Ronald L. Rivest, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in the EECS Department is MIT’s James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award winner for 2010-2011 as announced yesterday at the MIT faculty meeting and subsequently reported by the MIT News Office.
“He is one of the founding fathers of modern cryptography, especially of public key cryptography and digital signature methods,” said Alan Oppenheim, the Ford Professor of Engineering in EECS and chair of the Killian Award selection committee, reading from the award citation. “It was the work of Professor Rivest and his colleagues Leonard Adelman and Adi Shamir that led to the design of a public key system, now known universally as the RSA system after its inventors, that was robust to sophisticated attack. The RSA code is a wonderful example of elegant and abstract theory eventually having immense practical impact.”
The Killian Award, established in 1971 as a tribute to MIT's 10th president, recognizes extraordinary professional accomplishment by an MIT faculty member. The winner is asked to deliver a lecture in the spring term.
Ron Rivest is also noted in this announcement for his important contributions in many other areas of computer science, including computer-aided design of integrated circuits, data structures and computer algorithms. He is acknowledged as an early contributor to the field of machine learning.
Rivest is also known as a dedicated mentor and educator. His textbook Introduction to Algorithms (MIT Press and McGraw-Hill, 1990), co-authored with Thomas Cormen and Charles Leiserson, his fellow MIT professors of computer science, grew out of his undergraduate and graduate courses on computer algorithms. It is currently the second-most-cited reference in all of computer science.
Among Rivest’s many contributions at MIT have been his guidance, wisdom and leadership as co-chair of the committee for the re-organization of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Laboratory for Computer Science. The new combined laboratory, CSAIL, is now the largest laboratory on the MIT campus. Rivest is a member of the lab’s Theory of Computation Group and a founder of its Cryptography and Information Security Group.