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Martin Edward Hellman
Martin Edward Hellman
Born (1945-10-02) October 2, 1945 (age 70)
New York
Nationality American
Fields Cryptography
Computer science
Electrical engineering
Institutions Stanford University
Alma mater New York University (BSc, 1966)
Stanford University (MS, 1967; PhD, 1969)
Thesis Learning with Finite Memory (1969)
Doctoral advisor Thomas Cover
Doctoral students Ralph Merkle
Taher Elgamal
Known for Diffie–Hellman key exchange
Notable awards IEEE Centennial Medal (1984)
EFF Pioneer Award (1994)
Louis E. Levy Medal(1997)
Golden Jubilee Awards for Technological Innovation (1998)
Marconi Prize (2000)
National Academy of Engineering Member (2002)
Hamming Medal (2010)
Computer History Museum Fellow (2011) [1]

Martin Edward Hellman (born October 2, 1945) is an American cryptologist, and is best known for his invention of public key cryptography in cooperation with Whitfield Diffie and Ralph Merkle.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] Hellman is a longtime contributor to the computer privacy debate and is more recently known for promoting risk analysis studies on nuclear threats, including the NuclearRisk.org[9] website.

Early life[edit]

Hellman graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. He went on to earn his Bachelor's degree from New York University in 1966, and at Stanford University he earned a Master's degree in 1967 and a Ph.D. in 1969,[10] all in electrical engineering.[11] From 1968 to 1969 he worked at IBM's Watson Research Center, where he encountered Horst Feistel. From 1969 to 1971 he was an assistant professor at MIT. He joined Stanford in 1971 as a professor, serving until 1996 when he became Professor Emeritus.[11]

Public key cryptography[edit]

Hellman and Whitfield Diffie's paper New Directions in Cryptography was published in 1976. It introduced a radically new method of distributing cryptographic keys, which went far toward solving one of the fundamental problems of cryptography, key distribution. It has become known as Diffie–Hellman key exchange. The article also seems to have stimulated the almost immediate public development of a new class of encryption algorithms, the asymmetric key algorithms. Hellman and Diffie were awarded the Marconi Fellowship and accompanying prize in 2000 for work on public-key cryptography and for helping make cryptography a legitimate area of academic research.[12]

Computer privacy debate[edit]

Hellman has been a longtime contributor to the computer privacy debate. He and Diffie were the most prominent critics of the short key size of the Data Encryption Standard in 1975. An audio recording survives of their review of DES at Stanford in 1976 with Dennis Branstad of NBS and representatives of the National Security Agency.[13] Their concern was well-founded: subsequent history has shown not only that NSA actively intervened with IBM and NBS to shorten the key size, but also that the short key size enabled exactly the kind of massively parallel key crackers that Hellman and Diffie sketched out, which when ultimately built outside the classified world, made it clear that DES was insecure and obsolete. In 2012, a $10,000 commercially available machine can recover a DES key in days.

Hellman also served (1994–96) on the National Research Council's Committee to Study National Cryptographic Policy, whose main recommendations have since been implemented.

International security[edit]

Hellman has been active in researching international security since 1985.

Beyond War[edit]

Hellman was involved in the original Beyond War movement, serving as the principal editor for the "BEYOND WAR: A New Way of Thinking" booklet.[14]


In 1987 more than 30 scholars came together to produce Russian and English editions of the book "Breakthrough: Emerging New Thinking, Soviet and Western Scholars Issue a Challenge to Build a World Beyond War". Anatoly Gromyko and Martin Hellman served as the chief editors of this book. The authors of the book examine questions such as: How can we overcome the inexorable forces leading toward a clash between the United States and the Soviet Union? How do we build a common vision for the future? How can we restructure our thinking to synchronize with the imperative of our modern world?[15][16]

Defusing the nuclear threat[edit]

Hellman's current project in international security is to defuse the nuclear threat. In particular, he is studying the probabilities and risks associated with nuclear weapons and encouraging further international research in this area. His website NuclearRisk.org[9] has been endorsed by a number of prominent individuals, including a former Director of the National Security Agency, Stanford's President Emeritus, and two Nobel Laureates.

Hellman is a member of the Board of Directors for Daisy Alliance, a non-governmental organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, seeking global security through nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1997 he was awarded The Franklin Institute's Louis E. Levy Medal,[17] in 1981 the IEEE Donald G. Fink Prize Paper Award (together with Whitfield Diffie),[18] in 1998 a Golden Jubilee Award for Technological Innovation from the IEEE Information Theory Society,[19] and in 2010 the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal.[20]

In 2011, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.[21]

Also in 2011, Hellman was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum for his work, with Whitfield Diffie and Ralph Merkle, on public key cryptography.[22]


  1. ^ Martin Hellman 2011 Fellow
  2. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  3. ^ Martin Hellman's publications indexed by the DBLP Bibliography Server at the University of Trier
  4. ^ Diffie, W.; Hellman, M. (1976). "New directions in cryptography" (PDF). IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 22 (6): 644–654. doi:10.1109/TIT.1976.1055638. 
  5. ^ Leung-Yan-Cheong, S.; Hellman, M. (1978). "The Gaussian wire-tap channel". IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 24 (4): 451. doi:10.1109/TIT.1978.1055917. 
  6. ^ Karnin, E.; Greene, J.; Hellman, M. (1983). "On secret sharing systems". IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 29: 35. doi:10.1109/TIT.1983.1056621. 
  7. ^ Merkle, R.; Hellman, M. (1978). "Hiding information and signatures in trapdoor knapsacks". IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 24 (5): 525. doi:10.1109/TIT.1978.1055927. 
  8. ^ Pohlig, S.; Hellman, M. (1978). "An improved algorithm for computing logarithms over<tex>GF(p)</tex>and its cryptographic significance (Corresp.)". IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 24: 106. doi:10.1109/TIT.1978.1055817. 
  9. ^ a b NuclearRisk.org
  10. ^ Hellman, Martin (1969). Learning with Finite Memory (PhD thesis). Stanford University. 
  11. ^ a b Martin Hellman's webpage at Stanford University http://www-ee.stanford.edu/~hellman
  12. ^ Columbia University press release regarding Marconi Fellowship
  13. ^ "DES (Data Encryption Standard) Review at Stanford University". 1976. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  14. ^ Richard Rathbun, Rick Roney, Louise Smith, Donna Richeson, Don Fitton, Craig Ritchey, "BEYOND WAR: A New Way of Thinking", (Editors: Martin Hellman, Craig Barnes, Al Braun, Pat Chandler, Jack Li, Mac Lawrence, Tom Lindsay, Tom Osborne, Chris Rich, Nancy Ritchey, Karen Stevens and Judie Swope.) PDF available free online
  15. ^ Breakthrough website page
  16. ^ Anatoly Gromyko, Martin Hellman, Craig Barnes, Alexander Nikitin, Donald Fitton, Sergei Kapitza, Elena Loshchenkova, William McGlashan, Andrei Melville, Harold Sandler, Olivia Simantob, "Breakthrough: Emerging New Thinking", Walker and Company, ISBN 0-8027-1026-3, ISBN 0-8027-1015-8 and published simultaneously in the Soviet Union by Progress Publishing Company, Moscow. Martin Hellman's Stanford website page, PDF online free
  17. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database – Louis E. Levy Medal Laureates". Franklin Institute. Retrieved January 22, 2011. 
  18. ^ "IEEE Donald G. Fink Prize Paper Award Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved January 2, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Golden Jubilee Awards for Technological Innovation". IEEE Information Theory Society. Retrieved July 14, 2011. 
  20. ^ "IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved January 22, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Meet the 2011 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees – Martin Hellman". National Inventors Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 5, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Martin Hellman". Computer History Museum. Retrieved 2013-05-23. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Hellman — Please support Wikipedia.
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249 news items

Stanford University News

Stanford University News
Fri, 04 Mar 2011 09:26:33 -0800

This week, the National Inventors Hall of Fame announced it will induct the trio of researchers who created it – Whitfield Diffie, Martin Hellman and Ralph Merkle. The invention, known as "public-key cryptography," allows any two computers to agree on ...
Huffington Post
Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:45:00 -0700

Professor Emeritus Martin Hellman serves on Stanford University's Electrical Engineering faculty and its Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and writes a popular blog ...

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 07:03:45 -0700

Fifty years ago, the American media aided the Johnson administration in leading the nation into war under false pretenses. Our media therefore bears some of the responsibility for a needless war which killed 58,000 Americans and over a million Vietnamese.


Tue, 02 Feb 2016 08:15:22 -0800

Comme l'avait fait remarquer à l'époque Whitfield Diffie, inventeur, avec Martin Hellman, du fameux protocole d'échange de clés Diffie-Hellman, le problème avec les portes dérobées, c'est qu'elles présentent une faiblesse intrinsèque. Si un tiers ...

Stanford University News

Stanford University News
Fri, 17 Jul 2009 00:00:00 -0700

Professor Emeritus Martin Hellman began his work on the threat of nuclear destruction in the 1980s. What are the chances of a nuclear world war? What is the risk of a nuclear attack on United States soil? The risk of a child born today suffering an ...

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Tue, 02 Sep 2014 05:33:45 -0700

With Ukraine's effort to subdue the pro-Russian rebels in the eastern part of the country faltering, it is understandable that its Prime Minister submitted a proposal to Parliament seeking NATO membership. What is surprising -- and dangerous -- is the ...

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Mon, 08 Sep 2014 13:37:30 -0700

It has surprised and worried me that almost none of the mainstream media's coverage of the Ukrainian crisis has mentioned the nuclear dimension to the risk. If the West feels (as it currently does) that Russia is solely to blame, and Russia feels (as ...


Thu, 10 Dec 2015 05:55:37 -0800

These days, nearly 40 years after he and partner Martin Hellman published a paper describing their public key breakthrough, in which they built on the work of computer scientist Ralph Merkle, Diffie says he is as worried as ever about the threats to ...

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