: Interconnections: Bridges, Routers, Switches, and Internetworking Protocols and Network Security: Private Communication in a Public World (both published in 2015), available on Amazon.


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